Component by electronic component, the Army is slowly installing modular open communications architectures on its legacy tactical trucks by requiring new technologies to adhere to set technical standards.
As new equipment like advanced precision navigation and timing (PNT) systems are installed on Humvees and other wheeled Army vehicles, the Combat Support and Combat Service Support Program Office is requiring manufacturers to build them to a set of standards called Vehicular Integration for Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) / Electronic Warfare (EW) Interoperability standards, or VICTORY.
“What we are trying to drive to is a set of standards and open architectures so that it enables this incremental improvement over time of the systems we buy,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for CS&CSS, said May 17. “In our community particularly, I believe that still hinges upon the VICTORY architecture.”
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) was designed to include an early version of VICTORY. As production progresses, those trucks will be outfitted with progressively more capable VICTORY-based systems.The Army plans to buy about 50,000 JLTVs, which will replace about half the 95,000 Humvees it currently owns, resulting in a 50-50 split between the two vehicles at least for the next 20 years or so.
Because platforms like the Humvee will continue to operate alongside newer vehicles, the challenge is to bring legacy platforms on par with more sophisticated trucks, Davis said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Conference outside Washington, D.C.
“We’re looking at opportunities to enable that in platforms that don’t have it,” he said. “It really sets up the standards for the Ethernet backbone on the vehicle so as sensors … as radios come into the platform, they can all be remoted and operated from a single screen and all the data can be shared across the vehicle.”
Opportunities have arisen as the Army upgrades component systems like PNT, which is required by radios and other communication gear to transmit location data and other functions. For a few thousand dollars, a single box can do the PNT work of five or six GPS receivers currently on a truck or combat vehicle. The installation of that box also introduces VICTORY standard architecture to the vehicle’s baseline communication capability, Davis said.
“It’s a fairly cheap solution to get the core in-vehicle network as prescribed by VICTORY and I think it will pay itself back in very short order through the easier integration of things,” Davis said. “If we don’t’ have an opportunity to ECP it into our platforms now, we are continuing to work, as we look at precision navigation and timing, as a leverage point to bring it in.”
An ECP refers to engineering change proposal and is a tool for a proposed modification to a system requirement.
It costs around $3,000 to install a baseline VICTORY capability in a tactical vehicle, which seems like an insignificant sum. But multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of vehicles the Army owns and it becomes serious money, Davis said.
There is no set schedule or priority list for retrofitting legacy vehicles with VICTORY. Without a set program, and thus no set budget, the Army will continue integrating open systems architectures on its legacy vehicles when feasible, Davis said.
“Today, we have vehicles – and it’s worse on the combat vehicle side – that might have six GPS receivers on them,” Davis said. “The whole idea is I can’t afford to replace six … it would be way too expensive. To shrink that down to a single source, if I can do that and get VICTORY essentially for free because I have to do that anyway, that’s how we want to try to do that. … Piecemeal for now.”