Open Standards: On to VICTORY

Here at GE Intelligent Platforms we have long preached the gospel of open standards for military systems to anyone who would listen. So, we would like to take at least some of the credit for the increasing enthusiasm—both within the Defense Department and among foreign governments—for what DOD calls Modular Open System Architecture, or MOSA. Realistically, however, in a budget-constrained environment, this approach really sells itself.

U.S. and foreign governments alike increasingly see that the use of one-off, proprietary solutions that allow contractors to retain ownership of system software and hardware designs, locks them into dependent relationships that can inflate costs and limit flexibility. Both the 2010 and 2012 Better Buying Power Initiative documents highlighted the role that MOSA can play in reducing acquisition and life-cycle costs. In reality, the advantages of “openness” extend beyond dollars and cents. The graphic below, taken from a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on open systems, shows how a MOSA approach is good for taxpayers, warfighters and the industrial base.

Mil aero2

GAO’s illustration actually misses one benefit of interoperability that is of particular concern to the U.S. Army’s ground vehicle community: size, weight and power (SWaP) optimization. A modern ground vehicle cockpit needs to have a tactical radio, blue force tracking system, GPS, visual map displays and a host of other possible capabilities. When these functions are performed by “bolt-on” systems acquired from different vendors using proprietary operating systems, communication between the different systems becomes significantly more difficult to achieve—even impossible. This is a problem from a data integration perspective, to be sure, but at least as big an issue is that each bolt-on item will often have its own unique displays, computers, input devices and other ancillary mechanisms. This creates many challenges such as SWaP issues from hardware duplication, overcrowding of crew areas and large system life-cycle costs.

The Army’s efforts to transform its ground vehicle programs using open systems is known as VICTORY (Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability) and was launched in May 2010. Once the goals of VICTORY are achieved, previously stove-piped systems will be linked together over an IP-based network using an in-vehicle router such as GE’s RTR8GE. Thus linked, an operator will be able to access the full suite of in-vehicle functionality utilizing a single keyboard and display. Having spent a year of my life putting around Southern Iraq in a cramped Humvee filled with aging equipment that seemed to be malfunctioning half the time, I say V-Day cannot come soon enough.

In the months and years ahead, VICTORY compliance will become a requirement in all ground vehicle programs, be they upgrades or new starts. This is likely to accelerate the already-visible trend of greater outsourcing to companies like GE Intelligent Platforms, as the primes may be less interested in building open architecture COTS solutions than they might have been in creating proprietary systems.

Because the Army recognizes the role GE technology can and will play in the VICTORY-compliant vehicles of the future, our experts have been asked to participate in the VICTORY Standards Body, charged with defining architecture requirements. Engineers from GE Intelligent Platforms are working hand-in-glove with our industry partners and government end users to put the VICTORY initiative on the path to, well, victory.

Todd Stiefler

Todd joined GE from the world of Washington politics, and in no time at all has moved on to his second assignment, which sees him managing business development for the services GE is increasingly looking to offer to customers, including the Proficy SmartSignal predictive analytics software.

More Posts