The trend towards systems based on open reference architecture is amplified by an increasing need for military land vehicles, especially armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), to be equipped with networked information technology providing them with optimal situational awareness and combat capabilities. Ensuring full data-exchange interoperability between all types of land vehicles involved in an operation with the help of integrated mission systems has become crucial, both from an operational and economic (cost saving) point of view.

Operational benefits and significant cost savings

Relying on a modular fleet of configurable, interconnected land vehicles capable of exchanging data and information irrespective of the size and composition of the operation, obviously provides a significant operational advantage.

“A vehicle crew’s situational awareness expands greatly with far more possibilities for data exchange. In addition to that, the mission system equipment can be reconfigured and upgraded much easier and quicker in the field, with logistics and training being much simplified too”, explains Marek Kalbarczyk, Project Officer for Land Systems Technologies at the European Defence Agency (EDA).

Thanks to open-source technology standards “the operational efficiency and effectiveness in a networked environment can be improved drastically with no significant cost increase”, he says. A vehicle equipped with an open mission system can be easily adapted to new emerging technologies by simply adding, replacing or upgrading sub-systems. In the same way, specific mission tasks can be carried out and unexpected problems mastered during an operation by simply adjusting the military land vehicles’ sub-systems accordingly. “The whole logistics task is greatly simplified and the exchange of spare sub-systems across various types of vehicles, even among different European Armed Forces participating in a joint mission, is possible”, explains Peter Round, the EDA’s Capability, Armament & Technology Director.

The economic benefits are self-evident too. They range from cost savings in the procurement phase of vehicle systems (due to reduced prices as a result of increased competition) to reduced training and maintenance costs and longer vehicle life cycles thanks to regular, low-cost system updates and upgradings. “The overall costs savings of creating open-source technical standards are significant”, underlines Mr Kalbarczyk. Based on a theoretical multinational buy of 800 vehicles, it can be estimated that total life-cycle cost savings over 25 years would amount to 17% compared with buying vehicles based on proprietary standards. Additionally, there would also be economies for in-service vehicles: savings of up to 10% of the original fleet purchase price could be generated by doing updates with parts and functionalities designed according to open-source standards, he says.

Avoiding duplication: EDA supports NATO standardisation work

With this in mind, efforts to promote open architecture systems were undertaken already several years ago at various levels across Europe.

In 2011, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) mandated open architecture for new land vehicles through the so-called UK Defence Standard 23-09 ‘Generic Vehicle Architecture’ (GVA). The UK initiative subsequently triggered similar activities within NATO and the EDA.

It was the Military Vetronics Association (MILVA) - an association of government agencies and industries promoting Vehicle Electronics (Vetronics) in the military environment in close co-operation with NATO - which took the lead in 2012 to develop the so-called NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA), better known as ‘Standard Agreement (STANAG) 4754’. The agreement is currently in the process of being ratified by NATO Member States.

Simultaneously, at the EDA, Member States and industrial experts gathering in a dedicated expert panel (CapTech) on ‘Ground Systems’ identified system architecture and integration as a defence technology gap and recommended to address this topic. The initial idea and ambition was to define a specific European standard for an open-architecture mission systems. To this end, participating EDA Member States launched the ‘Land Vehicle with Open System Architecture’ (LAVOSAR I) study which was carried out in 2013 to define a comprehensive reference open architecture for military land vehicles with focus on their mission systems and to propose it as a reference solution for developing and implementing future mission systems.


However, since most of the EDA’s Member States participating in that project are also NATO Member States, and in order to avoid unnecessary duplication, it was decided within the EDA not to proceed with developing a separate European standard but to support NATO’s STANAG activities instead, in order to establish a single common open standard for military land vehicles and their mission systems.

As a consequence, the EDA has since then actively supported NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) standardization by providing key inputs to STANAG 4754 or its potential future developments. For example, NGVA Data Infrastructure Allied Engineering Publication (AEP) used several parts including NGVA Data Infrastructure Layer View/Network Topology/interfacing network to other services and gateways provided by LAVOSAR I. The study has also provided NATO with verification and validation concepts and guidelines, safety criteria concepts and crew terminal software architecture.

A second EDA study on ‘Electronic Reference Open Architecture Standard for a Modern Integrated Electronic Mission System in Military Land Vehicles’ (LAVOSAR II) was carried out in 2015 and completed this year. It extended the model defined by LAVOSAR I and provided further new areas for NGVA future developments regarding logistics, maintenance and upgrading, training and data exchange mechanisms.

As a next step, the EDA and its participating Member States are currently working on a follow-on programme called ‘LAnd Vehicle Open Systems Standardisation (LAVOSS) Study Programme’. The aim is to select specific topics for a future new study which could built on the two previous LAVOSAR studies to identify areas where standardisation of a vehicle mission system electronic architecture would prove beneficial to all nations. The EDA also continues to support NATO standardisation activities.

Industry participation is crucial

Work on LAVOSAR I and II were guided by a multi-national team of experts and industrialists led by a Rheinmetall Defence Electronics as prime contractor.

As Dr. Norbert Härle (Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH) explains, “Open System Architectures are preparing the future for networked sub-systems which provides the functionality and performance of a fully integrated and comprehensive system providing while still being modular and flexible.”

For a military vehicle mission system, currently several separate and individual sub-systems are used which do not share information between them and are difficult to operate. “Especially with the high demand on better performing, more flexible, and increasingly IT-based mission systems, an Open Architecture approach is necessary to make such systems operatable, to manage complexity, to make them affordable and to enable innovation”, he states.

Dr Härle claims that “without a standardized Open Architecture, it will not be possible to comply with current and upcoming user needs and to keep up with technical possibilities as they are offered for other application areas on the civil market with reasonable development and integration costs and for a reasonably priced system”. Such standardisation is only possible in close cooperation between Industry and NATO which represents the international user as well as procurement.

“The EDA plays an important role as it consolidates a European approach, and, due to its size, may be more agile”, he explains. “This way, The EDA can make significant impact to initiate and influence useful NATO standardisation”.

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