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.