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The defense industry needs to embrace the Army’s plan for a modular open systems approach to technology development or risk losing out on business opportunities, leaders of the service’s aviation portfolio warned Oct. 12.
The Army aims to leverage a modular open systems approach — also known as MOSA — to enable faster and more reliable equipment upgrades and reduce lifecycle costs. It is also a way for the Defense Department to promote competition and avoid vendor lock.
“My stupid analogy … with regards to our modular open system approach and open system architectures is to be Android-like so really anybody can write an app for that” next-generation aircraft fleet, Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the future vertical lift cross-functional team, said during a briefing at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “That includes the future long-range assault aircraft and the future attack reconnaissance aircraft. But we’re also seeing it being drawn very effectively into our unmanned systems and our unmanned capability development.”
The service will have specifications for industry so “everybody understands the government-defined interface, the government-defined standard and you can plug [new mission systems and other capabilities] in much more rapidly into our aircraft,” he said.
The push for MOSA comes as the Army is trying to keep pace with high-tech adversaries that have integrated air defense systems and integrated fires complexes. In the future, U.S. aircraft will have to be able to penetrate or destroy those defenses to enable combined arms maneuver, said Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence.
“The approach of modular open systems architecture is absolutely critical because … our ability to rapidly integrate the latest technology — in terms of [aircraft survivability equipment], weapon systems, navigation systems, communication systems — is going to be vital to our ability to operate on this future battlefield,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, commander of Army Aviation and Missile Command, noted the current challenges of technology integration.
“If you go take a look at a lot of our systems today … we have different boxes that are dumped by different vendors on different platforms,” he said. “Normally, when we try to integrate those … you get a bug here or there.”
Having industry adhere to common standards will make systems more reliable, he said.
Officials also see an opportunity to leverage MOSA to cut down on sustainment costs, which now typically account for 70 percent of the lifecycle cost of a Pentagon weapon system.
Part of that sustainment price tag stems from the post-production software support, according to Royar.
“We have a new box or a new software that’s fielded and then [when] we change something else, we have to go back and we have to re-update that software,” he said. “If you have to do that every single time … for every new box or new box that comes into it, it gets very expensive very quickly.”
Army officials are aiming to reduce the sustainment portion of lifecycle costs from 70 percent to 58 percent, although Rugen noted that’s “a lofty goal.”
But not everyone is gung-ho about the modular open systems approach, said Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie Jr., program executive officer for aviation.
“Our traditional original equipment manufacturers … I would describe as MOSA hesitant,” he told reporters at the conference. “They are saying, ‘I hear what you’re saying, I understand what you’re trying to do, but that would fundamentally change the business model’” that they have been working under and benefitted from.
Barrie contrasted that mindset with some of the Army’s new industry partners which he described as more amenable to the approach the service wants to pursue.
“What we have is an extremely vibrant and innovative new set of industry partners that … have a very firm understanding of this and they’ve been working it for years, in some cases decades, who are very open and willing to embrace the MOSA concept,” he said. “So, what we’re trying to do is … describe to industry the importance and criticality and the necessity for them to change while introducing them to this other set of industry. And the way we describe it is, if you do not change your MOSA hesitancy to more of an embrace, essentially they’re going to get left behind.”
Topics: Army News
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