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De-Risking the Technology Path to CMOSS

Oct. 20, 2021
CMOSS is increasingly on the radar of mil-aero bodies seeking to deploy tactical comms in vehicles that meet SWaP specs and ensure a smooth path to the architecture. Challenges exist, though, and this article lays out a blueprint to de-risk that path.

What you’ll learn:

  • The role of open standards within military and aerospace organizations, and how electronics and embedded-systems engineers should be thinking about SAVE and CMOSS.
  • How your audience can help these organizations de-risk their path from SAVE to CMOSS.
  • Key strategies to help these organizations address the challenge of delivering modernized communications solutions to military and aerospace organizations.

Few will confuse a military tank for a cell phone. Historically, upgrading tanks has been complex, laborious, and expensive—all of which slows the process of delivering innovative applications such as AI/ML, IoT, and augmented reality to the tactical edge.

These cloud-enabled applications require massive processing power and data-center connectivity not readily available at the edge. And even if more compute power is available, military vehicles (manned and unmanned) have a fixed and finite amount of “radio shelf” space for tactical comms equipment. Finally, delivering these capabilities into vehicles that are in some cases decades old requires well-thought-out power management and delivery for the high-performance technology.

Addressing these challenges and accelerating the delivery of innovative products and technologies to the battlefield has been top-of-mind for DoD decision-makers for some time, and that’s why the cell-phone analogy is relevant. The U.S. Army recently demonstrated advances in combat vehicle integration capabilities that are part of the Army’s open suite of standards known as C5ISR/Electronic Warfare Modular Open Suite of Standards, or CMOSS.

CMOSS converges select Army warfighting capabilities—e.g., mission command, movement and maneuver, and fires—into one system, versus the current method of integrating a multitude of separate capability "boxes" into vehicles. There’s significant appeal in making tank upgrades as simple as changing SIM cards to swap carriers on your phone. 

For U.S. military commanders, proceeding down a path to CMOSS is critical for delivering asymmetric advantages on the modern battlefield. But the path is not without risks: DoD agencies must ensure that C5ISR tactical communications systems and components are built to seamlessly integrate into military ground vehicles today, but remain flexible and agile enough to evolve to a CMOSS architecture in the years ahead. And that’s where electronics and embedded-systems engineers come in, ensuring DoD can leverage solutions built for today…and tomorrow.

What SAVE Is...and What It Isn’t

The Standardized A-kit/Vehicle Envelope (SAVE) standard seeks to address the military-vehicle power and space challenge by providing guidance to industry partners on standards for the radio shelf footprint. It communicates to military embedded-systems vendors that if you’re designing platforms for these vehicles, here’s what you need to do. This can apply to physical product attributes (width, height, depth, margins for vibration, cable routes, etc.), connections (number of cables provided and types of connectors), and environment (vibration, temperature, radiation, etc.).

SAVE isn’t an authoritative contractual requirement document. It can be best described as an Interface Description Document (IDD) that serves as a logical compromise between rigid military specifications and loose general descriptions.

SAVE was initially developed for radios, but it also applies to computers and other systems such as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) vehicle integration kit and its Tactical Cloud Package (TCP), the CMOSS Mounted Form Factor (CMFF) first instantiation of CMOSS, electronic-warfare (EW) kits, etc. SAVE is a subset of the overall PEO GCS Common Infrastructure Architecture (GCIA)—the overarching framework for an in-vehicle network to facilitate the integration of radios, computers, networks, etc., into ground combat vehicles.

Ground-vehicle program offices and C5ISR system program offices have agreed that adopting SAVE should allow for significant reduction in cost and schedule when integrating new C5ISR system technology into ground platforms. By specifying just the outer envelope (maximum dimensions) and providing for a range of possible connection configurations within this envelope, significant flexibility is retained for competitive acquisition.

Bridging From SAVE to CMOSS

CMOSS is garnering more attention as DoD leaders articulate how open standards and open-systems architecture fit into efforts to field new tactical communications technologies.

Critical to de-risking the path to CMOSS is understanding that SAVE and CMOSS are complementary, not competitive. SAVE and CMOSS advance DoD open standards efforts and offer guidance to industry for building in-vehicle tactical communications products that add compute, processing, and application capabilities.

The versatility of SAVE and CMOSS is essential because within military vehicles, the radio “shelf space” in ground combat vehicles is the space. This means, for example, in-vehicle tactical comms space must be transformed to enable applications like AI without requiring changes to the shelf space itself.

Though CMOSS momentum is increasing, it’s hard to predict when CMOSS will be fully ready on a broad scale. So, it’s critical to innovate in a common-sense way by delivering equipment that’s available today in a form factor that will also work as standards evolve in the coming years—without necessitating changes to the military vehicles themselves.

De-risking the path from SAVE to CMOSS should involve a core set of strategies:

  • Focus on technologies and products that are functional today, but also flexible and agile enough to enable seamless evolution to CMOSS in the years ahead.
  • Ensure all components can communicate with one another (handheld radios, manpacks, etc.) and are able to go into a single chassis that fits in the current SAVE envelope.
  • Build a path to a seamless transition to the CMOSS form factor by recognizing the current chassis may be ripped out at some point so that CMOSS can be installed.
  • Foster and monitor collaboration between industry and military; software and hardware vendors should be working together to extend the best capabilities to the edge.
  • Extend versatility across diverse platforms and mission sets, which means communicating the entire military inventory and building platforms that are versatile enough to enable the common components to be available everywhere. This is why SAVE and CMOSS are so valuable.

Ultimately CMOSS will provide the kind of flexibility and technology agility we’ve come to expect and use in many areas of our lives today to the platforms that are most in need of these upgrades. Until we get there, it’s important to continue to advance applications to the edge through innovative designs that make the most of existing power and space like the SAVE construct. 

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