The Importance of a Modular Open Systems Approach for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle

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During a recent AUSA Global Force Next panel, Major General Richard “Ross” Coffman gave an overview of the top priorities of the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team (NGCV-CFT). With modernizing and providing new capabilities to overmatch any potential peer or near peer adversary, MG Coffman highlighted the importance of taking a modular open systems approach (MOSA) to innovation.

Whether it is the replacement of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or the development of Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicles or Robotic Combat Vehicles, MG Coffman said, “We want the best technologies for our soldiers, and [MOSA] allows for the plug and play of new technologies.” By leveraging MOSA, it speeds up innovation and, according to MG Coffman, the government is “not held captive to one solution by one vendor.” It not only saves the government money, MG Coffman noted, but spurs new innovation.

Brigadier General Glenn A. Dean III, Program Executive Office Director of Ground Combat Systems for the U.S. Army, and his team are creating these standards for the ground combat systems in collaboration with industry. The goal in creating the next generation of combat vehicles – whether manned or unmanned – is for the industry to drive the concepts for the design, build it, and seek soldier input through testing.

“MOSA is the key to our ability to innovate for the future and to begin to grow our capabilities,” BG Dean commented. He pointed to the historic challenge that the Army has faced by building “every one of our platforms around a bespoke integration, that is unique to that platform.” Even with small amounts of industry common standards built in, BG Dean said that anytime there was a new capability added to the platform, they “essentially went back from scratch with the software and re-engineer it to add a capability.”

“What we are seeing for future capabilities – and you can see it with the smartphone that you carry in your pocket – is the ability to add capabilities through the software,” BG Dean continued. To do this, he noted that the architecture of the platform must be open to everyone, and clearly understood by everyone. He also noted that a modular open systems approach, where the functionality can be separated, is critical to updating capabilities without jeopardizing the functionality of another area. “We need to separate the safety critical functions from automotive control functions from lethality control functions in such a way that we can ensure that clear and safe operations of the system, even as we are adding capabilities to it,
BG Dean explained.

Older systems are generally not sufficiently modularized, BG Dean noted, “but we are certainly moving in that direction.” He concluded that not only will we see MOSA in the future of combat vehicles, but also in aviation and elsewhere.

MG Coffman agreed and said that this approach will allows the Army to “roll in new technologies on a continuous basis” to ensure quick innovation and modernization to overmatch the adversary.

The NGCV-CFT has announced progress with the robotic vehicle light delivery and future testing of additional robotic vehicles. MG Coffman also alluded several new announcements coming out in the next month.

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Senior Vice President at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of The Modern Battlespace, Seawright oversees the direction of the publication and manages the editorial staff. She also manages and writes content for other publications in the defense military, government IT, and aviation industries.