With a passion for computer science and strong mentors along the way to help develop his technical skills, Tyler J. Robinson knew he wanted to work for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) after his first technical internship. Now, Robinson is a NAWCAD Lead Engineer on the Avionics Architecture Team for Naval Air Systems Command (PM-209), led by CAPT Margaret Wilson. This group leads the development and implementation of Open Architecture standards and development for Department of Defense software and hardware, with close collaboration across services and within international and industry partners.
In this latest “Experts in the Field” article, we feature Robinson’s career path and how he first got started with Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and Open Architecture. We also delve into how the Avionics Architecture Team is rapidly advancing standards and developing tools and resources for greater adoption. Robinson told us, “The open systems approach is an investment for the future.” He noted that leveraging an open system approach offers the military services and international partners a “significant opportunity to reuse capabilities across platforms.” But it is not something that the military can do alone. “Collaboration between industry and military has been, and will continue to be, absolutely key to our success,” he shared.
Robinson reflected on the future of defining Open Architecture approaches and how they will evolve in the changing battlespace. Read the full Q&A below:
The Modern Battlespace (TMB) Editors: Tell us how you got started on your career path. Did you always know that the military was in your future?
Tyler Robinson: I grew up just a few minutes from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS PAX). My dad and brother were both computer science majors, so I guess you could say I followed in their footsteps.
After my freshman year of college, I was fortunate to get a summer internship at the Atlantic Test Range (ATR) on NAS PAX. At the Atlantic Test Range, I had great mentors who helped me develop my technical skills while also demonstrating what great leadership, teamwork, and work ethic can look like. During that first summer internship, I knew that I wanted a career at NAVAIR.
Following my time at ATR, I had the opportunity to work in PMA-281 on the Common Control System (CCS) and Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS). It was in 281 that I was first introduced to Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and Open Architecture (OA). Historically, most of the PMA-281 efforts utilized a more traditional, requirements-based approach. As MBSE momentum grew in NAVAIR, PMA-281 leadership had the foresight to establish an MBSE team to support the transition. As the Chief Architect in PMA-281, I had the unique opportunity to lead this transition. Additionally, PMA-281 adopted Open Architecture standards such as the UCS (UxS Control Segment) Architecture. The MBSE approach allowed us to document our system’s structure, interfaces, and behavior in a single, unambiguous, source of truth – the model. The Open Architecture approach helped to enable a competitive marketplace for industry, while also providing the framework to ensure our system’s components were replaceable, portable, and re-usable.
I left PMA-281 in 2019 to join PMA-209 Air Combat Electronics (ACE). PMA-209 gave me the opportunity to further focus on MBSE and OA, supporting the development and adoption of standards across NAVAIR.
TMB Editors: Tell us about your current role. How are you are shaping the future of the battlespace?
Robinson: While in PMA-209, I have worked across services (Army, Navy, and Air Force) and with our international partners, such as the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD). Through these working groups, we are more rapidly advancing Open Architecture (OA) standards and developing tools/resources to ease the adoption of standards. Additionally, we have developed great relationships with industry partners, allowing the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry to learn from each other and grow together. PMA-209 is uniquely positioned to collaborate across many other Program Offices across NAVAIR, which makes it a great place to develop and grow our OA approach.
On the software side, standards such as Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and Open Mission Systems (OMS) have continued to proliferate. More recently, great strides have been made on the hardware side of Open Architecture. The HOST (Hardware Open Systems Technology) standard leverages commercial standards, such as OpenVPX, to define an OA Hardware Standard. The HOST team has worked closely with other standards bodies such as SOSA and CMOSS to ensure that these OA Hardware Standards will stay aligned. This relationship, backed with Tri-Service DoD support, has been key to HOST’s success.
TMB Editors: How has open systems architecture given the Tri-Services the flexibility it needs to innovate faster?
Robinson: Open systems architecture approach is an investment for the future. An open systems architecture provides a significant opportunity to reuse capabilities across platforms. Additionally, we have more flexibility to upgrade components, allowing our platforms to incorporate the latest, cutting-edge technology.
TMB Editors: What are some of the latest developments with open systems and what impact is it having on the battlespace?
Robinson: With an open systems architecture, we have the flexibility to acquire one component from vendor A, one from vendor B, and have confidence we will be able to integrate these components with less effort than previous stove-piped approaches. As stated previously, this flexibility will allow us to incorporate the latest technology more quickly into our systems. This is important so our military can keep up with the ever-changing threats around the world.
TMB Editors: How can industry and military work together to ensure that these technologies get into the hands of warfighters more rapidly?
Robinson: Collaboration between industry and military has been, and will continue to be, absolutely key to our success. Industry has essential expertise in the development of military systems. We continue to work together to define open architecture approaches to provide the government with the OA benefits it desires while also making it easier and faster for industry to adopt the standards. In addition to developing the approach, we collaborate on tool development, create help-manuals and other products to further accelerate MOSA development efforts within the ecosystem.