Embracing MOSA to Match Pace with Tomorrow’s Threat Landscape


Implementing open systems across the U.S. military revolves around a simple concept that has remained consistent throughout the years: remaining ahead of the tactical edge. Through several iterations across the domains, initiatives like Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) demonstrate the capability and potential of creating interoperable solutions for warfighters. There has been an ongoing focus on how to put new technologies into the hands of the warfighter and prepare them for the future battlespace, and MOSA has a unique role in making that happen.

Speaking at the recent AUSA Annual Conference, several leaders from the military shared insights on how they see MOSA evolving to better meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s warfighters. Each brought their own experience with MOSA, but all agreed that it represents a worthwhile future.

Major General Dave Francis noted that future adversaries will use “integrated air defense systems, integrated fires complexes, that we will be required to penetrate, designate and exploit.” To succeed, it will require a level of coordination that, at present, does not happen. “To allow us to do all that, an approach of modular open systems architecture is absolutely critical.”

One way that coordination will manifest, according to Major General Walter Rugen, is the “android-like” way that software can be written to fit the needs of whatever platforms are available. “Anyone [in the industry] can write software for our future vertical lift fleet, that includes long-range assault craft and the unmanned systems.”

Rugen also added that providing this level of access to the defense industry R&D teams allows the U.S. Army to get new tech out far faster. “We have technologies go on and off the aircraft in a very rapid fashion,” he said. Rugen noted that his team and others in the service are “very pleased” with the way demonstrations have been going and want to see more defense industry buy-in to MOSA and similar programs.

While many see the benefits of programs like MOSA, Brigadier General Rob Barrie noted that the service must adapt to new ways to get the most from initiatives like it. “The number one thing we need to do to be successful is for the Army to change the culture of how we look at our problems and how we then field solutions to those problems.”

Surveying the threat landscape, Barrie noted that the problems facing the services today will likely change and evolve in the near future. He added that approaching the future with a baked-in appreciation for open systems will go a long way to addressing many of those threats but added that the service needs help. “Our ask of industry is to help us find ways to do this in the most effective way,” Barrie continued. “What we really need now is [the defense industry’s] involvement in establishing specifically the technical standards that will guide us, and then help us continue to find ways to [embrace open systems] in a smart way.”

Major General Todd Royer said one way that the defense industry can help is to focus on reliability. “In essence, MOSA is about reliability, making sure that the systems work and are federated nicely.” Delivering reliable platforms and solutions has, of course, always been an important part of the defense acquisition process, but Royer sees an opportunity with MOSA that he believes industry should exploit.

“[The defense industry] needs to enable us to have much more reliable systems. [With MOSA,] we are able to plug and play [new technology] and have far fewer issues.” Royer continued to explain that the speed by which the threat landscape develops necessitates far more rapid iteration on existing tech and tech demos and that without open systems. “We cannot get those capabilities out to the warfighter when we need them.”

Ultimately these senior military leaders agreed that open systems and MOSA, in particular, present a productive path for the Army that enables the services to rapidly integrate the latest technology. Weapon systems, navigation systems, and communication systems all play a vital role and to win on the future battlespace requires each to work together. Whether the Army and industry can realize the MOSA dream remains to be seen, but according to Francis, “we have to do this, no matter the cost.”

To watch the full panel, click here.