Sharpening the Tactical Edge with the Adoption of CMOSS and MOSA


Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) is designed to increase interoperability and bring new capabilities into the hands of the warfighter faster, addressing several challenges they face in the ever-evolving battlespace. These include emerging and evolving cyber threats, challenges that come with IP rights and tech data packages, lengthy timelines for field updates or fixes, vendor lock, and solutions lacking in commonality and portability.

Every one of these hurdles contributed directly to the establishment of MOSA, providing the military with a framework for the acquisition of technologies that address the needs of the modern warfighter. This approach has seen strong traction across the services, with the hope that technologies being put in the hands of warfighters around the world would become more accessible, agile, and modern.
In fact, a Tri-Services memo from 2019, which was signed by the Secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy said, “MOSA supporting standards should be included in all requirements, programming, and development activities for future weapon system modifications and new start development programs to the maximum extent possible.”

In accordance with this approach, the Joint Services established unique MOSA like C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS), Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE), Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA™), and Open Mission System (OMS). These various MOSA allow the military to “keep the tactical edge sharp,” as Joseph Graf, Fellow at Collins Aerospace, put it. Graf recently penned a white paper titled “Industry Perspective on CMOSS for Communications Systems,” delving into the application of MOSA like CMOSS in theater from a communications point of view.

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“CMOSS, and MOSA in general, create more opportunities for non-traditional companies in industry to compete effectively with more efficient approaches through an open system architecture,” he explained. “This allows them to participate in more Army activities and bring in new capabilities – and the whole purpose of that is to ensure our military has access to discriminating technologies that will maintain our tactical edge.”

Because of the inherent openness of CMOSS, applications with this architecture can easily be integrated into systems like the digital backbone of the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. The digital backbone works to accomplish similar goals for the FVL program with regards to more rapid acquisition of modern avionics technologies.

That said, there is still much to be learned as MOSA becomes more ubiquitous across the services. “There are still some hurdles to be overcome to make open systems compatible with each other,” stated Graf. “For example, just because two open systems use common networking protocols, doesn’t mean they will work together unless they have a common understanding of how to communicate with each other. This means there would need to be higher-layer open standards employed to ensure these systems can work together.”

Graf also emphasized the need to prioritize cybersecurity and information assurance to ensure systems can be certified for secure tactical communications. “These are key needs for CMOSS to fully meet the outlined MOSA objectives.”

Clarity and clear boundaries here benefit the military and also industry players working to meet these demands. Graf expanded on this, saying, “The goal of MOSA is not to stifle innovation, but sometimes when there are so many open standards available, not having some well-defined boundaries may cause industry to hesitate in where best to invest precious IR&D funds as there are plenty of examples where a system can be created based on open standards, but still not satisfy the MOSA objectives. A prime example of this would be certification requirements for security.”

As we move in to 2022 and beyond, Graf expects to see more capabilities in federated solutions to be demonstrated in open systems, especially with initiatives like Project Convergence. “As these capabilities mature, the use of shared radio frequency (RF) or antennas will likely be the next focus – but there will always need to be a balance between the additional complexities of systems that share resources and the speed required to bring on new capabilities,” he said.

CMOSS and other MOSA will continue to shape the way cutting edge solutions are acquired in defense and will bring more agility and readiness directly to the warfighter.

To learn more about the application of CMOSS across the U.S. Army, download the white paper “Industry Perspective on CMOSS for Communications Systems” here.