By Kristen Kushiyama, CERDEC Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) received an update on the Army’s latest work in creating modular, customizable systems for various Army platforms during a visit here June 16.
The Hon. Heidi Shyu toured the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center to gain a deeper understanding of CERDEC’s Hardware/Software Convergence initiative.
CERDEC is working to modernize and modularize Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C4ISR, and Electronic Warfare components so that there is a standard interface to better and more quickly facilitate the integration, compatibility and interoperability of new capabilities.
Shyu said she would like to see the Army get to the point where it is not completely “lighting up the battlefield” in terms of digital signatures and systems; however, she also stressed program affordability and making sure hardware/software convergence does not become just a redesign of pre-existing systems.
During more than a decade of war, the Army built technologies to fill a specific need or to stop a threat. Interoperability between systems led to duplicative equipment such as multiple antennas or GPS units on the same platform.
“In the past we weren’t telling industry enough specifics; we weren’t specifying enough with regards to the architecture, the standards and how you play in our Army network,” said Henry Muller, CERDEC director. “With this Hardware/Software Convergence approach we are going to be specifying the actual environment in which your capability is going to exist.”
Historically, the process of developing new systems became a series of addressing specific threats with specific systems.
“Adversaries constantly evolve, and new ones appear; we may not face the same threats in five years,” Seth Spoenlein, CERDEC S&TCD associate for Technology, Planning and Outreach said. “The Army must provide the latest capabilities to our Soldiers in the presence of the fast pace of technology, the environments our Soldiers are operating in, and the capabilities of our adversaries that our Soldiers face.”
“Our job at CERDEC is to ensure that we’re providing those cutting-edge technologies to Soldiers that best support their mission, regardless of platform,” said Spoenlein.
Decreasing the time it takes to get the proper technology to the Soldier will take a change in the way the Army seeks solutions.
CERDEC will look at the tools and the integrated development environment in which it can create that capability to achieve interoperability in systems and increase the speed and agility necessary to shorten the upgrade process to respond to threats, Muller said.
“This particular Assistant Secretary of the Army is interested in the technical details, and these visits offer an opportunity to really explain to her, technically, what it is that we are doing,” Muller said. “It gives the CERDEC the visibility at that level in terms of the capabilities and what we are here to provide the Army, and what we are capable of providing the Army- the value that we bring to the entire acquisition process.”
CERDEC leadership and engineers demonstrated concepts and proposed solutions for decreasing the size, weight and power consumption of systems while still allowing for system-upgrade flexibility.
“Today the waveform is specific to that system, but we want to take and move code from one hardware platform to another,” said Dr. Paul Zablocky, director, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate.
“We’re building on prior Navy and DARPA science and technology investments to develop leap-ahead technologies that provide seamless and cooperative operation of RF systems. The time is right to change the way C4ISR/EW systems are engineered and integrated onto platforms,” Zablocky said.
Systems such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, or SINCGARS, and Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare, or CREW, Duke V3 could leverage similar components reducing the systems to a common chassis with cards that address specific needs.
“This concept is designed to be rugged and very modular. It can go on all types of platforms, and we can break the chassis up into smaller pieces based on the platform,” Zablocky said. “The systems will be capable of automatically switching from application to application to make its use seamless for the Soldier.”
Hardware/Software Convergence would eventually allow for efficient system and component upgrades as new and better technologies emerge.
“We won’t be forced to change everything at one time. We can replace parts instead of having to change out the whole system. For example, as technology progresses, we can take out a less capable card and replace it with a better, upgraded card,” Zablocky said.
CERDEC leadership acknowledged the shift in business process might take time.
“I think we pushed our goals, and as usually the case our goal line was moved a little bit by the ASA(ALT). In other words, we were challenged to achieve more, which is always a good thing. We accept that and will move forward collectively with the PEO (Program Executive Office) to address what Ms. Shyu asked us to look at in addition to what we are already doing,” Muller said.
- The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness–technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment–to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.
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