Ground Combat Systems’ Common Infrastructure Architecture integrates multiple systems and eliminates redundancies in fighting vehicles by using open architecture. Soldiers have an easier-to-use interface that the Army can reuse across combat platforms, and vehicles can be easily refreshed as new technologies or new requirements arise.
by Dr. Macam S. Dattathreya, Maj. Gen. Brian P. Cummings and Mr. Fasi Sharafi
In March 2014, the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) launched a successful open systems software and hardware architecture solution now referred to as GCS Common Infrastructure Architecture (GCIA). Using the GCIA solution, PEO GCS spearheaded an Army combat vehicle program into a new paradigm with a more efficient, faster and interoperable platform for integrating warfighter capabilities into GCS vehicles. Within two years of GCIA inception, one of the GCS programs successfully implemented the GCIA solution in one of their vehicles. (The Ground Combat Systems portfolio includes the Abrams tank, the Stryker combat vehicle and the Bradley fighting vehicle.)
The nature of warfare is changing, and combat vehicles must support new technologies quickly, with the promise that they’ll perform reliably and interoperate with related warfighter capabilities. An open systems architecture makes it much easier for Army program managers to rapidly deliver to the warfighter new capabilities that are critical on the battlefield of the future. “Open systems architecture” is a technical approach that enables systems’ implementation using widely supported, consensus-based standards that are published and maintained by a recognized industry consortium supporting a modular, loosely coupled and highly cohesive system structure that includes publishing of key interfaces within the system and full design disclosure. A system is modular when it is decomposed into multiple components that may be easily rearranged, replaced or interchanged in various configurations. A loosely coupled system has no or minimal dependency on components of other systems to carry out its functions, and changing one system will not impact other systems. A cohesive system carries out a single, well-defined function and contains only the parts that are required to carry out that single function. The GCIA exhibits all the characteristics of an open systems architecture. GCIA creates a common approach across all combat vehicle platforms to support new innovations and technologies, promote competition, decrease costs and shorten integration timelines.
The GCIA uses open standard specifications developed by PEO GCS for integrating C4ISR (command, control, computers, communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and electronic warfare devices. The specifications are known as VICTORY—Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability. Different vendors can add, modify, replace, remove or support warfighter capabilities through the GCIA’s standardized interfaces throughout the life cycle of a vehicle platform.
The reusable artifacts of the GCIA, such as government-owned software, specifications and implementation guides, can add value to other Army vehicle programs for developing or enhancing their information technology capabilities with lower cost and low-risk options.
KEY TENETS, BENEFITS AND USES
Prior to GCIA, for combat vehicle programs such as Stryker, Bradley or a tank, each warfighter capability would provide its own specific infrastructure functions with proprietary interfaces for a military vehicle integration. These unique functions increase the integration complexity, and they also add a significant amount of integration and testing time to the acquisition program. This would impact budgets and schedules for Army acquisition programs. However, the GCIA provides common system-level infrastructure capabilities such as shared display and computing resources, data sharing, common fault handling, software configuration management and a common data-communication network that all the warfighter capabilities can use instead of having their own specific infrastructure capabilities. The infrastructure is analogous to a robust highway with strategically placed standard services such as rest areas, gas stations, exits and toll booths where they are needed.
Expected capabilities of today’s combat vehicles require the integration of sophisticated technologies within the constraints of a vehicle platform, such as the cost, size, weight, power and cooling requirements. Reusability was a reason for developing the GCIA—but not the only one. Moreover, the other drivers or GCIA tenets, as depicted in Figure 1, facilitate letting multiple competing vendors develop innovative solutions, rather than locking the PEO in to one supplier for the life of the product.
• GCIA’s common infrastructure solution, which works on any vehicle, allows for increased reuse across multiple platforms, reducing development testing costs and schedule, and increasing use of common products, thereby reducing life cycle support costs. Additionally, standard interface specifications in GCIA significantly reduce integration timelines by reducing interoperability-related challenges and issues. Since the infrastructure functions are common, once it is tested in one successful Army program, the testing organizations can leverage the test results for any other programs that use GCIA instead of retesting them. This will drastically reduce the testing time and cost for any new programs that use GCIA.
• Using open standards in GCIA increases opportunities for competition, enabling rapid introduction of innovative solutions at reduced cost instead of proprietary solutions that tend to lock the customer to one supplier for the life of the product.
• Interconnecting multiple system entities within a vehicle network, using common communication protocols and common services for sharing available information in GCIA, give the vehicle crew increased situational awareness while reducing redundant hardware solutions.
• Delivering reliable and alternative mechanisms for resources to operate and communicate effectively with each other in GCIA provides for a robust solution that enables the vehicle systems to continue to operate properly during software failures.
The GCIA platform provides all the required computing and display resources, network, infrastructure-related common capability services software, commonly used shared data services software, a library for assisting the development of VICTORY-compliant interfaces and an infrastructure for managing the network using open-standard specifications. Capability developers have to develop the drivers, devices and their system-specific software to interface with the GCIA. GCIA allows any VICTORY-compliant systems, such as digital radios, to interoperate with other VICTORY systems, such as computing resources, electronic warfare sensors or ethernet switches, and non-VICTORY-compliant systems, such as fire control or remote weapon systems, on the GCIA platform.
Future efforts will evolve GCIA incrementally to allow multiple open-systems frameworks, such as the Future Airborne Capability Environment, modular open radio frequency architecture, sensor open systems architecture and open mission systems to work together without any disruptions to the operation of the vehicles. Planned enhancements in the next 12 to 16 months will improve GCIA’s technical maturity in the areas of security, performance and software configuration. The opportunities for reuse of this product go well beyond PEO GCS platforms or programs; it could also be used in High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. With GCIA aboard vehicles on the battlefield, Soldiers will not only have multiple capabilities at their fingertips, but also a distinct advantage over the adversary.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit the website (registration is required): https://confluence.di2e.net/display/GCSCIS/PEO+GCS+Common+Infrastructure+Architecture+Home
DR. MACAM S. DATTATHREYA is the chief architect and a scientist for PEO GCS and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. He holds a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Wayne State University. Dr. Dattathreya has 24 years of experience in multiple engineering fields (commercial and government sectors). He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is Level III certified in systems engineering. He has published several technical research papers in journals and holds nine U.S. patents.
MAJ. GEN. BRIAN P. CUMMINGS is the program executive officer for GCS and responsible for the life cycle management of the U.S. Army’s main battle tank, Bradley fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, the Stryker family of vehicles, combat vehicle recovery systems, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, and the Mobile Protected Firepower Program. He was previously the program executive officer for Soldier programs at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He holds a B.S. in biology from Old Dominion University, an M.S. in science and technology commercialization from the University of Texas, and an M.S. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
MR. FASI SHARAFI is the assistant program executive officer for Systems Engineering and Integration. He has over 29 years of Army acquisition experience across multiple system-level efforts that includes serving in the position of chief engineer for 10 years. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University and New York University, respectively. He is Level III certified in systems engineering and a graduate of Defense Systems Management College.
This article will be published in the October – December 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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