U.S. Army's VICTORY ushers in the next COTS integration revolution

Bringing state-of-the-art commercial silicon performance to deployed systems for rugged military environments can involve conflicting goals. Designers want the highest performance, but also need to design to the limits of the available space, weight, and power constraints. And the market realities of price and affordability can’t be ignored. Applications and processor performance continue to expand in terms of complexity and compute power, but the space available inside of ground combat vehicles is not becoming any larger. In fact, space is always a premium, with electronic components competing for limited room with such other critical resources as ammunition storage. Limited space plus higher-performance electronics equal greater challenges for thermal management. Adding more subsystems, without a shared digital network connecting them, fosters redundancy, which eats up even more of the already limited available space.

The U.S. Army’s Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY) initiative takes aim at these problems by defining an approach for commonality through GbE networking, standard connectors, and well-defined electrical interfaces. In the U.K., the GVA initiative is doing similar work. Today, there is a groundswell of activity to bring the benefits of a digital backbone, to foster interoperability and commonality and shared data to make the warfighter more effective while reducing functional redundancies; such redundancies include the multiple GPS units that result from the proliferation of “stovepipe” systems. Even better, in an era of constrained defense budgets, these initiatives also promise to help drive affordability. Here’s how.

Learning from the commercial world

In 2007, Steve Jobs, giving his annual speech, said, “Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary new products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.” He then went on to clarify, “An iPod, a phone, an Internet mobile communicator. An iPod, a phone, an Internet mobile communicator ... These are not three separate devices! And we are calling it iPhone!

What Apple had done was recognize that advances in silicon – such as low-power ARM processors – could enable the integration of multiple functions into a single compact unit. Similarly, VICTORY can help create a revolution in subsystem design for performance-hungry but space-constrained ground vehicles. Using adjacent market technologies such as ARM processors designed for the automotive market and network switches from the telecommunications market – to develop small, lightweight, rugged processor units that cost-effectively deliver multiple functionalities – eliminates redundant GPS units; it also eliminates redundant video displays, keyboards, and so on, because data, previously stovepiped, is shared over the common digital network. And this revolution doesn’t end inside the vehicle. VICTORY encourages interoperability across ground vehicle platforms. The result with VICTORY: real-time exploitation of shared data … mitigated SWaP constraints … reduced costs.

One example of a VICTORY-compliant technology is Curtiss-Wright’s Digital Beachhead, a compact subsystem that brings digital networking and advanced processing services to ground combat vehicles (Figure 1). This integrated VICTORY backbone solution features GbE switching and routing, along with a VICTORY data bus, and management and (such as shared GPS data) to quickly and easily integrate the VICTORY architecture into any vehicle. Its high-speed network architecture enables resource sharing, eliminates redundancy, and reduces weight and power. An integrated Vehicle Management computer with HUMS/CBM+ system health services is provided.

21
Figure 1: Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions’ Digital Beachhead, an ARM-based, VICTORY-compliant unit
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)

VICTORY points the way

Innovation comes from constraints. The need for more processing power, communications, and functionality will only increase over time. With those demands comes more heat to dissipate. Where will the space for these systems come from inside the already overburdened vehicles? The solution for addressing these constraints is probably already in your pocket. COTS has always been about leveraging best-of-breed ideas from adjacent markets. With VICTORY-compliant systems that leverage best-of-breed hardware and software, it’s possible to deliver optimal performance and functionality in an extremely low-power and small-footprint package at previously unattained price points.

Steve Edwards Chief Technology Officer Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions Steve.Edwards@curtisswright.com www.cwcdefense.com

Topics covered in this article