Modern electronic systems have had a revolutionary effect on the ways that the US Army conducts its missions. They give the modern warfighter a degree of situational awareness and fire control orders of magnitude better than previous generations, allowing the warfighter to carry out his or her mission more quickly, reliably, with less risk of collateral damage, and with lower risk to the warfighter.
However, the Army has a problem. The proliferation of these systems over the past 25-30 years has meant that vehicle crew cabins are now cluttered with various types of electronics such as radios and data systems, navigation, image and signal surveillance, shot detection, rocket defense, and fire control systems. Each of these systems has their own computing hardware, sensors, displays, and keyboards or other operator input devices, and almost none share information with the others. The result is a disordered and crowded workspace, and the manual coordination of these systems means an increased workload on the warfighter.
Taking a queue from the commercial computing industry where networking and coordination between personal computers, mobile computing, and “the cloud” is the norm, the Army set out to address this problem. In January 2009 the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) formed the Vehicle Electronics Architecture (VEA) technical area to study this problem. About this same time, the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T) started the Vehicle Integration for C4ISR/EW inTerOpeRabilitY (VICTORY) architecture project to improve how C4ISR subsystems are integrated into ground vehicles. In May 2010 these two groups, along with the Army’s Research Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and a number of other Army PEO’s, met to form the working groups of the VICTORY Standards Body.
Since then the VICTORY Standards Body has generated an impressive amount of technical material including architecture and standard specifications, a reference design and reference library, and a preliminary compliance test suite. The group has also performed significant industry outreach, bringing prime contractors and COTS suppliers into the standards process and drafting specification language that can be easily incorporated into RFIs and RFPs.
I recently spoke with three leaders in the COTS VICTORY Architecture activities about their views on the VICTORY Architecture, their companies’ approach to VICTORY, and how Intel technologies are addressing their needs. Here’s what I learned:
What is the VICTORY Architecture?
David Jedynak, Chief Technology Officer at Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions: VICTORY is a standard that enables plug-and-play for military vehicle systems, like a USB mouse for a modern desktop or laptop. It also enables interoperability between systems. Currently vehicle electronic systems (vetronics) are “stovepiped”, with each system having its own display, keyboard, and so on. In addition, there is no sharing of information or sensors such as GPS between the systems. A networked information flow with standardized messaging and a shared timebase are the key to VICTORY.
David Pepper, Product Specialist at GE Intelligent Platforms: The VICTORY architecture solves the interoperability problem for in-vehicle systems. Separate boxes for different functions can now combine capabilities via networks with a common set of interfaces.
Jeff Porter, Director of Marketing and Product Development at Extreme Engineering Solutions: VICTORY is about networking, with a focus on switch management, routers, and compatibility.
What does the VICTORY Architecture bring to the warfighter?
DJ/CW: VICTORY brings a more modern, networked approach to vetronics. It reduces SWaP (Space, Weight, and Power) and cost by consolidating functions such as GPS.
JP/XES: Easier and cheaper upgrades through defined compatibility.
DP/GE: In short, it brings improved SWaP. It also promises fewer operator interfaces. It’s really all about more and better system integration.
What does VICTORY mean for your company? Specifically, how important is it to your strategy?
JP/XES: VICTORY is driving our product planning today. We are beginning to see interest, so it is important that we are compliant with our products going forward. We expect to see it more with both new vehicle and legacy platforms.
DJ/CW: VICTORY lends itself to COTS-based solutions, so it is particularly important to Curtiss-Wright. In addition, it allows more hardware abstraction and gives the integrator the ability to choose hardware sized right to fit the application.
DP/GE: The services drive the VICTORY architecture, but GE involvement is important for driving it into our product planning. GE needs to make sure that our products are compliant. We will see this flow down from the primes and we must be ready.
What are the challenges?
DJ/CW: We need to be sure that we are designing hardware to be “VICTORY Ready”. In addition, existing vehicles need to be upgraded to support VICTORY, which means that there is a “chicken and the egg” problem for VICTORY deployment. Lastly, the government acquisition chain hasn’t yet fully embraced VICTORY, so there have been limited calls for it in RFIs and RFPs to date.
DP/GE: The standard is still evolving. Therefore, GE needs to stay engaged. We expect that it will take another year or more for VICTORY to mature. Libraries based on VICTORY are under development, and a reference library has already been released. A test suite to show compliance is still needed, however.
What products or features does Intel provide to help enable VICTORY?
DP/GE: Intel network controllers and switches with integrated MAC/PHY are particularly important to us, such as the Intel Ethernet Switch FM4000.
JP/XES: For us it’s about networking, supporting the hardware, protocol, and management capabilities in the specification.
DJ/CW: Intel products that support the Precision Time Protocol (IEEE 1588) are key to the success of the VICTORY Architecture. Also, multi-level security (MLS) continues to be a concern for military systems, so hardware-based Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) like that found in the latest Intel® Core™ i7 processors are important for establishing separate secure “enclaves”.
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GE Intelligent Platforms is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions and Extreme Engineering Solutions are General members of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter, Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance