In the last few years there has been a quiet revolution in the Ministry of Defence, the first of two key elements that have delivered Foxhound is a more realistic approach to trading off requirements against time and cost.
I think Foxhound is a genuinely innovative vehicle that has the potential for great export success. If it lives up to the expectations then its manufacturers have a bright future but we should also recognise the sensible approach the MoD took to requirements and the overall acquisition strategy. Of course there were baseline requirements such as protection, weight and mobility and the final competition for the LPPV resulted in only 2 vehicles making the cut but this was different to many previous projects where inflexibility on specification has led to cost and time into service increases.
The second key element is called Generic Vehicle Architecture, a revolutionary standard that no one has ever heard of.
GVA, or Def Stan 23-09 is an open standard designed to place information at the heart of a vehicular system. The objective of GVA is to create a single, standard digital electronic and electrical architecture for UK vehicles
DefStan 23-09 defines physical and communications interfaces on a vehicle to allow interchange of equipment and provides definitions of the Human Machine Interface.
The official objective is;
The purpose of this Def Stan 23-09 is to enable the MOD to realise the benefits of an open architecture approach to Land platform design and integration, especially in regard to platform infrastructure and the associated Human Machine Interface (HMI) in order to improve operational effectiveness across all Defence Lines of Development (DLOD), reduce integration risks and reduce the cost of ownership across the fleet. This is achieved by mandating and applying the appropriate interface standards
Taking a list from the standard itself;
The nine basic principles of the GVA approach and Def Stan 23-09 are that they must:
- Take account of previous MOD investment;
- Be applicable to current and future systems;
- Use open, modular and scaleable architectures and systems;
- Facilitate technology insertion (upgrade, update, replace, repair, remove and addition);
- Not needlessly implement in hardware any functionality that can be implemented in software;
- Take a ‘whole platform’ systems view, though life (including cost);
- Be done in conjunction with industry and all relevant MOD stakeholders;
- Be MOD owned and maintained
- Specify the minimum necessary to achieve MOD’s desired benefits avoiding unnecessary constraint in implementation.
Advantages of GVA include;
- Vehicle availability and reliability will be improved , instead of wasteful time based maintenance intervals, conditions based maintenance will be possible
- Availability based contracts will be possible as vehicle usage data will be available on which to negotiate against
- Vehicle running costs can be reduced because condition based information will again be available
- Processing and storage can be shared across multiple systems
- Vehicle capability can be increased as sensors could be shared and intelligence automatically gathered and presented
- Costs will be reduced by avoiding supplier lock in, increasing competition and lowering the barriers to entry for smaller manufacturers
- Weight and power requirements will be reduced as equipment specific cabling will be eliminated
- Reduced training
- Reduced space for ‘systems equipment’
- Vehicles can be quickly re-configured for different roles
- New sensors can be quickly fitted to vehicles to counter developing threats, this can be done quickly, in essence, plug and play for sensors
In 2008 the Force Protection and Mission Systems Working Group was formed by the MoD and industry with the objective of addressing the increasingly difficult challenges of vehicle power management, man/machine interfaces and the vehicles system architecture.
Building on other projects including Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) and Vehicle Technology Integration Demonstrator (VTID) GVA is big on open standards. The VSI group has been led by QinetiQ since 1997 so some of these programmes have a depth of knowledge that supported the rapid evolution of GVA, especially the vetronics aspects.
The MoD, QinetiQ and IBM, in conjunction with a range of collaborative partners including Selex , IVECO, Supacat; Raytheon, RTI, L3 Communications, Paradigm, MaxOrd Ballistics, Aeroflex, Hypertac, Polar Com, Smiths Detection, Allen Vanguard, Britannia 2000 , GE Aviation and many others published the standard in August 2010, with an agreed 18 month revision cycle.
Available here for all to read it is also important to understand the difference between GVA and the standard, GVA is the approach and the standard is one output from this.
Although the physical and electrical connectors form a fundamental part of the standard it is the use of a middleware model that enables equipment A to exchange data with equipment B, both from different manufacturers. The Data Distribution Service (DDS) middleware system was chosen and the Land Data Model subsequently released.
The Land Data Model has been published (apart from certain restricted elements) and is freely available for suppliers, it is what is defined as a System Data Dictionary, published in standard Object Management Group (OMG) UML notation.
Thales are the design authority for GVA on the first fully compliant vehicle, the Foxhound, this is of course a relatively simple vehicle but it is a confidence building evolution and therefore eminently sensible.
GVA also addresses legacy issues with a well thought through transition model, GVA compliant equipment can be used with legacy equipment through the use of gateways, firewalls and adapters. Mastiff and Panther have GVA compliant equipment integrated into a non GVA compliant system.
The current version addresses mechanical standards, power infrastructure, video, human machine interface, health usage and monitoring (HUMS) and the electronic infrastructure but future versions might also cover communications, high voltage power and electric drives.
The three network types of safety critical (TTP), deterministic (MilCAN) and high speed (Ethernet)
Other manufacturers are beginning to offer ‘GVA Compliant’ products, a clear sign of the standards maturity.
GVA is also being joined by the Generic Base Architecture and Generic Soldier Architecture, more open standards.
Although this may seem a rather dry subject, its importance should not be underestimated.
Not all of the stated benefits may ultimately be realised but the MoD should be roundly congratulated for sticking to its guns on GVA and seeing it through, it creates a baseline for innovation and competition, avoids supplier lock in and provides an enabling core for future expansion.
Shame no one outside the defence industry has ever heard of it.