The MoD has been at the cutting edge of vehicle electronics for several years, Generic Vehicle Architecture is the latest incarnation of this work.
MBT-80 was to be the first armoured combat vehicle that would take full advantage of the microprocessor and it was soon realised that its power distribution systems would need to be equally innovative. This initiated work on the Systematic Approach to Vehicle Electronics (SAVE) programme at MVEE Chertsey. It defined a series of standards and specifications for the power and electronic systems that would exploit modern microprocessors whilst remain operable in the harsh environmental conditions of a main battle tank.
The electronic components would be mounted in the Modular Assembled Vehicle Installation System (MAVIS) which was, in effect, a shelf.
The Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI)
In 1987, the Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI) built on this previous work. It examined how modern vetronics (a portmanteau of the words vehicle and electronics), sensors and communications equipment could be exploited to improve performance and reduce crew numbers.
VERDI was a technology demonstrator using an FV510 Warrior as the base vehicle.
Concluding in 1990, VERDI demonstrated a number of different technologies including data bus multiplexers, navigation, data fusion, positioning, display and engine monitoring. The benefits of mounting sensors on an elevating pneumatic mast from Clark Masts were also assessed.
The demonstrator mast was equipped with a thermal imager and image intensifier. A crew of three was retained for this initial demonstrator but it was clear there was potential to reduce even this.
Wide Area Surveillance Automated Detection (WASAD)
The Wide Area Surveillance Automated Detection (WASAD) project built on earlier work at the Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) which examined remote vision, vehicles with external cameras (instead of optical periscopes) and unmanned turrets. MVEE had concluded that the available technology of the period was not mature enough for adoption into service. WASAD took another look, with newer technology. It developed a panoramic day/night vision system that included automatic target detection and recognition whilst on the move, connected via voice recognition to the fire control system on a modified Challenger 2.
WASAD had shown the potential of electronic systems integration in combat vehicles while highlighting the need for greater standardization to ease implementation.
Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative 2 (VERDI-2)
VERDI and WASAD had demonstrated huge potential and this resulted in a second phase project starting in 1993, VERDI-2. It was also designed to de-risk some of the systems thought likely to be included with the new Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER).
The VERDI-2 Warrior was designed to test 2-man crew concepts and the ability to manoeuvre using only indirect vision. To do this, it had a side by side crew station, each two CRT displays that could show mapping information, GPS data, symbology and other sensor information. VERDI-2 only had a crew of two, both side by side. The sensor package was upgraded, using the automatic threat detection and identification systems from WASAD and this included audio warnings to the crew of potential danger.
The turret was also armed with an early version of the Starstreak High-Velocity Missile, Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD) and a mock-up of the CTAi 40mm cannon.
A new concept for VERDI-2 was to team the 2-man Warrior with a Troop Leader’s Stormer, communicating in real time to establish a ‘recce team’. This vehicle acted as a communications and data hub and was equipped with additional data networking and processing equipment. VERDI also demonstrated a remote surveillance remote tracked vehicle called HARP that was carried as a demountable payload.
Trials were completed by Household Cavalry, their 1994/5 Journal describing the process, including this amusing comment on the fragility of early vehicle electronics:
One of the trials participants concluded:
Although the VERDI, WASAD and VERDI-2 did not directly enter service, they certainly informed next steps.[adrotate group=”1″]
Next Steps – VESTA, VSI, VTID and VIVA
MBT80, VERDI and WASAD had proven the significant potential of electronics system integration in combat vehicles but equally underscored the need for a standardised approach to implementation. In the early nineties, following the work completed on the VERDI programme, DERA initiated the Vehicle Standards Architectures (VESTA) project to provide the architectural foundation for the work completed by VSI. In 1997, MVEE Chertsey and DERA then initiated the Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) programme. VSI was a broad church, participants included the defence establishments, MoD scientists, academia and industry.
The VSI web site describes the aims of VSI;
- The identification and evaluation of open standards that will underpin the implementation of such an architectures,
- Maintaining a close link between research communities and Industry to ensure maximum technology transfer,
- Maintaining a close link with the international vetronics community and, wherever possible, forming international collaborations that are of benefit to the UK.
VSI produced some excellent reference documents, well worth a read.
|Vetronics Standards & Guidelines – Version 3||VSI Metrics|
VSI was used extensively during the development of the TRACER project
When TRACER was cancelled the VSI programme continued with additional work sponsored by the MoD on the CANBus systems.
Platform Integrated Command and Controls System (PICCS) and Common Infrastructure for Battlefield Information Systems (CIBIS) that were both attempts to standardise crew workstations, power, sensor and other electronic systems integration and could be seen as the building blocks for the later Generic Vehicle Architecture.
Alvis fitted a Scorpion with a CANBus controller and remote power switching, used to investigate system robustness and general suitability. The Alvis Vetronics Integration Demonstrator (AVID) programme was a Stormer fitted with an elevated sensor mast. It was similar to VERDI in some ways, investigating integration issues, advanced sensors, navigation and communications (the image below, bottom right, shows an AVID crew station)
The MRAV programme incorporated CANBUS systems and the European HGV industry started to utilise CANBUS systems extensively.
With the cancellation of TRACER and MRAV, the research and integration effort moved on to the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES), specifically, the Electronic Architecture Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP). Unlike most of the FRES TDP’s, the MoD let two contracts, one to BAE and one Lockheed Martin. The outputs of this work, building on the work of VSI, SAVE, MAVIS, AVID and VESTA formed the building block of Generic Vehicle Architecture.
In 2007, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a three-year £9.48 million research contract to a QinetiQ led consortium for the Vehicle Technology Integration and Demonstrator (VTID) programme. Other members included BAE, Thales, Ultra Electronics, SciSys, SVGC, Williams F1 and York and Sussex universities. VTID was designed to demonstrate a layered protection system for a test bed vehicle, a REME FV432 as it turned out.
VTID was in addition to the FRES Integrated Survivability Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) and Electric Armour TDP awarded to Thales and Lockheed Martin respectively only a few years earlier.
And the scope included;
- Integrated Survivability (IS) & Infrastructure Concepts
- Mission Modularity
- Modular Dependability
- Physical Integration of a range of technologies: LSA and Acoustic Sensors, LWR, RWS, Obscurants, etc
- Demonstration of IS concepts in different military scenarios
Janes reported the range of technologies likely to be considered;
Although VTID was focused on protection, the systems needed an integrated information architecture and so much of the work carried out on the VTID project would also find its way into Generic vehicle Architecture. Time-Triggered Ethernet was a particularly important recommendation.
The UK and Germany carried out a joint development programme on video interfaces for vetronics called VIVA and VIVA 2. VIVA 3 was also part of the VTID project that used video over Ethernet for the local situational awareness cameras and sighting systems.
In 2008 the Force Protection and Mission Systems Working Group were 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.
Def Stan 23-09 Generic Vehicle Architecture
GVA or Def Stan 23-09 is an open standard designed to place information at the heart of a vehicular system with the objective of creating 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 provide definitions of the Human Machine Interface.
The official objective is
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
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 is 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 none 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 joined by the Generic Base Architecture and Generic Soldier Architecture, more open standards, within the Land Open System Architecture (LOSA).
Although this may seem a rather dry subject, its importance should not be underestimated.
Since 2010, the MoD has led the way on open system standards for vehicle systems.
Foxhound and Specialist Vehicles are compliant.
STANAG 4754 NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture
In 2012, the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (French: Organisation conjointe de coopération en matière d’armement ;OCCAR) launched a project called Land Vehicle with Open System Architecture (LAVOSAR), the eventual winner being Rheinmetall. The goals of the project were to study existing open standards and develop a strategy for the future.
LAVOSAR completed its work in 2014 and recommended that the UK’s Def Stan 23-09 Generic Vehicle Architecture be adopted as the NATO standard and extended.
NATO GVA (NGVA) is now known as STANAG 4754.
NGVA is an extension of GVA that meets a broader set of requirements including unmanned systems integration.
The US Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY) system takes a similar, although much narrower in scope. It will be interesting to see how VICTORY, GVA and NVGA coexist.
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. Out of the sorry story that is CVR(T) to FRES to Ajax, GVA and the open systems architecture is perhaps the one good thing to have come out of it, and revolutionary it may well yet be.
Shame no one outside the defence industry has ever heard of it.
Read Def Stan 23-09 at the link below
British Army Medium Weight Capability – Table of Contents
What this document is, sources and acknowledgements, and what this document is not
Saladin and Saracen enter service, early work on their replacement commences and completes. The FV432 enters service, and the BMP-1 does likewise, work on Warrior gains pace.
CVR(T) and CVR(W) enter service, and the rapid deployment concept cuts its teeth with the C-130
CVR(T) continues to be developed and sees action in in the Falkland Islands and Warrior enters service. Oh, and Saxon.
A decade of major change; the end of the Cold War, operations in the Gulf and the Balkans. The microprocessor and communications revolution. VERDI, FFLAV, WASAD and the rise of the acronym in defence. ASCOD, CV90 and others developed. Protected mobility becomes a requirement, again, and finally, interesting materials development make an appearance in the defence vehicle world.
Three vehicle development projects that would have importance to the ongoing story of developing a medium weight capability.
Important milestones in the development of medium weight capabilities, a trip across the Sava and WWIII averted at an airport.
The Future Combat System, the UK follows suit, FRES and being a force for good.
2001 to 2004, TRACER and MRAV continue but the new kid on the block called FRES is starting to take over whilst the shadow of Iraq falls on the project.
Between 2005 and 2007 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq overshadowed the medium weight concept.
2008 to 2009, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance the needs of operations with the desire to transform and bring FRES to fruition at the same time.
2010 to 2011, putting the embarrassment of FRES UV behind it, the Army switches to FRES SV, a replacement for CVR(T)
2012 to 2014, as an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention turned to Warrior.
2015 to 2017, a new medium weight capability vision emerges, and this requires a new vehicle, the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), but before that, Multi Role Vehicle (MRV).
A few thoughts and opinions.
Weights, measures, variants and roles
A revolution in medium calibre weapons, but can we afford it?
The essential glue that binds the increasing quantity of vehicle electronics