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 remaining 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!


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. The next stage of development recognised that human interaction with electronic systems would be critical to success.

The Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI)

The Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI) built on SAVE and MAVIS except it was led by the Defence Evaluation and Research Establishment (DERA)


The demonstrator had a telescopic mast equipped with thermal imager and image intensifier.

VERDI Warrior

Inside, a single crew pod had interchangeable operator positions.

VERDI Warrior Interior

Each of the two crew stations had two CRT displays that could show mapping information, GPS data, symbology and sensor information. A later version had a modified turret with the Shorts High Velocity Missile, Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD) and a mock up of the CTAi 40mm cannon. The crew stations were fully interchangeable and, when used in conjunction with a short/medium range wireless network, could share data between vehicles. One of the concepts trialled was to use two Warriors as section vehicles with the section commander carried in an adapted Stormer APC following behind.

VERDI 2 Warrior

VERDI also demonstrated a remote surveillance concept using a small remote controlled tracked vehicle called HARP, carried as a demountable payload in the crew compartment.

The 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. Fusing data from multiple sensors allowed the system to automatically recognise and categorise potentials targets and then provide firing options for the commander, this was extremely impressive for the day.

The images above of VERDI show the WASAD sensor system.

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;

  1. The identification and evaluation of open standards that will underpin the implementation of such an architectures,
  2. Maintaining a close link between research communities and Industry to ensure maximum technology transfer,
  3. 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

Download SG_2007_Issue3.pdf

VSI Metrics

Download VSI_Metrics_Annex_v1.pdf

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.

PICSS and CBIS Intterfaces

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)

Vehicle Common Crew Stations

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.

Thales VTID

VTID was in addition to the FRES Integrated Survivability Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) and Electric Armour TDP awarded to Thales to Lockheed Martin respectively only a few years earlier. The aim was;

To quantify and demonstrate the utility of integrated survivability (other than physical armour) in respect of mounted close combat platforms, to counter the perceived threats in a range of representative scenarios

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;

Visual awareness and sensor suites, disrupters, interceptors, smoke deception systems, active camouflage and electric armour.

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 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.

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 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 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:

  1. Take account of previous MOD investment;
  2. Be applicable to current and future systems;
  3. Use open, modular and scaleable architectures and systems;
  4. Facilitate technology insertion (upgrade, update, replace, repair, remove and addition);
  5. Not needlessly implement in hardware any functionality that can be implemented in software;
  6. Take a ‘whole platform’ systems view, though life (including cost);
  7. Be done in conjunction with industry and all relevant MOD stakeholders;
  8. Be MOD owned and maintained
  9. Specify the minimum necessary to achieve MOD’s desired benefits avoiding unnecessary constraint in implementation.

Advantages of GVA include;

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.

GVA Display

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.

Land Open Systems Architecture (LOAS)

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, currently in draft and planned to be released in 2016.

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 from 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


Table of Contents


The Sixties and Seventies

The Eighties

The Nineties

A Trip Across the Sava River

FCS and the Birth of FRES

2000 to 2005

2006 to 2010

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

2011 to 2014

Generic Vehicle Architecture

2015 to Today


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