WASHINGTON – Almost four years after its first meeting, a consortium of government and industry officials released its first set of standards for open architecture military sensors and electronic warfare systems, potentially paving the way for a new era of true plug-and-play capabilities.
At the Association of the US Army’s annual meeting, members of the Open Group consortium – created to guide the development of the Sensor Open Systems Architecture Consortium – outlined the importance of this step and discussed the continuing evolution of standards. .
The standards come as business and government increasingly embrace the Open Sensor Systems Architecture, or SOSA, approach intended to be a new standard for electro-optical / infrared, electromagnetic intelligence systems. , electronic warfare and army communications.
Using a modular design and non-proprietary standards, they ensure the interoperability of SOSA-aligned technologies, ending the vendor lock-in problem that has plagued the military for generations.
The most notable example of what SOSA will enable is the Army’s C4ISR / EW Modular Open Standards Suite, or CMOSS. Instead of having every sensor, compute, or electronic warfare capability custom fitted to a vehicle, CMOSS provides a single chassis with a number of card slots. The military can then install new capabilities by plugging in 1-inch VPX cards, or upgrade the capabilities by replacing the cards with newer and advanced versions. If the military wants to upgrade a given capability, they don’t need to go back to the same vendor or go through an expensive and time-consuming custom installation with a new product. He just needs to shop around and see who can offer a better replacement card, buy the card, and install it in the CMOSS chassis.
CMOSS has been the main driver of SOSA, although efforts have diverged. For example, the CMOSS backplane – the card that provides the connectors for the cards – no longer meets SOSA standards.
It is expected that the interoperability achieved through SOSA will support the affordability of the system, allow more reconfigurations with different components and lead to faster development of the system. The end goal is to have a third party providing independent verification that products meet SOSA standards, allowing the military to confidently purchase technologies that will fit into the open architecture they desire.
As the consortium’s standards have matured, their adoption by industry and government has increased dramatically. SOSA compliant cards, chassis and backplanes are now commercially available.
At the same time, the number of consortium members has nearly doubled over the past two years, signaling commercial interest in the new standards, said consortium spokesperson Valerie Andrew.
The Army was an important partner in the development of SOSA, but other services are also involved. According to SOSA representatives, the US Space Force recently joined the consortium.
Perhaps more importantly, SOSA is starting to appear in the Department of Defense systems requirements. Mark Littlefield, senior director of embedded computing products for Elma Electronic and head of SOSA’s small form factor subcommittee, said he was aware of at least one departmental program with a mandate to follow SOSA requirements.
“What does all of this mean? It means SOSA is working,” Littlefield said.
The consortium will continue to develop the SOSA standards over the next year. Among other activities, the consortium will participate in the three-service open architectures interoperability demonstration on March 15 as well as the next Army C5ISR Center Plugfest in November.
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.