Tanks, helicopters, infantry carriers, and command and control technologies all need to be built with the most cutting-edge and effective technologies available. Yet, U.S. Army weapons developers do not want to stop there but instead pursue future platforms with continued modernization initiatives.
The idea is to not deploy paradigm-changing new platforms such as the emerging Mobile Protected Firepower, Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, and a host of robotic systems, but to update those systems such that they can operate until 2050 and beyond.
There is a particular technical strategy to accomplish this goal, senior U.S. Army weapons developers say, and it pertains to the concept of “open architecture.” What this means is that systems are built with common internet protocol standards, interfaces, and “1s” and “0s” which allow for continued modernization in the decades following the emergence of a new platform.
“Having an open systems architecture allows for more innovation. Ten years from now there might be a whole new company with a whole new technology, for example, that would have a kind of radar or kind of sight for a tank, say, or some kind of new communications gear, that wasn't even thought of when we designed the system and, and procured it. Really what you want is a way to bring in new things like that, without having to kind of start from scratch on the design. So I think it's mostly across the board,” Douglas Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology, told The National Interest in an interview.
Additional advantages associated with this technique also include the ability to decrease the hardware footprint, consolidate size, weight, and power and allow for rapid upgrades to a weapons system without having to rebuild. Bush also explained that the open approach enables a wide array of vendors to offer solutions and compete for upgrade contracts.
“That's the standard we're trying to apply to all of our new weapons systems, so that elements of the systems can be completed and upgraded in the future at a faster pace. And without being locked into one vendor, which can be done,” he explained.
Computing, sensor range and resolution, weapons guidance, fire control, and key lethality parameters can all be adjusted and greatly expanded through software upgrades or other electronic and digital enhancements that do not require large structural changes.
The U.S. Army’s open architecture strategy is now being applied to some of the service’s largest and most significant weapons systems platforms such as its Future Vertical Lift aircraft, Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, and Mobile Protected Firepower platform.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.