Rheinmetall has won the first request for proposals for preliminary studies relating to EU defence research financed by the EU’s European Defence Union. Under a project ‘Generic Open Soldier Systems Reference Architecture’ (GOSSRA), the European Commission has appointed Rheinmetall to lead a onsortium consisting of nine partners from seven EU member states.
Under GOSSRA, studies will be conducted into developing an open reference architecture as the basis of EU-wide standardised soldier systems. This includes electronics, voice and data communication, software solutions, man-machine interfaces, sensors and effectors.
A second stakeholder workshop was held in Brussels in mid-October, attended by participants from 13 EU member states, mainly defence ministries, procurement authorities and commercial manufacturers. At the meeting, the current state of the architecture was presented to stimulate discussion and solicit feedback. The meeting proved to be a success and consistently received positive feedback.
The aim of GOSSRA is to develop a Generic Open Soldier System Reference Architecture, which can be used as common reference architecture at the EU and NATO level for deriving the aforementioned target architectures at the national level. Designed to be ready for standardisation, this reference architecture for soldier systems is to be freely available, with no implications in relation to protected intellectual property. The reference architecture encompasses software, electronics, voice and data communication, sensors, effectors, human interface devices and C4I.
The architecture represents best practice as well as future trends and developments, while recommending standard interfaces. It is to be used as a reference to derive the architecture for the specific soldier system to be procured. The reference architecture will be formulated according to the NATO Architectural Framework (NAF) v3, and build on work already performed in the European Defence Agency (EDA) studies STASS I and STASS II. It will be analysed and refined along with key comprehensive aspects and validated by tests and demonstrations.
The Research Action Call on the topic ‘Force protection and advanced soldier systems beyond current programme’ with the subtopic “Generic Open Soldier Systems Architecture” was concluded under the Preparatory Action on Defence Research 2017. The contract for GOSSRA was signed on 27 April 2018 and received an EU grant of €1.5M over 22 months (1 July 2018 to 31 March 2020).
The GOSSRA consortium includes major European soldier system companies. Headed by Rheinmetall Electronics GmbH from Germany, the consortium includes nine participants from seven countries: GMV (Spain), iTTi (Poland), Tekever-ASDS (Portugal), Larimart (Italy), Leonardo (Italy), SAAB (Sweden), Indra (Spain) and TNO (the Netherlands).
The project is motivated by technical challenges of soldier systems. With the increase in miniaturised, powerful electronics and computing capacity in the civilian sector and the need for networked systems and subsystems with comprehensive information exchange in the military sector, soldier systems are becoming increasingly complex.
Moreover, soldier systems can be used more efficiently when they exploit all relevant data. The data is not only generated by the soldiers themselves and the systems they carry, but will increasingly come from ‘Small Tac-sources as well (higher echelon units, vehicles, other soldiers, unattended sensors, etc.). Exchange of data between soldier systems and these sources via a common communication network is, therefore, of paramount importance.
A trend towards growing diversity in the communication systems likely to be available to soldiers has been observed (military radio systems with different, specific and optimised capabilities in terms of range and throughout, communication devices based on commercial technologies, e.g. wifi, LTE, 5G, and optical communications might be possible as well).
In many European nations, the architectures for the soldier systems to be procured are developed specifically by the national soldier system companies. The architectures of these systems are called ‘target architectures’ because they represent an architecture for a specific soldier system.
At present, most EU member states have their own approach when it comes to soldier modernisation programmes. Many states are still in the prototype development phase or working on concepts for modern soldier systems. This results in country-specific systems that, with a few exceptions, are proprietary and lack interoperability in terms of electrical, electronic and IT aspects. However, operations in an EU or NATO coalition context or even with non-military partners, requires a high degree of interoperability.
Generic Architectures Offer Benefits
Over the years, open or generic architectures have come to be seen as key in making such complex systems more manageable and achievable. At the same time, reference architectures of this kind make soldier systems more affordable by:
- increasing operational effectiveness via complete networking of all systems;
- reducing the integration effort through standardisation;
allowing innovation by upgrading subsystems, which can be easily integrated;
- enhancing competition for subsystems by making them interchangeable;
- reducing technical risks by using subsystems and integration approaches with high technology readiness levels,
- reducing logistic and maintenance efforts by reducing the variety of different subsystems; and
- increasing the number of suppliers as well as employing a common technical approach.
This kind of reference architecture encourages the use of specific approaches, guidelines, system structures and standards, making the individual target architecture to be procured easier to develop, while simultaneously ensuring the inclusion of all necessary aspects as well as the use of specific common standards that enable interoperability.
Current Status and Achievements
The intended GOSSRA standard is to be validated and applicable within a few years. A comprehensive trend and market analysis covering future global, operational and technological trends in the dismounted soldier system domain has already been conducted. The resulting ‘Future Developments Document’ was delivered to EDA on 31 January 2019.
The main result of the first project phase, the ‘Extended GOSSRA Architecture’, is a comprehensive architecture model, covering all important aspects and serves as a pre-stage for the intended GOSSRA architecture proposed for standardisation.
The current mature draft 2, version 2, was delivered on 28 June 2019. It conforms to NAF v3, which includes the following views: All View (NAV), Background View, Capability View (NCV), Operational View (NOV), Service Oriented View (NSOV), Security View, Technical View (NTV), and System View (NSV).
The different views focus on the following domains: ‘Soldier Personal’, ‘Small Tactical Unit’, ‘Inter-Platform’, ‘Joint’, and ‘Combined or Coalition’.
As a starting point, architectures featuring in EDA OB studies on ‘Standard Architecture for Soldier Systems I & II’ (STASS I and II) were merged.
In the second project phase, GOSSRA underwent significant improvements and enhancements, with the focus on:
• Operational Issues: The Capability View (NCV), the NOV, and the NSOV were refined and harmonised.
• Maintenance and Logistics are not directly related to a particular NATO View. However, all views were refined and appended with the necessary aspects for supporting maintenance and logistics.
• Technical Issues: The NSV was completely revised in order to be more compliant with the NAF v3 and to ease the required architecture generated by an architecture tool.
Furthermore, a complete software architecture was added, which was almost entirely lacking in STASS I & II, and is of major importance for a soldier system architecture. Several standards have already been chosen for the proposed standard and have been recommended. This eases the task of the future work package on formulating the GOSSRA architecture for standardisation.
GOSSRA appreciates contact with all relevant stakeholders, ensuring the success and acceptance of the proposed standard. For this purpose, a Communication and Dissemination Plan was prepared and delivered on 28 September 2018.
A Stakeholder Advisory Board (SHAB) was established with members of selected EU member states. A SHAB workshop was held at 2 October 2018 and a stakeholder workshop with a wider range of soldier system community members took place on 29 October 2019. The results of the workshops and feedback influenced the development of the GOSSRA architecture, meaning that the architecture now focuses on issues, which are important to the end-user.
The project is being carried out in close contact with the NATO LCG DSS, C41 & A working group (the body to which the standard will be proposed), where it gives regular briefings, and the EDA ‘CapTech Land’.
Other recent activities include participation in a special workshop on the Dutch soldier system VOSS. This was carried out by the NLD specifically for GOSSRA. Attendance at further key events is also planned, including a number of conference presentations at FEINDEF 2019.
Erik Wimmer, Dipl.-Ing, MBA, is Project Coordinator for GOSSRA at Rheinmetall Electronics GmbH in Bremen, Germany.