Home » Aviation » Navy to Industry: ‘If You’re Not Open Architecture, You’re Not Relevant’


Navy to Industry: ‘If You’re Not Open Architecture, You’re Not Relevant’

Artist's rendering of open architecture systems on a Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) guided missile destroyer. AOC Incorporated Image

Artist’s rendering of open architecture systems on an Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) guided missile destroyer. AOC Incorporated Image

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — The director of the Navy staff told industry “if you’re not open architecture, you’re not relevant” when having to fight in a contested environment so offer the sea services systems that meet that requirement and can be used in a variety of ways.

Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, speaking Monday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2016 Exposition, added in answer to a question, the service needs to add more open architecture capability to amphibious and Military Sealift Command ships.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Marine deputy commandant for aviation, also part of the roundtable panel on integration, said, “Open architecture implies agility and flexibility” needed in combat today and in the future. “You can’t discover you’re not interoperable on game day.” He added, “Make sure it plugs and plays.”

In a way, there’s “not a whole lot of difference [today] than the cavalry in Civil War days” of “running into the enemy” in working through data to effectively fight, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said. He was describing the growing need for integration in working with manned-unmanned teams as they become more commonplace.

“We’re paying a lot of money for the platform,” so the sea services want to “use it in multiple ways.”

Rear Adm. Thomas Shannon, commander of Military Sealift Command, added that means bringing MSC into the discussion when looking at adding sensors and weapons systems to platforms to defend these ships with largely civilian crews. He also mentioned reinforcing the decks of hospital ships to accommodate the MV-22 Osprey as a way to better integrate that command to the rest of the fleet and the Marine Corps.

“We need to put the M back in MSC,” he said.

An MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Reinforced, approaches the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) to transport an AV-8B Harrier jet engine to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) during a replenishment-at-sea in October 2014. US Navy photo.

An MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Reinforced, approaches the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) to transport an AV-8B Harrier jet engine to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) during a replenishment-at-sea in October 2014. US Navy photo.

Davis said the idea in the Navy and Marine Corps is that all platforms must be sensors-sharers-shooters.

“We’re breaking the infantry” by not lightening those loads, Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, deputy commandant for installations and logistics, said. The goal is to reduce those loads of 100 pounds by 30 percent. “We’ve got to do a lot of little cuts.” Among those changes would be eliminating bottled water and distributing water filtration systems and developing kits more along the lines of REI model gear.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, said the Amphibious Readiness Group and the Marine Expeditionary Unit remain “the naval expeditionary force of choice.” In terms of integration, he offered the example of the Marines special operations force liaison element as allowing both to enter a new “realm of effectiveness and efficiency” in carrying out missions.

To better integrate everything, the aspiration goal is to “strive for 100 percent visibility of people, things and cargo in the operating environment,” Dana said.

“Some really fantastic gear is coming our way,” Davis said, calling the MV-22 Osprey “one of the most disruptive things we’ve done. It changed the way we’re doing business in a very positive way.” Later he said, the F-35B Lightning “is going to change it in the same way. I think we need to think big about these platforms.”

  • airider

    Too bad all these platforms were built with vendor specific comms systems that don’t interoperate with anything but themselves. The discussions being had in this forum should have happened decades ago when the platform requirements were being finalized. Guess it’s good if we’re looking to keep putting money in these platforms to “fix” interoperability.

  • this is a given, but it is the services job to write a great, not good..a GREAT RFQ. the service is the customer and the supplier-contractor..responds to the NEEDS of the customer, but the supplier does NOT have the operational depth of knowledge the customer does. so WRITE a great RFQ!! and you will get what you spec out.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Pardon me if I’m way off base on this comment, since I do not profess to be a computer expert. But the term “open architecture” in the IT world sounds to me like standardization of computer code and interfaces, which means that once an enemy figures out a way to get inside the outer security gates, he has broken field running… no more hurdles to clear in order to control or subvert our electronic communication, detection, and targeting systems — land, sea, and air. Am I missing something?

    Better to be non-relevant than non-existent.

    • airider

      The “security by obscurity” process has been tried and failed, because once you “plug in” the gear is exposed anyway. Using standardized interfaces and well designed code doesn’t make it less secure. What it does do is make managing the security a more straight forward and cost efficient process since you don’t have to come up with a new security system with every new piece of gear …. and you have a larger knowledge base of technicians able to help lock things down and fix issues when they come up.
      Nothings ever going to be perfect in this arena, but having a larger technical base to help manage it is preferable to a smaller (or in the defense world a sole source) one.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Makes sense, thanks.

    • Secundius

      Similar to the LSC Program! A “Lego” Ship, Plug-&-Play…

    • redgriffin

      From the illustrations I would say “Open Architecture” has more to do with what the Germans get with the MEKO Ships prefabbed mission units.