September 03, 2012
Credit: Credit: Richard Watt/Crown Copyright
Angus Batey Millbrook, England
All around the world, governments have spent years and billions of dollars just trying to make defense procurement agile, responsive and cost-effective. Yet two British Defense Ministry staffers—working, initially, in their spare time—may have come up with a solution to a problem that continues to vex militaries and industry alike worldwide.
In 2007, Merfyn Lloyd, a mathematician at the ministry's Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, whose role is to provide scientific and technical advice to the Chief of Defense Materiel-Land, was asked to find a way of integrating new devices purchased under urgent operational requirements for use on legacy army vehicles in Afghanistan. Lloyd was joined by Simon Masley, a mechanical engineer and project manager from the ministry's procurement wing, Defense Equipment and Support, and they began a project that may have far-reaching implications for the global defense industry.
Lloyd and Masley established a series of working groups with representatives of the main suppliers of land equipment. The result was the August 2010 publication of Def Stan 23-09, a 54-page document that provides a framework to enable “plug-and-play” interoperability of subsystems across British military vehicles.
The standard, known as Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA), was launched at the official Defense Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) trade show here in the summer of 2010. As well as describing a means of connecting subsystems and peripheral devices across the vehicle platform, the standard provides a single human-machine interface—a ruggedized touchscreen and keypad, with contextual menus, able to monitor and control all integrated systems. GVA now is mandatory on all new British military land vehicles and major upgrades. The Foxhound lightweight patrol vehicle, which began arriving in Afghanistan this June, is the first platform to be fielded with it.
GVA's impact is such that, at this year's DVD, the ministry announced the imminent publication of two new standards; one to cover forward operating bases (GBA—Generic Base Architecture), and the other the individual soldier (Generic Soldier Architecture, or GSA), under the overarching banner LOSA (Land Open Systems Architecture). When fully implemented, these codes will mean new devices can quickly and seamlessly operate across soldiers, vehicles and bases, ensuring that legacy platforms remain capable for longer, and eliminating delays between the creation of potentially life-saving or battle-winning technologies and getting them to the front line.
Lloyd and Masley discussed the history of GVA's development at this summer's show. There was no significant resistance from industry, they said. “If it becomes easier to take everyone's products and put them together, the benefits for both industry and the ministry are clear enough to convince most people,” Masley notes. “Because it's such a sensible thing to do, it was quite easy to get buy-in for it.”