Mission systems represent the ‘payload’ of land military vehicles and complement the vehicles’ main capabilities; namely, mobility and protection. They enable the vehicle to perform a variety of complex missions and consist of subsystems such as weapons; command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I); acoustic shooter location; 360° camera vision (visible or infra-red); radar; laser warning; and more.

The progress in information technology applicable to land vehicle mission systems is following the fast innovation cycle in the civil world and is substantial. It offers the power to provide better situational awareness and faster, more efficient and precise military effects. However, its complexity can prevent such potential from being realised and the involvement of a variety of different mission system providers must be managed through the standardisation of relevant best-practice architectural approaches.

The UK recognised the importance of mission systems many years ago and developed the DefStan 23-09 ‘Generic Vehicle Architecture’ (UK GVA), with the first issue published in August 2011. Some parts are now in their fourth issue and are well matured. NATO observed these activities and standardised the STANAG 4754 ‘NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) for Land Systems’ with its first, and current, ratified edition produced in February 2018. Australia also followed with the DEF(AUST) 11316 ‘Australian Generic Vehicle Architecture’ (AS GVA), with its first edition in March 2018.

NGVA development and MILVA

Rheinmetall Electronics took a leading role in the development of the NGVA with continuous information exchange with the UK working groups enabled by the Military Vetronics Association (MILVA). MILVA still hosts working groups for a new and improved edition of the NGVA.

In addition to this, the European Defence Agency (EDA) contracted two studies – ‘Land Vehicle with Open System Architecture’ (LAVOSAR) in 2013 and ‘European Reference Open Architecture Standard for a Modern Integrated Electronic Mission System in Military Land Vehicles’ (LAVOSAR II) in 2015. Both studies were led by Rheinmetall Electronics, and heavily influenced the NGVA and the UK GVA.

Rheinmetall had continuously verified the NGVA standard during its development by prototypically implementing the approach into its products and by networking the individual mission systems into a single comprehensive mission payload. Experiences from the implementation were fed back into the relevant working groups.

Today, all products of Rheinmetall Electronics support these standards. While having contracts with Germany – which explicitly requires NGVA – and Australia, the UK and other NATO nations, Rheinmetall Electronics has chosen to support the full range of xGVA standards by implementing a common core and configuring the software to support the deviations.

Enabled capabilities

Rheinmetall believes that the military forces, and especially the vehicle crew, benefit most through the new functionalities that would have not been possible before.

With GVA, a 360° camera vision systems or a gunner’s view, for example, can be enhanced with augmented-reality functionality driven by the C4I system. These systems can now be supported by target detection and tracking algorithms, and directly hand over the target coordinates from situational-awareness systems to the weapon system itself, which is able to directly aim at the target within fractions of a second.

By equipping each individual member of the crew with a common terminal configured for their specific role, they are able to operate all their equipment from this one location and, by using so-called ‘groupware’, they are able to communicate not only by voice, but also digitally.

Without xGVA, the necessary development efforts and high costs would have hindered any such implementation.

Innovation and benefits

The xGVA approach leads to a more efficient and flexible use of equipment, including the provision for innovative improvements to mission capabilities by integrating new devices and avoiding the expensive procurement of a completely new generation of the mission system.

A significant increase of the vehicle crew’s efficiency is achievable through the implementation of the xGVA standards, which also leads to better sustainability and survivability. Despite the additional cost, Rheinmetall Electronics believes that mission systems will be drastically improved with functionalities and in performance using GVA, which would not have been affordable otherwise.