Military Technology 04/2021

Dr Meixner in MilTech 3-2021), taking what appears at first glance to be a somewhat more controversial route to market is a gamble, surely? Not at all, from Meixner’s perspective. “There is not so much need for education now – the benefits [of an open systems approach] are becoming clearer and clearer to the customer base. But there is still a strong need for better information – and that comes from higher level discussion and investiga- tion of how can we all do the job better – for the customer, for the operator and for the manufacturer.” The key to the adoption of SOSA – and the concomitant benefits that will accrue to both sides of the procurement equation – lies, it seems to us, in the success of the US-led initiative. Which would appear to be something of an inevitability. In a Memorandum for Service Acquisition Executives and Program Executive Officers, dated 7 January 2019, the Secretaries of the US Navy, army and Air Force stated unequivocally: “Modular open systems approaches for our weapons systems is a warf- ighting imperative […] Victory in future conflict will in part be determined by our ability to rapidly share information across domains. Sharing infor- mation from machine to machine requires common standards.” And that, quite simply, is the nub of the issue. Every discussion on procuring new equipment, upgrading existing inventories or injecting new capabilities centres, at one point or another, on the C4ISR architecture integrated with and enabling the system in question. The modern battlefield – and, indeed, the battlefields (plural) emerging from the necessity to cater for conflict in space and in the cyber domain – is characterised by complex and ever-increasing volumes of data. In surveillance, in watchkeeping, in COMINT and in so many other disciplines, the need for machines to sup- plement and assist the human-in-the-loop has become paramount. Thus efficient communication and analysis of that data, in order to support bet- ter-informed decision-making, has also become an imperative. Although there is no single ‘silver bullet’ solution to the multiple obstacles that need to be overcome in order to achieve this, it cannot be argued that the adoption of a common standard that enables interoperability, empowers collaborative procurement and eases future technology and capability in- sertion can be anything other than A Good Thing. “I would suggest to you we are in a ‘supercycle’: European defence budgets have been frozen for years, but there is now a new defence land- scape,” Meixner mused. “The need for deep expertise has not changed – and it is quite apparent that procurement officials want that depth, rather than width.” SOSA – and its sister standards within the MOSA initiative – offer a graceful and collegial method of exploiting that new landscape. And companies like PLATH Signal Products offer that so-desirable depth of expertise. Change is coming. The Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA), in development since 2019 and a significant component of the design, development and production environment for the US defence indus- try, is coming to Europe. It may already have been formally adopted by the time these words are read: such adoption was merely ‘immi- nent’ at the time of writing. And that means a change in gear for many industrials – and a shifting in mental attitudes on the part of those who specify, procure, operate and maintain the pertinent systems. If the political challenges of collaboration in European defence pro- grammes can ever be put to rest, SOSA will have a potentially dra- matic impact on the search for commonality, interoperability and – therefore – cost-effectiveness, which should at least convince some of the politicians concerned of its benefits. MilTech investigates. Effectively a subset of MOSA [Modular Open Systems Approach}, which has been an imperative for suppliers and procurement officials alike for the US armed forces since January 2019, SOSA is one of several standards that have sprung from the urge for commonality, interoperability and ease of operation and maintenance. Other standards – of which SOSA must be cognizant – include FACE [Future Airborne Capability Environment], VICTORY[Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability], and CMOSS [C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards]. In the words of one active proponent of SOSA, it is “based on key interfaces and open standards established by industry-government consensus.” And that, it would seem, is a major part of the answer to the conun- drum. Consensus – beloved of those currently guiding industrial and stra- tegic development – is a prerequisite for community-wide implementa- tion. “SOSA is on the cusp of becoming important,” Dr Ronald Meixner, Chief Executive of PLATH Signal Products GmbH & Co. KG told MilTech, summarizing the newly-established company’s attitude. “COMINT [com- munications intelligence] used to be ‘stovepiped’ – but that is less and less the case today. We are essentially a company that delivers products – and we are trying to change the game through adoption. SOSA makes the issue more easily addressed – because it really does amount to a change in the landscape.” On top of the change in business model that gave rise to the establish- ment of the new PLATH Group subsidiary (see the ‘3-2-1 Interview’ with Raising the Standard Balancing Technology, Efficiency and Pragmatism 76 · MT 4/2021 Technology – the Final Frontier A typical installation of a direction-finding antenna by PLATH Signal Products. (Photo: Plath Signal Products) The recapitalisation of naval fleets worldwide – pictured is the ARROWHEAD 140 being proposed for the Greek frigate requirement – demands integration of complex sensor, communications and countermeasures suites, simplified by adoption of SOSA. (Photo: Babcock)