Explaining MOSA from the Team that Led the Army Aviation Mission Computing Environment Task Order

In 2023, Parry Labs was awarded two tasks under the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium’s (AMTC) Other Transactions Agreement to lead a multi-vendor team to collaboratively define the Army’s Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) requirements for computing and software operating environments for all future Army Aviation procurements. This relatively new approach for the Army and industry drove collaboration and allowed U.S. Government (USG) to make key modularity and openness decisions relative to Aviation Mission Computing Environment (AMCE). This unique opportunity provided a platform for industry to openly inform requirements at a much more granular level than previously possible, providing assurances that such detailed requirements wouldn’t be an overreach or constrain innovation and disrupt industry business models.

Solicited to the entire AMTC, which represents the vast majority of the aviation industrial base, the AMTC and USG team selected the most qualified vendors to work together with USG subject matter experts to develop a Component Specification Model (CSM) for the AMCE. The real-time collaboration that occurred as a result of this arrangement helped surface new technologies to the USG, and a clear mechanism for industry members from across the consortium to see the progressing requirements and raise any concerns, especially regarding the insertion of proprietary design patterns.

A graphical representation of the Parry Labs software operating environment, Stratia, developed in anticipation of the need for a government prototype solution for the collaboratively defined requirements for MOSA. (Image: Parry Labs)

This CSM defines all of the desired modularity and openness decisions for a computing environment for both hardware and software. For example, it details the kind of specifications requirements necessary to enable the ability to swap single board cards across systems versus every Line-Replaceable Unit (LRU) using a unique profile and/or form factor. In the hardware domain, standards, and reference architectures such as HOST, SOSA, and CMOSS, CMFF were leveraged. The approach aligns hardware requirements across services and domains to enable the larger industry base and USG to leverage the AMCE versus overlapping and disparate standards. These standards are very useful, but just calling out a standard has been routinely insufficient to achieve many of the benefits of MOSA given the number of options, profiles, and customizations that an individual standard allows. The software portion of the AMCE CSM really brought innovation and defines core requirements for a Software Operating Environment (SOE) that addresses flight, mission, and non-mission critical software.

The SOE is the core infrastructure for capability-based applications to utilize that enables the full exploitation of multi-core processing, hypervisor technologies, container technologies, and classical partitioning to ensure programs have a highly flexible infrastructure while maintaining robust architectures that will bring aviation software as close as possible to the “plug and play” capability that many desire and that the future battlefield will certainly require. A big factor in this domain is airworthiness and the specification was documented with the U.S. Army’s airworthiness subject matter experts’ involvement. Establishing infrastructure and key architectural design patterns for implementing the DO-297 Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) was a big part of the process influencing the resulting requirements in the AMCE CSM and aligning it with System Readiness Directorate (SRD) updates on Reusable Software Components (RSCs).

During a series of tests at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah in February, the Army conducted flight tests for its Launched Effects-Medium Range (LE-MR) prototype system, which featured MOSA as an integral component of its initial design. (Image: U.S. Army)

In an ongoing effort to support and be a lead proponent of MOSA, Parry Labs has invested internal research and development dollars in the AMCE SOE in anticipation of the USG moving forward with an additional effort to prototype a solution for the collaboratively defined requirements in phase one that continue to be solidified by the USG and Industry teams. While early versions have already been provided to the USG for use in the upcoming June 2024 MOSA Summit, a more mature product prototype is still underway. There are many great outcomes to-date from this effort that are explained below.

The industrial base is far more informed. This provides the ability for industry to more wisely invest R&D dollars directly in support of targeted future requirements across PEO aviation versus singular targets. As the requirements began solidifying, industry already started making adjustments to their existing systems to align, which is exactly what the government desired. Several industry partners have expressed how this will enable them to better leverage investments for key captures by not having to build unique prototypes and proposals for every opportunity but leverage highly similar, if not the same, across multiple efforts. Having clear and robust requirements creates a great foundation for competition and the truly best of breed to win contracts. It’s a win for the USG and a win for the truly most competent industry players in a particular market.

The Army’s UH-60V Blackhawk cockpit is one of its first airborne platforms to feature a MOSA embedded architecture. (Image: U.S. Army Program Executive Office Aviation)

The USG has clarity on requirements for an Enterprise MSC. At the top of every lesson learned list for failed DoD programs is the need for better Systems Engineering and stronger requirements. The AMCE CSM effort took substantial risk out of future programs through the above process, created clear avenues for continued innovation opportunities, and addressed many of the core lessons learned from previous software programs across multiple Army Aviation platforms. Now, the USG simply needs to include the AMCE CSM in all future RFIs and RFPs. Doing this will quickly progress the enterprise to a state where:

  • Computing hardware is leveraging the latest processing capabilities, not decade old technology. Standardization of card form factors and the profiles will enable reuse across platforms, and variation points for specialized capabilities can be more easily and affordably managed.

  • Software reuse will finally become feasible, avoiding the need for similar software-based capability development to be created uniquely for every platform. This is huge considering the estimate commonality in software-based functions on rotorcraft is somewhere between 80-90 percent and the same is true across UAS. The realization of reuse will enable “develop once, field many”, translating into a significant increase in capability-based affordability, ability to quickly insert technology, and more acquisition flexibility.

  • Other Services in the DoD can leverage this AMCE CSM as at least a starting point. The scenarios and scar tissues that led the Army down this path are virtually identical to those of the USAF and USN, who also share the same objectives relative to faster fielding, inserting new capabilities, and needing more affordable solutions. Lastly, the USAF and USN also happen to be champions of the key standards that are implemented by AMCE CSM: FACE, SOSA, HOST, and the SOE is easily configurable to other service standards (OMS, COARP, Big Iron, R-EGI, and more.)

The U.S. Army has invested in AMCE as a core enterprise MSC that enables future and current systems to be built faster, better, and more affordably. Once these requirements are consistently leveraged, the government will certainly see better competition and re-use of capability across platforms at a fraction of the cost, providing them a robust solution for the many obsolescence issues that have plagued this marketspace for decades.

This article was written by Matt Sipe, Vice President, Strategy and Open Systems, Parry Labs (Huntsville, AL). For more information, visit here .