Open Architecture key theme during Aircraft Survivability Symposium

A U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion (General Support), 169th Aviation Regiment, Georgia Army National Guard, discharges flares before landing at forward operating base Shank, Oct. 5, 2014. Flares are launched as a distraction technique from enemy targeting systems. | U.S. Army photo by Capt. Adan Cazarez, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade

More than 200 members of the acquisition, tactical air operations and industry communities descended upon Huntsville, Alabama to collaborate on solutions to continue saving aircrews and passenger lives as well as protecting valuable cargo

The 33rd Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) Symposium was co-hosted by the Army and Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA). The event fostered a robust back and forth between Soldiers operating ASE systems with those responsible for creating and fielding the high tech solutions.

Amongst the senior leaders that spoke at the event were Maj. Gen. William Gayler, Aviation branch Chief, Commanding General of US Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke, Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), Patrick Mason, Deputy PEO Aviation and Col. Jong Lee, Project Manager ASE.

“We are here to protect lives, period,” said Lee in describing the ASE mission and emphasizing the importance of the annual meeting. “This event serves as an outstanding opportunity for our Soldiers that utilize ASE systems in hostile environments to meet for an open dialogue with the team of acquisition, research and industry members who are dedicated to providing solutions for their safety.”

Brig Gen (ret) Stephen Mundt, AAAA President echoed the value of the symposium. “The importance of this is the networking, getting you here so that we can exchange ideas and produce things. This conference has produced results that are directly contributable to building and designing new pieces of equipment that are put into the hands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to bring them home.”

The consistent message shared by all the speakers was the need for open architecture within the ASE realm.

A key factor Gayler emphasized is the need to be able to quickly add or upgrade key ASE systems while limiting downtime for aircraft as the Army aviation fleet is currently heavily committed.

“We have to start pushing capabilities to the field as quickly as possible. One of the ways we need to pursue is through open architecture,” stated Gayler. “If you have the greatest solution in the world but it comes with a new backbone, A-Kit and needs new testing and integration, all of that is time and money. If we have to install a new kit and an aircraft has to come down for three months to do it, that is absolutely crippling.”

Due to the high operations tempo, the Army aviation fleet is currently facing combined with a desire to provide plug and play technology was a concept affirmed throughout all the discussions.

“It is essential that we get after an adaptable framework. We must take goodness of the Development Operations environment mindset and culture to bring that to bear for open adaptable programs, said Vollmecke. “Utilizing open standards and interface controls, as well as not being tied to the approach of A and B Kits and the legacy of boxes that always have to be cracked back open is paramount.”

From a platform perspective, Mason highlighted the need for solutions that can be consistent throughout the fleet. “Systems need to be able to be utilized between the different platforms and not stovepiped so that they are only applicable to say Apache or Blackhawks. Technology should be applicable for the rotary fleet, the unmanned fleet and potential to go into the fixed-wing ISR fleet.”

Unlike the long-term nature of developing and fielding an aircraft, it is necessary to recognize the rapid pace of change that the ASE environment encounters.

“Aircraft Survivability is a dynamic environment and we absolutely have to be adaptive and have to be able to rapidly adapt capability because it is a threat that is constantly emerging,” said Mason.

In summing up the importance of the ASE systems, Vollmecke reiterated the need for industry to deliver rapidly.

“We want the innovation, but at the same time we have to balance produce-ability, production readiness and accountability,” he said. “Don’t over promise and under deliver. Because we are pacing the threat, the stakes are higher than they have ever been; we cannot afford to get it wrong. Every dollar assigned to ASE is precious.”

By Brandon Pollachek

PEO IEW&S