By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Throughout the years, Program Manager for Training Devices (PM TRADE) has developed standards that have helped them realize cost savings and cost avoidance. Early in the 1980’s, it was the work on the MILES laser code standard, in 2001, it was the Common Training Instrumentation Architecture, and in 2006 it was the Future Army System of Integrated Targets. Just two years ago, PM TRADE reached out once again to industry partners to come together to develop interface standards for the Tactical Engagement Simulation System (TESS).
On March 31, Rob Wolf, PM TRADE’s strategic requirements integrator, welcomed about 100 government and industry representatives to review the Live Training Transformation (LT2) TESS Working Group Final Products. It was almost two years to the week that this group kicked off the TESS standards journey, and a goal of interoperability. Many of them had attended that first meeting, or if not them, another representative from their company.
“This is not possible without you,” Wolf told the group. “We talked about how this would be like turning a battleship because it would take a long time, and two years is a long time. But anything in the government takes patience and persistence with a vision.”
Wolf shared the evolution of PM TRADE’s TESS which was separated into two categories: the closed system architecture used for about three decades, and the migration to the component-based architecture, which began in 2013 and is the vision through 2020.
“We’re not only migrating for the components that we need to have now for the current MILES acquisitions, but to have those well-defined so we can start migrating into the embedded platform applications,” Wolf stated. “The longer term vision is happening faster than we thought and we’re already embedding applications for various weapon platforms. If we hadn’t started this two years ago, we’d be way behind the eight ball.”
For the acquisitions in the past, there was a closed system architecture. This meant that every five years or so, when the contract was up for renewal, there would be another contractor, and for every vehicle the cycle would keep repeating because that was the acquisition life span of the contract. The options would run out and then the cycle would begin again.
In the meantime, a lot of the components from various MILES contractors were pretty common and carried significant consistency across all platforms. With that in mind, the proprietary interfacing was cut, the standards were opened and published to allow communication, and more specificity was added to the functionality of the individual components.
“Now we can begin to treat instrumenting weapon platforms like a desktop environment with plug and play new components, and be able to grow our training capability through technology insertion without modifying the baseline architecture,” Wolf said.
“If we didn’t define the component functionality and interface control documents for the wired and wireless networks, we’d have no seamless way of supporting or migrating to embedded applications,” he said.
Eventually, PM TRADE hopes to become an app manager for the training-related systems and software applications on the platform and manage them under the LT2 product line umbrella.
The journey started two years ago with a vision, and through many meetings and discussions, they developed numerous LT2 TESS Hardware Component Agreements that are the foundation architecture for the PM TRADE Vehicle Tactical Engagement Simulation System (VTESS) acquisition.
The government and industry team demonstrated the Component Architecture functionality, services control, and wired and wireless networking with multiple contractors’ MILES type components, and the government team even provided industry with developer’s kits on a two-week check out basis to assist them in developing and interfacing components with the network.
“There are a number of things that can be done with the component development kit,” Wolf said. “You can test and verify messaging to associate or disassociate vendor specific components; host and test master controller functionality, and develop future technology insertion capabilities. The main thrust is that our industry partners can integrate and verify their LT2 TESS components.”
Working together on the LT2 TESS Standards, industry and government achieved their initial objectives to create a functional component architecture to support future PM TRADE Live Training Systems (LTS)/Digitized Training (DT)/Combat Training Instrumentation Systems (CTIS) acquisitions and technology insertions, while establishing an initial set of key components and interfaces for LT2 TESS.
– Developed an initial set of LT2 TESS Hardware Component Agreement (HCA) documents.
– Established common power supply HCA for use across PM TRADE.
– Matured Live Personal Area Network (LPAN) wire and wireless message stack.
– Matured Live Training Engagement Composition (LTEC) Software services.
– Demonstrated CA using LPAN, LTEC on products from multiple companies.
– Provided industry and LTEC/LPAN CA development/verification tool.
– Established the foundation documentation for the VTESS acquisition.
One of the participants, John Garcia, who retired last year as vice president from SAIC, has been in the industry providing PM TRADE range instrumentation products for more than 30 years.
“The PM TRADE Interface Standards Working Group, composed of government and industry partners, has made tremendous progress in putting together the MILES and PAN-related interface standards and components agreements,” Garcia said. “These interface standards enable the development of a MILES component based architecture which will provide interoperability between vendors’ components and a reduction in the overall procurement cost of the MILES systems.”
As Garcia noted, “It’s a job well done.”