The evolution of military armored vehicles has been marked by significant advancements since their inception. Originating in World War I, initial tank designs aimed at traversing trenches necessitated the creation of extensive, large vehicles. Balancing armor, speed, and firepower posed a challenge, leading to the development of specialized categories of tanks, each excelling in one aspect but compromising others. However, the limitations of these specialized tanks became evident during World War II, prompting a shift toward improved technology and the widespread adoption of versatile, all-purpose tanks.
Looking ahead, continued advancements in areas such as swifter processing, artificial intelligence, compact and energy-efficient computers, and scalable cloud computing can empower the autonomous and semi-autonomous operation of vehicles. At present, the U.S. Army is actively experimenting with its inaugural autonomous vehicle, the Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML). This system modifies a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) by integrating hardware and software, allowing remote control and autonomous navigation capabilities.
Creating novel vehicle types, particularly with transformative features like software-enabled capabilities, demands innovative methodologies. Contemporary design approaches, such as DevSecOps, have automated the systematic development of secure and highly maintainable systems within a cloud-native setting. Simulation software further facilitates suppliers in designing and testing components, eliminating the need for costly hardware.
The category of software-enabled armored vehicles encompasses a diverse array of vehicle types, spanning from infantry combat vehicles and armored personnel carriers to battle tanks and mobile command stations. These vehicles may vary in weaponry, propulsion (tracked or wheeled), and the level of human occupancy (varying levels of crewed or un-crewed ). The term “software-enabled” indicates that functions, and in some instances, hardware, can be manipulated, improved, created, and controlled through software mechanisms. This adaptability ensures that the vehicle’s capabilities can evolve more seamlessly and cost-effectively over its anticipated lifespan.
The primary distinctions among light, medium, and heavy armored vehicles lie in the composition and quantity of armor, as well as the level of engineering dedicated to withstanding damage from hostile fire. Despite these differences, they typically share similar systems. In a software-enabled vehicle, these systems can undergo dynamic enhancements to offer new capabilities tailored to the ongoing mission. This adaptability can be achieved through local communications or a tactical cloud platform, enabling real-time improvements during mission execution.
Leveraging Wind River’s extensive expertise in developing large-scale systems for space exploration, avionics, industrial automation, electrical grid substations, and hybrid cloud deployments establishes an optimal groundwork for constructing next-generation, software-enabled armored vehicles.
Architectures based on open standards (should it be open systems?) simplify platform design by reducing the requirement for component integration and facilitating upgrades over a vehicle’s extended lifespan of 10 to 40 years.
This approach addresses crucial challenges such as ensuring uniformity in crew control and displays, simplifying training and maintenance, and enhancing accessibility to vital vehicle functions. Additionally, it minimizes power conflicts between platform components and enables more effective analysis of data generated by the system.
The Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) within NATO strives to ensure interoperability across NATO vehicle fleets. In the United States, two prominent open standards—Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY)—are increasingly converging, offering guidance for the development and procurement of weapons systems. Additionally, the U.S. is actively advocating for sensor standardization through Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA).
Autonomous Military Vehicles
Within the landscape of digitally transformed defense, autonomous, semi-autonomous, and optionally manned armored vehicles play distinct roles. In the near future, military armored vehicles may execute missions such as reconnaissance, supply runs, and terrain surveys without an onboard crew, mitigating risks to personnel. Furthermore, the heightened autonomy of optionally crewed vehicles has the potential to reduce the required number of crew members for mission completion.
A recent collaboration between Wind River and Aptiv, a leading provider of electronic components and safety technology to the automotive industry, combines extensive expertise in autonomous vehicles, aligning with Wind River’s expertise in software-enabled architectures.
Revolutionizing Vehicle Design Through DevSecOps
DevSecOps principles mandate a focus on security from the initial stages of design, aiming to mitigate vulnerabilities and instill protective systems at every level against potential hacking threats. Wind River has embraced these principles, incorporating them into toolsets for developer use. This cloud-native toolset seamlessly integrates new software releases into the core code, implementing rigorous automated testing at each stage of the development pipeline.
In the operational phase, the DevSecOps environment proves invaluable for managing security patches and software updates across diverse mission systems within active vehicles. Monitoring the security status and functionality of each vehicle in the fleet ensures ongoing security and optimal system performance.
While aircraft with internal cloud servers use containerized applications for updates and maintenance, this adaptable software architecture is equally applicable to military ground vehicles. Innovations from Wind River and Aptiv could facilitate the implementation of a mobile cloud configuration with a central management computer, capable of on-the-fly updates for computers on different vehicles.
The appeal of software-enabled systems lies in their capacity to customize a system or machine for multiple purposes. An armored vehicle’s single configuration can be tailored to a specific mission and easily reconfigured to meet evolving field conditions, address new requirements, accommodate changes in mission priorities, or respond to unexpected situations. Swift field updates are achievable through a conventional cloud network or a mobile tactical cloud, especially in environments where communication is sporadic or nonexistent.
Accelerating Development and Enhancing Security Through Simulation
Wind River simulation technologies empower teams to construct and assess simulations of systems within a cloud-native setting. By automating the integration and deployment processes in a simulation of the final system, much of the intricate development work can be accomplished without the need for hardware prototypes. Developers situated in different locations can collaborate on a final design, validate components for interoperability, ensure software compatibility, conduct regression testing, and verify that requirements are met. This approach can streamline development cycles by eliminating delays associated with hardware supply chains and identifying design issues before investing in hardware prototypes.
Simulation also enables teams to subject components and systems to various security tests. In a simulated environment, combined with cutting-edge container technology, the identification of vulnerabilities—whether they are new malware, recently discovered cybersecurity threats, or weaknesses in applications or operating systems—can prompt swift action. Patches can be implemented using containers, often without disrupting the deployed system.
Electric and Hybrid-Electric Military Vehicles
In partnership with the automotive industry, the U.S. Defense Department is actively exploring the integration of electric and hybrid-electric drive technologies across substantial segments of the military. However, refueling electric vehicles in the field presents a notable challenge.
Given the substantial weight and high-speed demands of armored vehicles, their engine requirements are rigorous, even when considering hybrid-electric drives, which can contribute significantly to the necessary charging. Despite these challenges, military planners are initiating prototypes. There is potential for the development of vehicles that not only feature high-efficiency energy sources but also operate with minimal noise and low heat signatures.
Speeding Towards the Future
The realization of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles is on the horizon, and Wind River is collaborating with companies dedicated to bringing this vision to fruition. The rapid progress of edge computing and cloud networking underscores the robust advantages and adaptability of software-enabled machine technology. A growing number of next-generation armored vehicles utilizing these technologies are being constructed globally, and the adoption of this trend is poised to accelerate.