Systematic's C4ISR Software leverages Commerical-off-the-shelf (cots) framework to help military users navigate software engineering complexity

Systematic’s SitaWare Suite utilizes an open architecture software framework to provide users customizable and upgradeable solutions with a high degree of futureproofing to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Monday, March 13, 2023

How can the U.S. military  balance the dynamic nature of the complex technology required to be successful on the modern battlefield with the innate pressure to rapidly acquire and field these technologies for maximum operational impact?   And how can industry focus its engineering efforts to support these competing requirements in an uncertain acquisition environment without jeopardizing quality and sustainability?  

Modern military technologies and equipment are complex – from the research and development costs of creating a new solution, to the footprint of a supply chain, disposal costs of canceled equipment, and regulatory barriers.  This means that traditional defense manufacturers are less likely to build equipment without a guaranteed contract. As a result, they may be reluctant to invest and maximize innovation.

For software firms, however, this challenge is different.

Engineering and development concepts have similarities with  hardware and platform procurements; yet remain very different. Prototypes, for example, remain centered on code that comes together in support of a physical product. Costs come primarily  from human hours and intellectual capital versus physical components. A prototype software program can go through a significant  number of iterations before it is ready to launch and will continue to be refined and developed through its lifecycle. Physical equipment changes are typically limited to block upgrades so that multiple new capabilities can be installed in one major update, while software can be easily patched and upgraded throughout its lifecycle.

The challenge for software modernization

Over the last two decades, militaries around the world have sought to increase their deployment of computing power through the digitalization of the battlefield. Building networks and deploying sensors and computing power closer to the tactical edge has increased the need for robust and evolving software capabilities.

Sometimes a requirement is created and then the software is developed around it as a solution, iIf a software solution is created without the robust industry by non-specialists that do not employ the best practices of the software industry, such as CMMI, deployment and maintenance challenges are likely.


Systematic has a CMMI Level 5 certification - the highest rating - proving its maturity as a software developer.


Challenges through the accreditation process can compound this issue, as new requirements and milestones for the software are added in. If a bespoke solution is stumbling ahead of its rollout, delays for acceptance and introduction into service are inevitable. If another program is relying on the rollout of the software system, then this can lead to greater program delays, and potential capability gaps.

While military IT systems, like those on a vehicle platform, might only get through an innovation cycle once every few years---and many times that in most cases--the development and delivery cycle for a software system is much shorter.

As a result, the IT systems within an armored vehicle are usually added in at the end of the initial development cycle to ensure that all the planned subsystems can be integrated together. However, with the IT environment constantly evolving to account for a range of factors such as cybersecurity, changing interoperability requirements, and new subsystems and payloads, it is essential to keep updating it.

Thankfully, updating software is much less intrusive than hardware updates, meaning that the regular iterations can be easily deployed and amended without too much hardware engineering.

So, what is the solution?

For military customers seeking software solutions, the desire now is to reduce risk and acquire open architecture platforms. While there may be the temptation to keep acquiring internally developed and military-oriented solutions commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products can be rapidly deployed with lower risk.

Some governments are beginning to recognize this benefit, with the US Department of Defense Software Modernization Strategy identifying the need for commercial partnerships to meet the need for speed and reliability and specifically calling for COTS software to support the wider goal to “Transform Processes to Enable Resilience and Speed”.  Key NATO ally Norway’s 2020-21 Cooperation for Security: National Defence Industrial Strategy states it even more succinctly “as civilian as possible and as military as necessary.” The commercial sector and the military can create the best solutions when technology, personnel, expertise, organizational structure, and management are properly coordinated, leading to increases in defense capability.

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Implementing software feature updates based on user feedback helps to grow COTS products and can support a wider user community


Managing multiple deployment cycles can be a complex challenge for defense customers, particularly when dealing with both hardware and software systems. Changes in personnel and program managers can further complicate acquisition and implementation pathways, compounding any other changes in capability scope.

COTS technologies see the product supported by the industry owner, with development being funded to support further development spirals. Risk is moved away from the military customer and shouldered more intensely by industry. Within software systems, open architecture technology means the new sensors and technologies can be incorporated using a plug-and-play system, granting greater flexibility and ensuring a level of futureproofing for new subsystems.

Additionally, sourcing staff to help with the development and maintenance of a software system is much simpler if using a COTS product, as industry standard software code and technology is likely to be deployed. This can mean that a military can utilize reservists, readily train their own personnel on publicly available coding platforms and utilize a wide choice of industry consultants where necessary.

Systematic’s SitaWare suite of software is delivered through a COTS model, allowing end-users to avoid vendor lock-in through its support of open architecture principles. Our operating processes ensure that users receive regular updates to their software and can also work to develop their own modifications and applications to bolt onto the software as desired.

For further information click here, or contact Systematic for a demonstration

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