Rugged Box Systems Enable Vehicle Mobile Networking

Standards like VICTORY and programs like WIN-T are influencing the kinds of technology and products needed for upgrading today’s military vehicle platforms. Advanced rugged box-level solutions are spinning up to feed those needs.



For military vehicles the trend continues to be in the direction of cramming more and more electronics, networking and embedded computing in the platform. While traditional slot-card technologies still rule for many tech refresh programs, more and more box-level systems are becoming the solution of choice. Meanwhile, open-standards like VICTORY are making it easier to de-couple C4ISR networks, communications and other mission types of functions from the basic control and power electronics of military vehicles. And in turn technology vendors are making specific VICTORY-compliant systems and boards to feed those needs.

In summary DoD Budget plans for the upcoming fiscal year focus on  modernizing ground platforms. The Army continues to modernize and upgrade select programs in FY 2017, including Stryker vehicles, Abrams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Paladin 155mm Howitzers. For the Marine’s, the ground force focus in FY 2017 is on the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV). The ACV will deliver shore and sea-based infantry to the battlefield in vehicles designed for future operational environments. Both services are together procuring the final year of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

Box-Level Vehicle Systems
As vehicle upgrade programs move forward, a major decision for military system developer is whether to stick with standards-based slot card architectures or to instead on integrated off-the-shelf box-level computers. Over the past several years, traditional embedded board vendors are adding stand-alone rugged box-level systems to their military market offerings. Rugged- box level systems is perhaps one of the most active design activities in the embedded computing industry. These solutions are edging out traditional backplane-centric slot card system architectures in many military platforms. This box-level system trend is dominating wherever size, weight and power (SWaP) is a priority concerns-especially in military vehicle electronic systems. Some of this box systems general computing mission computers, others are more function-specific.

An example on the function-specific side is the SB1102-HDVR “Eagle” from General Micro Systems (Figure 1). A follow-on to its predecessor SB1002-HDVR, the Core i7-based SB1102 is a small form-factor rugged video recorder/workstation processor capable of simultaneously and in real time capturing four independent HD-SDI 1080p video channels at 60 fps, performing H.264 compression on-the-fly, storing the video to onboard removable SSD nDrives at up to 1 Terabyte each, and distributing the video streams to seven Gbit Ethernet ports. There’s virtually no latency (only one frame) between the original video sources and when they appear on the SB1102-HDVR’s Ethernet switch LAN outputs. This means head-down operators using only cameras can operate their vehicle in real time and respond to bumps or obstacles even while four channels of HD video are being encoded, recorded, or encrypted.

Figure 1 The SB1102-HDVR Eagle is a deployable, rugged four-channel video recorder that can capture, process and distribute to LAN multiple channels of HD video in real time with only one frame of latency.

Typical applications include mobile situational awareness in armored or tactical vehicles with four cameras providing a 360-degree view around the vehicle. Uncompressed, HD-SDI (SMPTE 292) real-time video from four cameras can be fused and presented to drivers and passengers via Gbit Ethernet, enhanced, manipulated or overlaid with moving maps and other battlefield information. All the while, the four HD 1080p video streams can be recorded (up to 3 Terabytes, total) and even encrypted on-the-fly.

VICTORY Rolls Forward
An on-going problem inherent to military vehicle electronics in recent years has been the incompatible system architectures and redundant functionality of interconnects aboard vehicles. To solve that problem is what drove the creation a couple years ago to the VICTORY standard. The Vehicle Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY) defines an approach for commonality through Gigabit Ethernet networking, standard connectors and well-defined electrical interfaces.

While the specification continues to evolve VICTORY is now a requirement on a number of acquisition programs. The framework includes an architecture, a standard specification and reference designs. The architecture includes definitions of common terminology, systems, components and interfaces. Meanwhile, the specification provides technical specifications for the systems, components and interfaces identified in the architecture. Supporting the VICTORY initiative, a number of vendors have made compliance to the standard a part of recent board- and box-level product offerings.

An example on the board level side is Extreme Engineering Solutions’ XChange3100 released late last fall. The board a conduction- or air-cooled, 6U OpenVPX 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch module that is capable of supporting various configurations of up to twenty-two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, twelve 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet ports, and eighty-eight 1000BASE-X Ethernet ports (Figure 2). It features three Broadcom BCM56450 Ethernet switches, each including 102.5 Gbits/s of non-blocking switching, an on-chip ARM A9-based CPU, an integrated hierarchical traffic manager to reduce overall board complexity and power, and a feature-rich packet processing engine, all within a single 40 nm device. The board offers extensive IEEE protocol and IETF RFC support, VICTORY Infrastructure Switch support, advanced cable open/short detection, IPv4 and IPv6 support, and a Ruggedized Enhanced Design Implementation (REDI) per VITA 48.

Figure 2 The XChange3100 is an OpenVPX 10 Gbit Ethernet switch module that is capable of supporting various configurations of up to twenty-two 10 Gbit Ethernet ports, 12 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet ports, and 88 1000BASE-X Ethernet ports. It features VICTORY Infrastructure Switch support,

For its part Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division last fall added support for Military Code (M-Code) Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) architecture on its recently introduced second generation DuraDBH-672 Digital Beachhead Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switch and vetronics computer subsystem. Now supporting an integrated M-Code Ground-Based GPS Receiver Applications Module (GB-GRAM-M), the Digital Beachhead addresses the U.S. Army’s GPS modernization programs and requirements for an assured PNT hub capable of delivering PNT to multiple devices on a VICTORY network backbone.

The original DBH-670 Digital Beachhead product, introduced in 2012, was the industry’s first integrated VICTORY solution for implementing VICTORY standard. The new DuraDBH-672 model continues that legacy in a form factor further optimized for low size, weight, power, and cost. Both Digital Beachhead variants combine a VICTORY infrastructure switch and a VICTORY shared services processor and feature GigE switching and VICTORY data bus, management, and shared service support.

With a more recent VICTORY box-level offering, Abaco Systems last month announced the RES3000 family of rugged, fully-managed Ethernet switch appliances. The VICTORY switch-compliant Three versions are initially available, offering solutions with 12 or 24 1000BaseT ports and up to four 10GBase-SR fiber ports. All three share the same minuscule size. All meet a wide range of MIL-STD specifications. Customer-specific versions can also be provided. Support for a broad range of network protocols is delivered by Abaco’s switch management environment. It supports a comprehensive set of Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, providing customers with significant capability to configure their network.

WIN-T Developments and Deployments

For the Warfighter Information Network- Tactical (WIN-T)-the Army’s high speed, high capability backbone C4ISR network, linking Warfighters in the battlefield with the Global Information Grid-developments and deployments are moving ahead (Figure 3). WIN-T program development consists of four increments. Increment 1 (Inc 1) provides “networking at the halt” by upgrading the Joint Network Node (JNN) satellite capability to access the Wideband Global Satellite. Increment 2 (Inc 2) provides networking on-the-move to the company level. Increment 3 (Inc 3) provides Integrated Network Operations development. General Micro Systems supplies the multi-domain boxes in several of all six of the WIN-T program’s ground vehicles.

Figure 3 The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE is installed on select vehicles down to the company level. Increment 2 SNE provides company level soldiers with advanced collaboration and on-the-move situational awareness tools once only available at higher echelons.

Funds for the tech refresh of obsolete commercial off the shelf components for 34 WIN-T Inc 1 units comprise the FY 2017 program. It also adds X-Band terminals to Regional Hub Nodes. The WIN-T Inc 2 funding supports procurement of 12 communications nodes (6 Tactical Communications Nodes and 6 Points of Presence), and continues fielding and support for previously procured Low Rate Initial Production equipment. Also called for is procurement and fielding 283 Battlefield Video-Teleconferencing Center III systems. The request also provides program management support for Single Shelter Switch, High Capability Line of Sight, and Troposcatter Communications systems as they are transitioned to sustainment by the end of FY 2017.

Abaco Systems
Huntsville, AL
(866) 652-2226

Aitech Defense Systems
Chatsworth, CA.
(888) 248-3248

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions
Ashburn, VA.
(703) 779-7800.

Extreme Engineering Solutions
Middleton, WI.
(608) 833-1155.

General Dynamics Mission Systems

Fairfax, VA
(877) 449-0600

General Micro Systems
Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
(909) 980-4863.

Themis Computer
Fremont, CA.
(510) 252-0870.