Experts in the field: advancing open architecture standards is an investment in future strengths

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With a passion for computers and strong mentors along the way to help develop his technical skills, Tyler J. Robinson knew he wanted to work for the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWCAD) Aircraft Division after his first technical course. Now, Robinson is a NAWCAD lead engineer with the Naval Air Systems Command Avionics Architecture Team (PM-209), led by CAPT Margaret Wilson. This group leads the development and implementation of open architecture standards and the development of Department of Defense software and hardware, with close collaboration across departments and among international and industry partners.

In this latest “Experts in the Field” article, we profile Robinson’s career path and how he got started with Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and Open Architecture. We also take a look at how the Avionics Architecture team is rapidly advancing standards and developing tools and resources for greater adoption. Robinson told us, “The open systems approach is an investment in the future. He noted that leveraging an open systems approach provides military services and international partners with a “significant opportunity to reuse capabilities across platforms.” But this is not something the military can do alone. “Collaboration between industry and the military has been and will continue to be absolutely critical to our success,” he said.

Robinson reflected on the future of defining open architecture approaches and how they will evolve in the changing battlespace. Read the full Q&A below:

Modern Battlespace Editors (TMB): Tell us how you started your career path. Did you always know the military was in your future?

Tyler Robinson: I grew up minutes from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS PAX). My dad and brother were both computer science graduates, so I guess you could say I followed in their footsteps.

After my freshman year of college, I was lucky enough to get a summer internship at the Atlantic Test Range (ATR) on NAS PAX. At the Atlantic Test Range, I had great mentors who helped me develop my technical skills while demonstrating what great leadership, teamwork, and work ethic can look like. During this first summer internship, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career at NAVAIR.

Following my time at ATR, I had the opportunity to work in the PMA-281 on the Common Control System (CCS) and the Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS). It was in 281 that I was first introduced to Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and Open Architecture (OA). Historically, most PMA-281 efforts used a more traditional, requirements-based approach. As MBSE momentum grew in NAVAIR, PMA-281 management had the foresight to create an MBSE team to support the transition. As Chief Architect of PMA-281, I had the unique opportunity to lead this transition. In addition, PMA-281 has adopted open architecture standards such as UCS (UxS Control Segment) architecture. The MBSE approach allowed us to document the structure, interfaces and behavior of our system in a single, unambiguous source of truth: the model. The open architecture approach helped create a competitive marketplace for the industry, while providing the framework to ensure our system components were replaceable, portable, and reusable.

I left PMA-281 in 2019 to join PMA-209 Air Combat Electronics (ACE). PMA-209 gave me the opportunity to focus more on MBSE and OA, supporting the development and adoption of standards across NAVAIR.

TMB Editors: Tell us about your current role. How are you shaping the future of the battlespace?

Robinson: Within PMA-209, I worked across multiple services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and with our international partners, such as the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD). Through these working groups, we are advancing Open Architecture (OA) standards faster and developing tools/resources to facilitate standards adoption. Additionally, we have developed excellent relationships with industry partners, enabling the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry to learn from each other and grow together. PMA-209 is uniquely positioned to collaborate with many of NAVAIR’s other Program Offices, making it an ideal place to develop and grow our OA approach.

On the software side, standards such as Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and Open Mission Systems (OMS) have continued to proliferate. More recently, great progress has been made on the hardware side of open architecture. The HOST (Hardware Open Systems Technology) standard relies on commercial standards, such as OpenVPX, to define an OA hardware standard. The HOST team has worked closely with other standards organizations such as SOSA and CMOSS to ensure that these OA hardware standards will remain aligned. This relationship, backed by Tri-Service DoD support, has been key to HOST’s success.

TMB Publishers: How has the open systems architecture given Tri-Services the flexibility they need to innovate faster?

Robinson: The open systems architecture approach is an investment in the future. An open systems architecture provides a significant opportunity to reuse functionality across platforms. Plus, we have more flexibility to upgrade components, allowing our platforms to incorporate the latest cutting-edge technologies.

TMB Editors: What are the latest developments in open systems and how does this impact the battlespace?

Robinson: With an open systems architecture, we have the ability to acquire one component from Vendor A, one from Vendor B, and are confident that we can integrate these components with less effort than previous siled approaches. As mentioned earlier, this flexibility will allow us to integrate the latest technologies into our systems more quickly. This is important so that our military can deal with ever-changing threats around the world.

TMB Editors: How can industry and the military work together to ensure these technologies get to warfighters faster?

Robinson: Collaboration between industry and the military has been and will continue to be key to our success. The industry has essential expertise in the development of military systems. We continue to work together to define open architecture approaches to provide government with the OA benefits it desires while facilitating and accelerating industry adoption of standards. In addition to developing the approach, we are collaborating on the development of tools, creating help manuals and other products to further accelerate MOSA’s development efforts within the ecosystem.

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