FORT SILL, Okla. –A small group of software engineers with the Software Engineering Center of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command is working in coordination with the Army Hypersonic Project Office to reimagine software made for mortar and field artillery fire direction to work with hypersonic missiles.
Hypersonics is part of the Army’s number one modernization priority of Long Range Precision Fires, and is one of the highest priority modernization areas the Department of Defense is pursuing to ensure continued battlefield dominance.
By definition, a hypersonic weapon travels at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5+), and, using a combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude, is designed to defeat time-critical, heavily-defended and high-value targets.
The SEC Fires Division (a part of the SEC Command, Control, Communications-Tactical Directorate) software team has been adapting the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, AFATDS, to work with the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon. This proven Command and Control system will provide the backbone of the system’s digital kill chain.
“Due to the ‘go-fast’ nature of the program, the requirements baseline continued to evolve as the interfaces between multiple software products matured –almost literally it was ‘building the airplane in flight,’” said Lt. Col. Raaen Stewart, product manager, Long Range Hypersonic Weapon Command and Control, Army Hypersonic Project Office, Advanced Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office. “The SEC FD remained incredibly flexible and responsive to accommodate these changes, supporting the overall rapid prototyping effort with iterative Engineering Releases. The SEC FD team collaborated directly with all the key stakeholders to shape the technical solution given the severe time constraints.”
Travis Bennett, the AFATDS project lead for the SEC C3T FD, explained that the project required extremely close coordination between all concerned, including biweekly meetings as things evolved rapidly.
“We started in one direction, using variable message formatting,” Bennett said. “But analysis of the data suggested we switch to use Extensible Markup Language (XML) to communicate more effectively.”
Asked why they would apply a software data system that was first implemented more than 13 years ago to the Army’s most highly advanced fire control challenge, Bennett had a common sense answer.
“Why reinvent the wheel?” he said. “My team has, combined, decades of providing unsurpassed sensor to shooter service.”
This ongoing project went from start to deliver in just 7 months. Following a successful joint flight test in March 2020, additional joint tests will be conducted in FY21-FY23 to validate the common hypersonic glide body design, and the Army launcher and command and control system.
“The CECOM and program office teams have been agile, tailoring their processes to ensure this critical defense priority delivers to the warfighter and to the nation on time,” Stewart said.