Army-defined open standards pave the way for RF convergence

By Kashia Simmons & Kelly White, CERDEC Public Affairs

MORA provides the fundamental building blocks to enable the future force to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum and to be lighter and more agile in adapting to emerging threats. (U.S. Army illustration)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (October 20, 2015) — The Army’s first of its kind modular, open system architecture is setting the stage for the future of hardware and software convergence after months of development from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC.

The Modular Open Radio Frequency Architecture, or MORA, will open radio frequency interfaces to enable rapid insertion of new capabilities and broader interoperability as well as reduce size, weight and power, or SWaP, for future ground vehicles.

“One thing we know about the future is that we don’t know what the future holds,” said Ben Peddicord, chief, CERDECIntelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Intel Technology and Architecture Branch. “The interfaces that have been exposed to MORA were chosen based on an analysis of the capabilities we’ve wanted to field over the last 15 years.”

Compared to a traditional radio solution, MORA provides the system integrator with greater flexibility when addressing technical challenges and the ability to insert third-party capabilities.

According to Peddicord, nearly all military platforms — to include Soldiers — have RF devices on them, making MORA an important element of hardware and software convergence because of its ability to share hardware assets across the platform.

With the modular open RF architecture, the army has defined standards that will allow the Future Force of 2025 and beyond to quickly leverage and integrate third-party innovation. (U.S. Army illustration)

“It’s hard to get meaningful improvements, flexibility and SWaP reduction if you don’t include RF components,” Peddicord said.

Current Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C4ISR, and Electronic Warfare systems use single purpose hardware and software that aren’t shared beyond their defined functions and compete for limited resources on the platform. MORA decomposes radio systems into high-level components that enable sharing of hardware such as amplifiers and antennas. Low power distribution of RF signals improves overall system performance and efficiency through reduced cable loss. Use of software defined radio technologies allows the same hardware to run different waveform application to support a multitude of missions including EW and Communications.

With a continued emphasis on open system’s architecture, CERDEC became asponsor member of VITA, an international non-profit organization that has been around since 1982, and champions open system architectures.

“The U.S. Army’s MORA architecture is a great example how existing VITA bodies of work, like the OpenVPX architecture, could be leveraged to meet mission specific requirements,” said Jerry Gipper, VITA executive director.

Using common standards ultimately saves money and time, both of which are key components from the Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative, Peddicord said. The challenge, however, is that in order to define common standards there has to be a clear picture across the board of what interfaces are desired.

“We’ve never been able to tell industry partners exactly what we want because we never understood standards well enough to steer their efforts towards our benefit,” Peddicord said. “Now we have built up enough expertise to actively contribute to standards.”

MORA payoffs include hardware reuse and pooling, rapid third party technology insertion, reduced dependence on proprietary hardware and software, and the ability to improve compatibility and/or interoperability. The real clutch, however, has been ensuring that industry would build to MORA standards, said Peddicord.

“Without industry support, it won’t work. If government programs ask for it, then industry will support, but government is cautious to put out requirements for a standard not supported by industry,” he said.

To define these standards, CERDEC has not only worked closely with industry through VITA, conferences and third-party vendors, they’ve also had companies build according to MORA specifications.

“It’s important to have a third party build against the spec because it always makes sense to the person who wrote it, so it’s important that someone who didn’t write it builds it to ensure it’s working,” Peddicord said.

One company expressed their support for MORA in an Oct. 14 press release.

“We believe that MORA provides a path for using true industry open standards to develop rugged COTS solutions to meet [Defense] critical requirements,” said Lynn Bamford, senior vice president and general manager, defense solutions division, Curtiss-Wright.

“Having vendors support for MORA should make program managers more confident to require and implement it and make for an easier transition,” Peddicord said.

Toward the end of 2016, CERDEC is planning a vehicle demonstration of hardware/software convergence using the MORA. Specifications for MORA can only be released to U.S. government agencies and their contractors. The current version of the specification (V1.1) is available on the VICTORY Portal. For more information contact

Editor’s note: The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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