New technical standard refines open solution

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFMC) – For over 20 years, open architecture has been a requirement for the development and acquisition of almost all munition programs. However, a recent evolution has transformed the concept and brought ‘best of breed’ technology into munitions.

Weapon Open System Architecture is now a standard for a modular open systems approach to acquiring weapons systems. WOSA is different from acquisition processes of the past. The standard requires that a partnering relationship exist between the vendor and the government.

“Prior to WOSA the government would typically allow the vendor to make all architectural decisions regarding the weapon system. The government lacked the expertise necessary to challenge the vendors on their own terms,” said Jonathan Shaver, Program Manager and Weapon Open System Architecture creator, Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate.

“Our goal is to remove the winner-take-all acquisition model that we currently work within. This allows competition to happen at a subcomponent level and brings the decision making power back to the government instead of farming it out to the vendor who initially won the contract,” said Shaver.

WOSA is now commonly practiced in Air Force Materiel Command munitions shops and those of their vendor partners.

“WOSA was developed to standardize the logical message construct across all future weapons, regardless of mission area or performance requirements, breaking vendor lock, and providing a modular approach to verifying capabilities to the warfighter throughout lifecycles,” said Shaver.

Open Architecture “Pillars of Success” must be integrated into the weapons system acquisition process as early as possible. These include maintained standards, implementation guidance and analysis resources, and contract deliverable verification for success assurance.

A maintained set of architecture standards allows for changes in processes, as needed. Total control is no longer in the hands of the vendor who was initially awarded the contract. Faster integration of the best available technology is the result.

With WOSA, expert government guidance and resource support is provided throughout the implementation, analysis and development of the munition.

At the time of delivery, the WOSA process ensures that the contracted item was delivered.

The ability to verify delivery is seen as the most essential pillar of success for WOSA.

“Lack of verification of vendor deliverables is the main reason open architecture was not largely successful in the past,” said Shaver.

The WOSA Team has built up expertise to support program offices with data and analysis backed by science.

Using the WOSA analysis, a program office can make data-driven acquisition decisions on what an upgrade path may look like and decisions on eventual burdens for one tech refresh path over others.

WOSA is currently a requirement for any new program on Eglin Air Force Base within the weapon program executive office. Hill AFB and other munitions sites within the command have also aligned processes with the requirement.

For example, the Air Force has changed its acquisition strategy for the Stand-in Attack Weapon — a new strike capability for the F-35, and SCIFire — a bilateral effort between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Australian Department of Defense. Both are utilizing WOSA as a requirement.

Work has also begun on munitions programs with the Navy.

Future plans include bringing the WOSA verification and analysis tools to other open architectures across the Air Force.

“The Weapon Open Systems Architecture will standardize the logical message construct across all future weapons regardless of mission area or performance requirements, breaking vendor lock, and providing swift, modular, verifiable capability to the warfighter throughout lifecycles,” said Shaver.