MISSION CRITICAL MEANS MISSION CRITICAL!
By Bill Guyan, VP of Programs and Strategy, DRS Tactical Systems, Inc.
Can you do the job if your computer stops working or if your data is lost?
How good is good enough?
Mission Critical Computing in the Military
When it comes to training and equipping our Soldiers, we have come to demand, as we should, that they have the very best. The alternative, a weapon that worked most of the time, is an unacceptable option to soldiers and therefore, wouldn’t last long in the field, even if the weapon was inexpensive and each soldier could carry a back-up.
Why would this situation be intolerable?
. First, we have an obligation to provide our soldiers with equipment that will allow them to do their jobs.
. Second, soldiers must have confidence in their systems. They will not use them if they cannot trust them.
. Finally, the impact on morale would be negative. Soldiers must believe their equipment will work, when they need it, every time. The military is transforming from an FM based command and control regime that directs ‘fire and maneuver’ in a linear framework to a digital, network centric architecture that enables Commanders, sensors, shooters, analyst, and planners to apply all elements of combat power
simultaneously, in real time to a given operational problem set.
Soldiers can “See First, Understand First and Act First” (Situational Awareness and Situational Understanding) across the operational continuum, in every dimension, and apply effects when and where required with regard to time, space and required effect. To accomplish this, today’s military operates an interconnected, interdependent network of sensors and weapons systems that link soldiers and their leaders in real time from the tactical to the strategic levels resulting in a network centric force, and computers are the backbone of that network. Having evolved from a ‘nice to have’ supporting role to an integral component of all operations, computers play a role in everything soldiers do. They must go with them, everywhere, operate all the time, never fail and be there when they need them. These computers must operate in any environment, in every operational problem set, across the spectrum of conflict.
On the digital battlefield, every network based system uses computers for control, the integration of sensors and shooters and communications. The ruggedization requirements for systems used on the battlefield are extremely demanding. The operational environment for battlefield computers and displays is uniquely demanding while the operation of these systems must continue regardless of conditions.
Anytime – Anywhere
The battlefield computing environment is the most demanding of all because expeditionary forces have to equip themselves with systems that will work in any place on earth – in any weather extreme. This doesn’t just mean handling the extremes of hot and cold, but also the extremes of dust, sand, rain, and humidity; thereby, keeping foreign matter out of the computer and away from its sensitive electronics and storage media. The standard design approaches for meeting temperature extremes, for example the use of heaters and fans for cooling, present dilemmas when the sealing of the unit is also required to keep water, dust and sand outside of the box. A battlefield computer requires a fully sealed housing that can provide for the heating and cooling necessary for worldwide operation. External fans are vulnerable to the same sand and dust. Liquid cooling has captured the attention of some, but it presents high cost and maintenance challenges without delivering any improvement in performance.
The laptop computer made its way to the battlefield unofficially. In the mid-1980s Soldiers packed or carried their laptop to the field to support orders preparation and to satisfy Commanders’ desires for Harvard G