As a result of the LAV 6 Upgrade, Tactical Patrol Vehicle and recently announced Armoured Combat Support Vehicle programs, the Canadian Army has identified its next generation primary combat vehicles. Strong Secure Engaged (SSE) has also identified initiatives to provide additional major combat systems through programs such as Ground Based Air Defence and Joint Forces Modernization. The essential glue to integrate these platforms into a cohesive combat capability, whether at the sub-unit, unit or brigade level, will be provided through the SSE Initiative 42 Projects, which offers the Army a modernized C4ISR capability.
The Army’s next generation C4ISR capability will be fielded through the six individual SSE Initiative 42 Projects, coupled with other identified projects. Further, this capability will only be realized once the full PRICIE+G[i] requirements are addressed. Fielding an integrated capability is unlikely to happen on an individual project basis, but must be achieved through a holistic approach, treating the brigade as a platform and applying a system engineering discipline to the execution of SSE Initiative 42 projects. Treating the brigade as a platform, or as a whole, will result in a holistic analysis of the C4ISR related capability requirements and an integrated and coordinated fielding of the multiple SSE projects.
CANADA’S LAND C4ISR SYSTEM
The baseline of the Land C4ISR System – the system that enables command and control of the Army, integrating dispersed elements into a coherent tactical force – is the result of the TCCCS-Iris and Athena projects plus a number of smaller capital investments, evolved over the past 10 plus years through National Procurement (NP) funded support contracts. This evolution has been primarily focused on technology with a limited system view. To manage current enhancements, the Army’s Technical Authority, supported by industry, has introduced an agile development process employing the principles of SAFe Agile, a process that needs to be driven by sound system engineering principles and supported by agile contracting and funding models.
Unfortunately, many of the PRICIE+G considerations have not been addressed and the Army has struggled to field, and take advantage of, the full suite of capabilities offered by the Land C4ISR System, in some cases using only a small percentage of the potential features, for a number of reasons including:
a. Insufficient training, including complete gaps in training.
b. System complexity.
c. Lack of user acceptance (usefulness) on certain aspects of the system.
d. Major technology limitations, especially in the area of system bandwidth and automated tools, to include system management.
e. Systemic manning issues within the Signal Corps, those responsible for planning, deploying and managing the system.
This is exasperated by rapid advances in commercial IT, fueling a constant increase in user expectations. Despite this, the current system can provide a foundation for future evolution, an evolution that will be fielded through the SSE Initiative 42 projects, coordinated with continued annual NP investments.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The ambition of the SSE Initiative 42 and related projects, with its multi-billion dollar price tag, provides a significant opportunity but also a significant management/programmatic challenge. The Army, led by its Technical Authority and supported by Canadian industry, has an opportunity to field an integrated C4ISR capability over the next 5-10 years, a system that, through managed updates and enhancements, will continue to meet its C4ISR needs into the future. Taking a systems view, based on a deployed brigade, matching Canada’s stated level of ambition, will lead to an integrated solution based on operational priorities. This evolution starts with the current Land C4ISR Support Contracts providing a solid baseline; this step is currently being implemented. This baseline will be driven largely by what is technically available and not necessarily Army requirements and priorities. As deficiencies are identified, they should be fed into the system engineering process already in place where they will be prioritized and options identified. Options could include an engineering change through NP or a capital enhancement funded through an SSE 42 project.
This will work best if the Army, wider government and industry work cooperatively to field new capabilities. Working cooperatively will increase staffing capacity allowing each part of the partnership to focus on what it does best: the Army sets requirements and priorities to ensure these are identified and met, wider government ensures other government priorities such as those identified through the Defence Procurement Strategy are met, while industry provides the technology and together they ensure an integrated solution is fielded.
For industry to fulfil its part, it needs meaningful direction, not vague unconstrained questions about the art of the possible. Engagement is essential throughout including during the options analysis (OA) phase, a phase industry are currently largely excluded from, as this is where industry will be conducting its own R&D and planning, an investment that the Army could leverage.
Looking at today’s system, one of the major deficiencies is the ability to pass data around the battlefield. The Army, like all modern institutions, has an unlimited appetite for data, whether it is C2 data from a battle management system, sensor data within a ground based air defence system or ‘old school’ voice communications, the network continues to be the central nervous system of a deployed force and must be the priority for modernization. The network also provides the link or connection for interoperability, internally between dismounted, mounted and HQ elements and externally to coalition partners, another essential element of Canada’s defence policy. Network capacity will be a limiting design factor for other SSE projects, deploying separate networks to support individual combat capacities is inefficient and expensive, both to procure and to operate.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is the soldier, whether it is the signaler managing the system or the combat operator who relies on the system. For the signaler, SSE Initiative 42 must deliver effective planning and management tools and minimize the human burden to plan, deploy and manage the system. For the combat operator, the C4ISR system is a tool that must be as intuitive as possible, allowing them to focus on their combat mission. For all, a realistic and sustainable training system must be an integral part of the fielded solution.
The Network (bandwidth) is only one of many high level capacities but it highlights the need for a systems approach to the implementation of the SSE 42 projects. Other capabilities include: C2 tools, JIMP interoperability, automated support to fires, Cyber and EW operations, defensive and offensive, ISR systems and Institutionalized training, simulation and education.
Now that the Army has acquired its next generation combat vehicles and many of its support vehicles, it is time to focus on its C4ISR capability, the glue that ties it together to form an integrated combat capability. Despite the past investment in Army C4ISR capability over the past three decades, with some significant past successes, the Land C4ISR System needs a major upgrade to meet the current and future demanding operational requirements. Considering a brigade as a platform and taking a systems engineering approach to this platform, fully engaging and leveraging the capacity of Canadian industry and wider government collaboration, will lead to fielding of the next generation Land C4ISR system through the SSE Initiative 42 Projects that will meet the Army’s requirements and priorities into the future.
[i] PRICIE (+G) is a framework to identify factors to be considered in the introduction of new capabilities; its top level elements are: Personnel; Research; Infrastructure; Concepts; Information; Equipment (and Generate).