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SOSA Keeps Weapons Systems in Order

March 11, 2020
Weapons systems compatibility among the different armed service branches is, no doubt, vital, and the SOSA standard is being looked upon as the solution.

We tend to be gratified when our electronic gadgets play nice with each other, and conversely, frustrated when they don’t. For example, back when I favored Android mobile devices, I had great fun “rooting” my phones and flashing custom ROMs that came from who-knows-where. I’d do a little tinkering with the source code myself, sometimes dropping in patches for bugs, and then compiling the result. But on occasion, those neat-looking custom ROMs would break things and cause connectivity problems with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and so on. It could be inconvenient, to say the least.

My wife and daughter both had iPhones, and texting reliably between my no-longer-stock Android phones and their iPhones eventually became so problematic that my exasperated spouse put her foot down and demanded that I ditch Android and get with the Apple program. When I relented, I was chagrined to find that with iPhones, everything just… works. No glitchy connectivity, no text messages that never arrive (or arrive hours after being sent). Compatibility—what a concept!

If getting a text to one’s spouse is a big deal, how much bigger of a deal is it when systems compatibility is a matter of life and death? This is literally the case with military weapons systems, especially when one service branch’s systems need to talk to those of another.

The Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA) has been around for a while now, and it holds great promise for achieving full compatibility between sensor-based systems of the Air Force, Army, and Navy. It’s by no means a trivial undertaking for these three branches to settle on common ground on which their respective systems can cooperate. But the SOSA effort represents an opportunity for them to, for starters, agree on specifications for backplanes and modules for future weapons systems.

Check out Jack Browne’s “status report” on SOSA: how and why it came about, where it’s been, and most importantly, where it’s going. For designers of these nascent weapons systems of tomorrow, it’s a must-read for keeping up-to-date on the modernization of our armed forces’ equipment. And for the eventual “consumers” of these systems—the men and women in uniform who must rely on them—it could mean the difference between staying alive, or not.

For an example of a commercial vendor’s efforts at SOSA compliance, see my story on Pentek’s Quartz model 5550 RFSoC board, which comes packaged in a carrier module that aligns with the technical standard for the SOSA reference architecture.

About the Author

David Maliniak | Executive Editor, Microwaves & RF

I am Executive Editor of Microwaves & RF, an all-digital publication that broadly covers all aspects of wireless communications. More particularly, we're keeping a close eye on technologies in the consumer-oriented 5G, 6G, IoT, M2M, and V2X markets, in which much of the wireless market's growth will occur in this decade and beyond. I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, developers, and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

You can send press releases for new products for possible coverage on the website. I am also interested in receiving contributed articles for publishing on our website. Use our contributor's packet, in which you'll find an article template and lots more useful information on how to properly prepare content for us, and send to me along with a signed release form. 

About me:

In his long career in the B2B electronics-industry media, David Maliniak has held editorial roles as both generalist and specialist. As Components Editor and, later, as Editor in Chief of EE Product News, David gained breadth of experience in covering the industry at large. In serving as EDA/Test and Measurement Technology Editor at Electronic Design, he developed deep insight into those complex areas of technology. Most recently, David worked in technical marketing communications at Teledyne LeCroy, leaving to rejoin the EOEM B2B publishing world in January 2020. David earned a B.A. in journalism at New York University.

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