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Integrating Systems Across Borders

September 2004
By Henry S. Kenyon

Because planning the integration of new technologies into existing legacy command, control, communications and intelligence systems is a complex task, the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS) is using modeling and simulation techniques such as network-centric operations simulation to speed the process.  
A tight European market causes a key defense company to realign its core business.

The cost of linking legacy systems with new technologies entering service across Europe has caused a major international firm to shift its operational focus. Faced with shrinking defense budgets and nations locked into large multi-year procurement programs, the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS), Paris, recently underwent an internal realignment. The company shifted away from being a platform and subsystem provider to becoming a primary systems integrator. This distinction is important because smaller budgets mean that European defense ministries can no longer afford to duplicate the efforts of other nations. Instead, they must leverage the expertise of multinational defense firms through shared integration programs.

Limited defense budgets will be a fact of life in the European Union (EU) for many years to come (SIGNAL, March, page 57). But business opportunities exist in this environment for enterprising companies. One such area is systems integration. As new member states join the European Union, most will need to upgrade their military equipment to meet European and NATO standards. Legacy systems cannot be replaced overnight, but techniques exist to weave them into modern command and control networks. Such efforts save customers money that would have been spent procuring new systems, and they create fresh business streams in a restricted market.

To ensure continued growth in this environment, EADS reorganized its business units at the beginning of the year. One of the new company units playing a key role in this strategy is EADS Defence and Communications Systems (EADS DCS), Munich. Dr. Stefan Zoller, president and chief executive officer of EADS DCS, explains that his organization’s primary mission is systems integration. As a lead integrator in the European market, EADS cannot be tied to individual platform and subsystems businesses. Instead, Zoller says that EADS DCS draws its strength from all of EADS’ different component enterprises.

Focusing on its core businesses, EADS structured itself around various business/mission clusters. EADS DCS reflects this reorganization by providing solutions for naval systems; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems; command, control and communications (C3) systems; homeland security technologies; and networks. Zoller notes that EADS DCS is the systems development house for the entire company and operates a design center dedicated to systems integration, data fusion and network modeling.

The restructuring does not affect all existing programs. For certain long-running initiatives, the company adapted its internal work processes where possible to meet the new organizational criteria. However, new programs and projects are now addressed from a mission-based systems integration perspective. EADS also is working with its platform businesses to provide solutions that can be integrated into new and legacy systems. “What we are doing today with our customers is asking for their requirements and their threat analysis, and then building a complete mission around that,” says Zoller.

Zoller notes that, as defense budgets for EU nations shrink, what remains is locked into large, long-term programs such as the Eurofighter and the A-400M transport aircraft. Because European nations do not have the financial means for redundant purchases and programs, they must align their procurement priorities. “We have to coordinate ourselves. We have to agree on who is doing what, since it’s quite clear that not all the different nations can reinvent the wheel like we used to do in the past,” he maintains.

EU nations already are addressing this issue by creating new organizations such as the proposed European Defence Agency to coordinate defense activities across the continent. But this is an early step in what will be a large-scale effort, Zoller explains. Europe not only will have to integrate future developments but also legacy infrastructure. This integration requires a more uniform, cross-border process. “Once you take all the European budgets jointly, there is room to maneuver if you spend these funds sensibly and not redo the same thing in many different countries,” he says.

Systems integration can provide much of these cost savings. By connecting C3 capabilities, networks become more efficient, and military operations become more effective. “You get more outcome for less money, and that is exactly what we have proposed,” Zoller offers.

Network-centric warfare is a key example of these efforts. Zoller notes that different approaches will achieve this capability. In the United States, the goal is to increase combat efficiency and to provide better reaction time to new threats such as asymmetric warfare. While this is also true for Europe, he adds that nations such as Sweden are interested in network-centric systems because of their cost-effectiveness. “The Swedes discovered that they had no more money to cover the full [operational] spectrum. They decided, ‘Let’s have a clever system integration instead of doing all our platforms on our own,’” he says.

As the integration process begins, it is taking many different shapes. For example, the German military recently decided to regroup its forces. Instead of the traditional divisions of navy, army and air force units, future German military organizations will be arranged for specific missions, such as combat, logistics and peacekeeping. Zoller adds that nations such as the United Kingdom also are restructuring their forces along these principles.

The European Union lags the United States in transforming its command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) structures and networks into a network-centric architecture. The continent’s member nations are dedicated to developing a common infrastructure for their forces, but this work has only just begun, he says.

Industry is working to help EU nations achieve these goals within budget constraints. Besides providing political support, firms such as EADS are using integration to help cash-strapped national defense budgets. Zoller notes that EADS DCS has integrated its C3I systems for Germany and France into a single unit to help meet their needs without creating redundant operations. He adds that this is an example of how EADS is developing a modular approach to supporting its customers. The different program nodes are supported by a continentwide backbone operating on an open architecture that permits many different legacy systems to plug in and interoperate. This approach is important because it is impossible to replace all existing legacy equipment. “You have to play with legacy. You have to come to open architectures in the backbones that allow us to plug in much more across borders. That is clearly one of the main focuses these days, to provide such a solution,” he says.

Zoller believes that EADS is well placed to meet Europe’s need to bridge its legacy systems. Because of the company’s extensive platform experience, it can provide systems integration across the European Union’s military organizations. “To integrate, you have to have knowledge about how a platform works, how it’s structured and what are the capabilities of different platforms and weapons systems. We are involved in everything from missiles to spacecraft, so we can base this knowledge on our experiences,” he says.

The company’s expertise in secure communications and C3I is one of its core strengths, but integrating European C3I systems remains a complex and challenging task, Zoller says. A major limitation is making these changes in an efficient time frame. To meet this challenge, EADS is using simulation technology to model different system interactions and operational outcomes. Zoller explains that modeling and simulation techniques will replace traditional procurement processes because customers and vendors will plan and model their requirements to identify and solve difficulties before new systems are designed and equipment is purchased.

Other technology hurdles include data fusion, datalinks and data mining to manage a complete command and control chain. Zoller believes these areas must continue to improve to enhance the performance of the company’s sensors and the platforms on which they are placed. But while EADS is shifting to become a major systems integrator, it will continue to offer platform and subsystem solutions to its customers.

“It’s a process that has just started, and it will take a very long time to adapt. How long did it take to go from sail to steam power or cavalry to tanks? I think we are exactly at the point where we will go to the next generation. But it will take time, and therefore you will see both approached in parallel, with customers still going directly to platforms and subsystems,” he predicts.

Although EADS is a pan-European company, Zoller notes that it must also look to larger global markets such as the United States. “We clearly have to follow, lobby for and support the transformation processes of numerous customers. This is not only limited to legacy military approaches, but it is also linked to homeland security ... Different threat assessments need different approaches,” he says.


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