Army asking for feedback on multivendor approach to digital fires modernization

By Dan Schere  / November 3, 2023

The Army is asking industry for feedback on its "consortium-like" multivendor approach for the modernization of the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and Joint Targeting Command and Coordination Suite (JTIC2S).

AFATDS, developed in 1989 and fielded in 1995, provides “fully automated support for planning, coordinating, controlling and executing fires and effects,” according to the Army. It's the main command and control system for long-range precision fires cross functional team initiatives. Because it was built as a “monolithic” piece of software, it's difficult to update, according to the service.

The Army is attempting to create a data-centric, modular open systems architecture for both AFATDS and JTIC2S -- the latter of which is a fiscal year 2024 new start program that will “provide critical fires/targeting capability for joint and organic Army fire support management” as well as a common operating picture for joint and coalition partners. The JTIC2S would be a replacement for the legacy Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System.

The Army is taking a “consortium-like approach,” in which multiple vendors would be able to participate in the modernization of AFATDS and JTIC2S. Lt. Col. Timothy Godwin, the product manager for fire support command and control within the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications Tactical (PEO C3T), said in a statement Friday that the service envisions the “future of fires built around teams doing the work instead of one industry partner.”

“There will not be one sole primary contractor. Multiple industry partners can be part of the solutions to building an agile, iterative software for the modernization of our fires products,” he said.

Col. Matt Paul, the product manager for PEO C3T mission command, said in a statement that the service’s current capability to conduct fires was “not built for how we have to share data in the future.”

“We want to work with industry to modernize our fires capability so that we can robustly share data, enable sensor-to-shooter architectures, and be able to iterate the program over time,” he said.

The Army released a request for information Nov. 1 that asks interested parties to respond with feedback on the consortium approach, which is modeled after the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System consortium.

Current development of AFATDS is being handled by the Development Command-Armament Center, the RFI notes. However, after DEVCOM completes development of the software development kit, initial tech stack and other components, the other pieces such as fire support and direction would be managed by the consortium-like approach. DEVCOM is also handling development of initial back-end services and user interface for the minimum viable product for JTIC2S high level architecture. But development of future requirements would be managed in the consortium-like approach, according to the RFI.

The contracting solution would enable the government’s development of a “consortium-like organization,” the RFI states. The consortium-like organization would be tasked by the Army with delivering “products such as software, charter, plan of action and milestone, processes and leadership roles for contractors.” The RFI asks respondents to submit white papers with comments on the consortium-like approach by Nov. 22.

Feedback from the RFI could include the pros and cons of the contracting model, lessons learned from other similar models and how the final approach can best support industry and the Army, according to a statement from the program office. The feedback will be used to determine the final approach, and implementation timelines will differ based on each program’s needs, funding levels and conditions for transition.

JTIC2S will begin minimum viable product integration after the program is funded through an appropriation, according to the program office. AFATDS modernization work is expected to begin in late FY-24.