Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) – Taking EW Systems to the Next Level

October 20, 2021

Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) – Taking EW Systems to the Next Level

Published in Military Embedded Systems

The Sensor Open Systems Architecture Technical Standard (SOSA) – which will bring many benefits to designers of radar systems – will also have a beneficial effect on the design of electronic warfare (EW) systems.

One of the main differences between radar and electronic warfare (EW) system architectures is that radar systems are primarily receivers of sensor data. While some radar systems may transmit energy to excite the targets, other radars may be completely passive. EW sense-and-response systems, on the other hand, have significantly more bidirectional activity compared to a radar system. Moreover, EW systems must respond after sensing a signal as close to instantaneous as possible. That capability means that low latency is essential to enable signals to get in and out from the system as quickly as possible.

Another attribute of EW is that system designers must constantly respond to new threats and come up with appropriate ways to respond. EW is a continuously evolving domain for which the concept of QRC [quick response capabilities] is vital to introducing new capacities rapidly and easily. These capabilities can range from those that correctly identify new threats to new techniques that nullify a threat. Techniques may involve jamming the incoming signal or distorting/delaying the natural response to confuse whatever weapons may be zeroed in on the target platform.

The SOSA Reference Architecture facilitates these objectives by providing a definition of SOSA modules, hardware elements (for example, plug-in cards), and software environments that follow SOSA Technical and Business Architectural Principles as well as Quality Attributes. These elements have well-defined, open, and exposed interfaces, and are verified conformant to those SOSA Quality Attributes.

Within the SOSA Reference Architecture, the SOSA Modules were created as logical entities that encompass behaviors and functions. SOSA Modules are instantiated in a variety of ways, with one example being the instantiation of SOSA modules for EW in software.

The use of SOSA Modules (no matter how they are instantiated), along with their associated Quality Attributes and open and exposed interfaces, help ensure that the system is able to adapt to the changing needs of spectrum warfare by making it easier to replace or upgrade modular pieces of the system. The ability to replace software or firmware to add a new capability to the EW system is critical because it means the ability to rapidly introduce new waveforms or techniques to address constantly changing threats.

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What is the SOSA Technical Standard?

The SOSA Technical Standard defines a common framework for transitioning sensor systems to an open systems architecture. The SOSA standard leverages OpenVPX to define card profiles with specifications for features such as pinouts, Ethernet capabilities, and serial ports.


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Introducing your essential guide to all things MOSA. Read the white paper to explore

  • The MOSA directive and its significance for defense technology
  • Reasons to adopt a MOSA-based architecture
  • MOSA-supporting standards found in today's program requirements, including SOSA, CMOSS, VICTORY, GVA, FACE, and OMS/UCI.