Within the defense industrial base, adherence to standards such as IEEE and ISO are nothing new. However, there has been very little standards-based activity born out of defense. Meaning, when a standards-based approach is called for, almost all of the activity comes out of the commercial sector. Mercury Systems has worked closely with VITA (VME International Trade Association), the governing body that helps set de facto military processing and related technical standards. This position paper addresses the issue of open systems architectures and highlights actions Mercury Systems is taking in the latest, most important open architecture discussion in all of defense electronics.


What is OpenRFM?

OpenRFM is a modular, open architecture that combines hardware, firmware, and software that can be applied to EW and SIGINT challenges.

What are its benefits?

As applied to critical defense applications in EW, EA, and SIGINT it supports technologies and solutions that provide:

  • Affordability driven by high channel density, modular design, advanced connector technology, and the integration of digital signal processing and RF technologies
  • Sustainability with a solution that provides maximum re-use of standardized technology that will protect your investment for the long haul- making it “future proof”
  • Flexibility by providing many system designs with multiple building blocks
  • Interoperability driven by modular architecture, standardized control plane, and advanced software design

What led Mercury to tackle this type of technology architecture?

Mercury has extensive experience in building and promoting standardized solutions in the world of embedded computing. Mercury helped establish the now widely adopted embedded computing standard, OpenVPX. We helped establish and lead the working group that was formed behind OpenVPX in January 2009. In June 2010, ANSI, the standards governing body, formally ratified OpenVPX as a true open architecture and standard in embedded computing.

Within the RF and Microwave domain, much of the technology supporting EW, EA, and SIGINT applications require much the same standardized, modular, open systems architecture approach applied in embedded computing. On top of this consideration, the US Department of Defense has issued directives for some time asking that the defense industrial base employ open system architectures (OSA) wherever possible.

In short, Mercury Systems has announced OpenRFM as a first step in building a standardized, open system architecture that customers and the DoD has been asking for. This OSA can and will be applied to key EW, EA, and SIGINT applications.


Any other considerations on why Mercury has taken the lead with OpenRFM?

There is one other very important consideration that is born out of both a desire to lead and also from a requirement to integrate many disparate products. Over the last 10+ years, Mercury has acquired several companies within the digital signal processing, RF and microwave space. Starting with ARC in the early 2000’s, then Echotek in 2005, LNX in 2011 and Micronetics in 2012, Mercury found itself with several leading RF and microwave technologies and capabilities and the need to bring together, integrate, make modular, and standardize these technologies. Also Mercury could build solutions in a sustainable, scalable, and affordable way for customers.

As a company, Mercury Systems has gotten very good at integrating and standardizing RF and microwave solutions. This skill set that has been acquired over several years is now applied to customers, both prime contractors and the DoD, need to standardize around an open systems architecture in RF and microwave solutions. OpenRFM takes advantage of Mercury’s ability to take several leading technologies and make them work as one. Without this important skill set it would be nearly impossible to develop the kinds of open, affordable, standardized solutions that are called for today within the RF and microwave domain.

Is OpenRFM a standard already?

No not yet, Mercury is in the early stages to drive OpenRFM to becoming a true standard. In the meantime, Mercury Systems is already working with select customers on standardized, modular solutions that are being applied to key programs that require advanced EW, EA, and SIGINT capabilities. Mercury Systems is launching OpenRFM as a standardized modular approach to RF and microwave solutions that is supported with products and company representatives readily on hand to answer questions. As it did with OpenVPX, Mercury intends to initiate work and possibly establish a working group to help create an ecosystem and drive adoption of OpenRFM as a true standard. In the meantime, the benefits of OpenRFM, and the ability to provide a modular open architecture in the RF and microwave space, can be taken full advantage of by customers right away. The improvements in affordability driven by this type of technology are not something that is in the distant future. Mercury has examples of how it can work today and we are happy to sit down and discuss in more detail.