Army Command and Control System Must Be Modernized But Maintain Backward Compatibility


Leidos will handle an adjustment to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0 that will ensure it can support JADC2 and sensor-to-shooter frameworks.

The Army’s Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, a joint and coalition command control system for fires support, faces a “need for immediate modernization” and currently relies on an architecture that is falling short as the Defense Department adopts its Joint All-Domain Command and Control and digital Sensor-to-Shooter frameworks, according to a recent contracting document. 

A Defense Information Systems Agency document posted on Feb. 11 explaining why an award for an AFATDS 7.0 contract action was not made through a full and open competition—and instead awarded to incumbent Leidos—indicates the current contract structure does not allow for backward compatibility with the legacy AFATDS system. Without an adjustment to the AFATDS 7.0 strategy to ensure the legacy program can interface with the new program, the end result would be an “untenable product.”

“Specifically, the regional fielding approach would create two, incompatible baselines for large portions of the force, as well as disrupting communications continuity, which would inherently decrease lethality on the battlefield,” the document reads. “In order to deliver these critical capabilities to the force, a shift from the current contract strategy (a total rewrite of code, or block development strategy) to a code conversion effort, reliant upon the legacy baseline, is necessary.” 

The legacy AFATDS iteration already has a digital S2S framework, according to the document, but the new system would not be able to operate within the communications parameters of this existing capability without the change to AFATDS 7.0. Disrupted communications would undermine DOD’s JADC2 vision.

Defense contractor Leidos both works on the AFATDS 7.0 contract and worked on the legacy contract after it unseated Raytheon—which had fielded 13 AFATDS iterations since 1984—in 2016. DISA’s justification argues Leidos’s AFATDS work makes it uniquely suited to handle the new adjustment, and says if DISA and the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical were to hold an open competition for the modernization effort, the program would not be able to hit required deadlines. “If the objective fielding timeline is not met, the force will be at an increased risk of communications disruption, as cyber vulnerabilities would continue to exist in the problematic code of Legacy AFATDS,” the document reads. 

The modernization effort involves fixing the software code that underwrites the system. AFATDS is primarily written in the programming language Ada, according to the justification document; AFATDS 7.0 calls for that code to be rewritten in a modern language like Java. But this strategy would require rewriting 8 million lines of software code, according to the document. 

This plan was deemed unacceptable in June 2020. Now, the Army wants Leidos to include existing portions of the legacy AFATDS baseline in the new 7.0 architecture while translating some functionalities from Ada to Java. The period of performance is estimated to last through October 2022 and had to begin last month in order to meet AFATDS 7.0 fielding timelines.

“In order for AFATDS to be ready to adapt to new emerging requirements, it must undergo the modernization efforts encompassed in AFATDS 7.0,” the document reads. “Once this modernization is complete, a long term foundation will be in place to competitively solicit new emerging capabilities to continue to keep AFATDS relevant for the foreseeable future.”