As delegates gather at this year's AUSA ILW Global Force Symposium & Exposition, Crystal Group (Hiawatha, Iowa) has wide-spread brand recognition within diverse US Army programmes, including Integrated Air & Missiles Defense Battle Command System (IBCS); Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM); Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD); MDAR, Road Rally; Prophet Enhanced; Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS); and Federated Universal Synchronization Engine (FUSE).
Beth Otting, the company’s director of Program Management for Military, initially explained Crystal Group provides rugged computer and networking technology to weapons programmes like THAAD, C-RAM, and PROPHET that serve as command and control for weapons launch as well as enemy detection and situational awareness. “Our systems are typically 19in [.5m] rackmount servers that reside in shelters, on larger weapons platforms and in forward deployed tactical enclosures. We also deploy smaller rugged embedded compute for vehicles and console computers,” she said.
Of additional significance, while Crystal Group hardware has been deployed in US Army unmanned vehicle ground control stations for many years, a primary focus for the company in the past three years is the development of rugged compute capability specifically for autonomous vehicles. Ms Otting pointed out: “Unmanned and autonomous systems demand high compute density which creates the need for very unique thermal management systems. Our RIA (Rugged Intelligence Appliance) is a compute system, with a 10-32VDC 1500W power supply and liquid cooling system capable of thermally managing high density GPGPU [General-purpose computing on graphics processing units] autonomous vehicle applications. This technology was created in partnership with Intel first for the commercial automotive industry and is now being tested by our partners in the US DoD.”
Beyond Intel, Crystal Group has developed strategic partnerships with other best-of-breed companies in the sector, including Ruckus (Sunnyvale, California), VMware (Palo Alto, California), Nutanix (San Jose, California) and Seagate Technology (Cupertino, California). Ms Otting commented on this part of Crystal Group’s business model, noting her company designs and manufactures its rugged chassis (aircraft-grade milled aluminum with carbon fiber composite options) and many of its power supplies: “We source and then ruggedize commercial Intel-based computer hardware and other board level electronics as required.”
Beyond the US Army customer, Crystal Group has partners and programmes worldwide for all branches of the military, including E-7A WEDGETAIL airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) and advanced Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar; Saab Medav Technologies’ (Uttenreuth Germany) Compact Radio Monitoring System CRS-8000; the Turkish military’s TASMUS; Tactical TOMAHAWK Weapons Control System (TTWCS); MILGEM Project (Turkish national warship programme); new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ); Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV); the British Army’s Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP); and more. While the company is working with customers to develop new systems for artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security, and 5G technologies, “The need for high density compute and storage in a smaller footprint will continue to increase, but the concept of everything being on a network and able to share data in order to gain a multi-dimensional understanding of a situation or execute a mission will become a reality,” the corporate manager said and concluded: “So, computers won’t have to see everything, just one another and fuse data, so compute density will be shared across smaller nodes. Although this reality will not necessarily completely come to fruition in 24-36 months, it will drive innovation.”