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Solutions for building a data system for managing the lifecycle of high-tech weapons and equipment

Data infrastructure is an important foundation for the development of spearhead science and technology, particularly in the field of military and defence industry. Therefore, building a data system for managing and exploiting hi-tech weapons and equipment is indispensable in the process of modernisation of the Army. It is also an urgent issue to be studied both theoretically and practically.

Product lifecycle management is the process of linking and operating all phases of conceptualisation, configuration design, trial-manufacturing, production, exploitation, and disposal based on a unified data system. . It helps save time, costs, human resources, and raw materials in manufacturing, production, exploitation, and technical assurance. It can also promote the inheritance of knowledge and scientific and technological infrastructure in extending, improving, upgrading, or designing and manufacturing new weapons and equipment. Industrialised countries have widely applied this method in industry and other fields, such as transportation, aviation, finance, banking, etc., especially the defence industry. If Vietnam still applies the traditional technical assurance method (repairing and replacing components when damaged) to hi-tech weapons and equipment, it will face many difficulties and inadequacies, typically as most damaged weapons and equipment must be sent abroad for repair; integrated assemblies, blocks, and modules for replacement have been ordered from foreign manufacturers, etc., increased the number of small and individual orders, which is costly both in terms of budget and time and seriously affects the combat readiness and assurance of the safety of weapons and equipment. In that context, over the past time, regarding the national digital transformation program, the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defence have determined to focus investments in research and development of two key contents, including automation of military and defence commanding, management, and administration operations and hi-tech weapons and equipment life cycle management technology transfer.

However, new-generation and high-tech weapons and equipment have complex structures with multiple intelligent components that are automatically manufactured in the form of modules or integrated with automatic control systems to have high accuracy in every detail; meanwhile, the source codes of the manufacturing control software are confidential and held by the manufacturers. Besides, the exploitation and technical assurance require several specialised softwares and rigorous technological processes. In the exploitation, to deeply intervene in the control system and replace components on the spot when there is a breakdown or failure, it is necessary to have technical documents, test racks, and meters for synchronously and exactly controlling the specifications. Due to the lack of data systems and technological equipment, most technical officers and staff are unqualified to meet the requirements of management and exploitation of hi-tech weapons. It poses an urgent task for the Military Technical sector to quickly deploy and build a data system concerning the existing hi-tech weapons and equipment. Concurrently, the collection and systematisation of high-tech weapons and equipment database are facing many difficulties due to intellectual property issues, source codes, incomplete confidentiality of core technologies upon transfer, limited procurement and research funds, no data science human resources, inadequate regimes for implementation, etc. To build this important data system, it is required to apply synchronous solutions. The article will outline three major solutions regarding the organisation, techniques, and digital technology for research and exchange.

Firstlya legal environment for collecting, building, and ensuring the safety of the data system in digital space should be built. By thoroughly grasping, implementing, and inheriting the State’s major programs and projects on applying achievements of data science to big data administration and exploitation and national digital infrastructure and digital data development, functional agencies, directly the General Technical Department, should focus on researching and advising the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defence to develop strategies and plans to improve the efficiency of technology transfer and application of modern technologies to the weapons and equipment lifecycle-based management and exploitation and building of data infrastructure; develop regimes for high-tech weapons and equipment lifecycle-based management; support long-term technology transfer; improve the technology reception and evaluation capacity; and prepare plans and roadmaps to improve the ability to assure budgets and select strategic partners in the procurement of weapons and equipment agree upon the terms of the transfer of technical documents and synchronous technology lines, permanently support technical cadre and staff training, and assure backup technical supplies when the warranty period expires.

It is also necessary to research and promulgate regimes and regulations for technical cadres and staff to firmly grasp the technical status; closely monitor and supervise the process of exploitation, preservation, and maintenance of hi-tech weapons and equipment under technical requirements and standards; compile statistics and collect exploitation data regarding training and combat readiness; estimate the quantity and types of spare parts; propose failure forecasts; proactively and promptly maintain, repair, etc., to serve as a database to analyse, evaluate, set out the contents and levels of improvement, upgrading, repair, extension or adjustment of designs for next versions. In addition, the Ministry of National Defence should have a mechanism to mobilise knowledgeable, qualified, and experienced cadres to participate in building the data system and implementing weapons and equipment lifecycle-based management, especially specific mechanisms and reasonable remuneration policies to recruit and attract talents to form a contingent of experts in data science and breakthrough scientific and technological fields; specify the sharing of scientific and technical data for the Army to manage; and allow technology enterprises to participate in research and development of parts of defence products, etc.

Secondlya centre for building and managing the data system should be established. This is an important basis for the Military Technical sector to develop plans and programs to scientifically and synchronously coordinate the research, application, and transfer of hi-tech weapons and equipment management and exploitation technologies. The centre may consist of data management departments, research and development departments, and some data collection, processing, and synthesis sections and have facilities that meet the basic criteria of a big data processing and storage establishment of international standards. In the immediate future, the centre should focus on researching and perfecting the structure of the data system; building processes and methods of conducting and developing software and tools for collecting, classifying, and systematising data; and receiving the transfer of data processing and analysis technologies and data system management and operation techniques. In the long term, the centre should be tasked with designing, installing, and assuring the operation of servers, computers, data processing equipment, and storage systems at the units and data transmission lines to ensure bandwidth, speed, and security; assume the prime responsibility for building, providing, and assuring specialised and encryption software; standardise military documents, symbols, and terminologies throughout the Army; decentralise data and grant access to data arrays and areas; develop and issue guidelines and processes on data collection and management; specify the storage format for each type of data; regularly update versions to ensure security and organise training for forces, etc.

Finallycooperation in data science research, digital transformation, and human resource training should be expanded. In recent years, in response to the requirements of adapting and creating developmental momentum in the context of the big data boom, domestic technology enterprises, such as the Big Data Research Institute of VinGroup; The John von Neumann Institute of Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City, etc. have proactively and quickly implemented the digital transformation programs to contribute to improving the quality of management, administration, and development. This is an important basis for the Military Technical sector to expand cooperation in researching models for digital transformation and hi-tech weapons and equipment lifecycle-based management and absorb and creatively apply lessons in management and exploitation of data infrastructure to save time, costs, and human resources. At the same time, it is the content to enhance the combination of economy with defence and security. In addition, the sector may cooperate with Bauman Technical University, the Russian Federation, and several foreign training institutions specialising in data science.

In human resource training, young officers with high professional qualifications, moral qualities, and working capacity, trained in close specialties, such as Mathematics, Statistics, Programming, Information Technology, Cyber security, Automation, etc. from Viettel Group, academies, research institutes, services, or technical corpses, may be selected and trained to serve as staff and experts in data research, analysis, and processing, data centre operation management and assurance specialists, ensuring, and data science lecturer and synthesise, manage, and ensure the operation of databases in the services, corps’, and equivalent. Technical staff with qualifications in informatics and foreign languages ​​should be fostered and trained to concurrently operate and exploit data systems and use software, machines, and tools to collect, store, and synthesise data for the superiors’ archives. Priority should be given to training masters and doctorates to create initial human resources and open the data science major at the Military Technical Academy. When there are sources of staff, attention should be paid to domestic training and fostering. Along with that, the Army’s key academies and schools need to research and deploy new majors such as data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc. to meet the requirements of tasks.

The demand for purchasing synchronous weapons and equipment with backup technical documents and supplies to ensure long-term exploitation is very high. Therefore, to meet the requirements of tasks, it is necessary to have priority mechanisms and policies for investment in the development of research infrastructure and human resources, technology transfer, and renovation of methods of management and application of high technologies to keep pace with the general trends of the world and the region in the field of military and defence. The plans for budget assurance must be commensurate with the methods and levels of management and assurance of the techniques to be transferred to meet the requirements of synchronously deploying solutions for data centre construction and operation and research and application of weapons and high-tech equipment lifecycle-based management to contribute to promoting the digital transformation program in the military and defence.

Senior Colonel, Dr. LE VAN HAI and Senior Captain, Dr. DAO HOAI NAM, Military Technical Academy

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