Diminishing U.S. Combat Superiority Drives New Software Development Requirements

U.S. rival countries have been rapidly modernizing their militaries, with publicized advances that pose credible challenges to U.S. supremacy in all aspects of warfare: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. On January 19, 2018 Secretary Mattis discussed the National Defense Strategy and emphasized the need to modernize key capabilities to address these threats. He stated: “To keep pace with our times, the department will transition to a culture of performance and affordability that operates at the speed of relevance. Success does not go to the country that develops a new technology first, but rather, to the one that better integrates it and more swiftly adapts its way of fighting. Our current bureaucratic processes are insufficiently responsive to the department's needs for new equipment. We will prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation and frequent modular upgrades.”

Avionic systems are a case in point. They have been on an unaffordable trend due to complexity and cost, particularly in the evolution from hardware-defined systems to modern software-defined systems, where the costs to develop, integrate, and maintain software continues to grow at an unsustainable rate. In response, The Open Group

Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Consortium has established an open procurement environment that facilitates reuse to meet four core goals: improve affordability, speed, agility, and excellence. The FACE™ Consortium is a government and industry partnership dedicated to accomplish this using open industry standards, advanced integration, and maintenance technologies.

Capabilities Behind the FACE Approach

Since its inception in June 2010, the FACE Consortium has been addressing the challenge confronted by next generation Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft or military avionic systems in acquiring advanced capabilities while curbing the cost to procure and maintain the platform over its intended lifecycle.

Figure 1. The Unaffordable Trend in Modern Systems (© GE Aviation)

Therefore, an ecosystem was created where there is an open hardware, open operating system, open middleware, and open applications setting, which could be served by any supplier in the defense industry, large or small. As a result, any FACE software component can be moved or ported from one DoD aircraft platform to any other relevant war-fighting platform with minimal integration complexity, on any desired hardware target, paving the path to a best-fit-for-the-cost solution.

The FACE Consortium membership accomplishes its function through sponsorship and support by all the U.S. armed forces, primes such as Boeing, principal-level members such as Northrop Grumman and over 80 associate-level members such as LDRA. All are working together on the business and technology aspects of the FACE Conformance process. Documents that include the FACE Technical Standard, FACE Business Guide, and FACE Conformance Verification Matrix are just a few artifacts guiding suppliers towards the development, release, and offering of FACE Certified Conformant Products. Members like LDRA are incorporating solutions into its offerings to remove implementation ambiguity and to pave a path forward.

After a software package has been submitted and received passing marks by the Verification Authority and the Conformance Verification Test tool suite, the software package or now unit of conformance (UoC) can be released by the supplier and registered in the FACE Certified Product Registry, available for sale.

The FACE™ Technical Strategy

The FACE Technical Strategy is to provide a software environment that enables moving FACE applications from one DoD aircraft or war-fighting platform to another with minimal software changes to the FACE application. This software environment is referred to as the FACE Reference Architecture, which employs design principles to enhance software portability such as providing a common set of interfaces to the portable FACE application. This is all defined in the FACE Technical Standard Edition 3.0, the most current release available.

The FACE Reference Architecture is comprised of five layered segments where a FACE portable capability or Unit of Portability (UoPs) may reside:

  • Operating System Segment (OSS)

  • Portable Components Segment (PCS)

  • Transport Services Segment (TSS)

  • Platform-Specific Services Segment (PSSS)

  • I/O Services Segments (IOSS)

To manage variance and deliver portability, a common set of standardized interfaces providing the connections between the FACE Architectural Segments has been defined.

Operating System Segment

The OSS UoPs provide typical POSIX, ARINC 653, or HMFM APIs as defined by the FACE Technical Standard to allow UoPs to move from one FACE Conformant OS to another FACE Conformant OS.

Portable Components Segment

Figure 2. FACE Architectural Segments (© The Open Group)

The PCS is where 80 to 90 percent of the typical software portable capabilities or UoPs exist. UoPs such as tracking and navigation that are not tied to any data transport or operating system implementations live here. Consequently, most portable capabilities between platforms happen here. The UoPs in this segment can utilize two of the well-defined interfaces in the FACE Technical Standard: the OS interface and the Transport Services interface.

Transport Services Segment

The TSS contains UoPs that exist to move data between the portable components that reside in the PCS. This segment removes the concern on how the data is transported, freeing the developer from needing to deal with data conversion or any other transport detail. TSS UoPs are also responsible for data distribution between the PSSS UoPs. The TSS also uses the OS interface.