New airborne computing environment under development

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NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Air Combat Electronics program office (PMA-209) here is developing a new FACE for airborne platforms.

The Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) is a set of standards and processes for airborne computer systems that will establish an open, modular, partitioned environment that will result in a more flexible and cost effective airborne computing environment.

“The problem we see over and over is how to deliver new capabilities to our warfighters fast. Today’s mission system upgrades are very expensive, take a long time to complete, require extensive testing and the network implementations are often not interoperable,” said Capt. Ralph Portnoy, PMA-209 program manager. “With FACE, we are looking to develop a modern processing environment that’s open, modular, portable, partitioned, expandable and secure.”

According to Portnoy, the program office believes we need a library of cross-platform portable applications, like many smart phones have today, that will run on different hardware configurations. The key is to ensure those hardware suites and their operating environments are FACE compliant said Portnoy. It also allows us to reuse our investments across Naval Aviation and avoid duplicating cost to develop software with similar or identical functions but that will not run on different aircraft. The idea is if we develop the application once, it will run on multiple type model series of aircraft. That will translate into big savings in time and money.

“FACE is a method to develop and deliver more capability, faster,” said Mike Williamson, PMA-209 deputy program manager for mission systems. “The goal is to get new capability out to the Fleet in six months after completion of testing.”

“Anyone will be able to write a software application for their aircraft,” added Williamson. “NAVAIR and the platform program office will test it and if it meets the requirement, we’ll add it to the software library and get it to the Fleet as quickly as we can.”

FACE is definitely not a solo effort by NAVAIR. The Fleet, industry, colleges, and the other Services are all working towards defining the computer architecture and interfaces to aircraft mission computers, displays, sensors and networks said Williamson.

At the recent PMA-209 user’s conference in Reno, Nev., five companies brought and ran demonstrations of their versions of a FACE prototype so progress is being made stated Williamson.

The Open Group is leading development of the FACE Consortium to select those existing industry and government standards that will provide clear requirements for what defines FACE. The initial kick-off for the FACE Consortium is in early June and interest to participate has been high. Consortium membership is open to government, industry and academia and all are welcome to contact PMA-209 Mission Systems or The Open Group if they would like more information.

PMA-209 champions development, integration and cradle-to-grave support for common avionics solutions in safety, connectivity, mission computing and interoperability.

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