Battlespace Tech

Open Group wants to set the standard for avionics software

Among the commercial practices gradually being adopted by the military services is a shift toward open-source software and development designed to promote greater standardization and reuse of code for applications such as avionics.

A new software standards initiative launched this week by the Open Group's Future Airborne Capability Environment, or FACE, Consortium seeks to certify that registered software conforms to the group's technical standard used by suppliers of avionics systems.

The consortium's approach is described as "a government-industry software standard and business strategy for acquisition of affordable software systems that promotes innovation and rapid integration of portable capabilities across global defense programs."

The open-source initiative "represents a significant milestone in the whole approach to the procurement of avionics systems," according to Steve Nunn, head of the Open Group. "Buyers can now procure based on vendors' warranting conformance to a standard arrived at through industry-government partnership."

Army and Navy aviation program officials are on board with the initiative. The FACE certification would enable the Navy's Air Systems Command "to forge new partnerships in achieving rapid re-configurability through truly open technical standards," Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, NAVAIR's assistant commander for research and engineering, noted in a statement.

"The Army will benefit from a marketplace of trusted, certified conformant products that will help us lower costs while increasing capabilities to our warfighters through increased portability and reuse," added Army Brig. Gen. Robert Marion, program executive officer for Army aviation.

Military procurements require and the vendors who bid on Pentagon contracts generally specify that suppliers conform to rigorous specifications, thereby increasing bidders' chances of winning contacts using certified components. Conformance requirements also make it easier to upgrade platforms, especially avionics and other programmable electronics systems that rely heavily on software updates, the industry group noted.

The four-step FACE conformance program includes a preparation stage during which "unit of conformance" package such as an operating system is readied for certification. After the package is verified, a certification group issues a conformance stamp of approval. The last step involves placing the certified software in a FACE registry, allowing a software developer to declare that the system meets the group's technical standard for avionics systems.

Along with NAVAIR and the Army's aviation branch, other members of the FACE Consortium include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins. A lengthy list of avionics, C4ISR, software and unmanned systems vendors also participate in the effort.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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