Military Embedded Systems

The Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE): A strategic imperative for U.S. military competitiveness


May 16, 2024

Tim Reed

Lynx Software Technologies

U.S. Navy photo of F-35C jet by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class August Clawson

In the past, any reflection on America’s military competitiveness looked at how it stacked up against traditional adversaries such as China and Russia. But the world is changing quickly, and the U.S. needs to ensure that its military stays strong and can compete against new threats – Iran, Lebanon, and North Korea, for example – and not just face off with old enemies.

The development of the Joint Concept for Competing (JCC) during the 2023 U.S. Joint Chief of Staff meeting underscores a new set of threats and a new dynamic. The nature of modern strategic competition includes enhancing military capabilities to address these emerging threats alongside those of our historical opponents and non-state actors. The diffused nature of 21st-century conflict encompasses threats from newly empowered state competitors, including Iran and North Korea, alongside more traditional opponents like Russia and China. Meanwhile, non-state actors and international terrorist networks exploit new technologies and expand their capabilities.

Enhancing interoperability and open architecture standards with FACE

In this complex environment, initiatives like the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) are critical to sustaining U.S. military competitiveness now and into the future. By promoting open architecture standards, interoperability, and the rapid integration of avionics capabilities, FACE fosters the agility, innovation, and cost efficiency needed to counter modern challenges. As America’s military transitions to meet the demands of competition in the 21st century, embracing initiatives such as FACE will be a strategic imperative.

Furthermore, FACE mitigates many risks associated with cooperating with our allies, including complex compliance requirements, integration challenges, and allocating shared resources, for example. Its emphasis on interoperability and innovation can address adversarial challenges and technological advancements from competitors, making it crucial for U.S. military competitiveness. Let’s dive deeper into each of these areas:

  • Compliance requirements. FACE’s open standards and modular architecture enable the rapid integration of capabilities aligned to common standards, reducing the need for custom compliance efforts when working on collaborative projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter. The emphasis on interoperability also creates alignment on integration requirements early in the design process.
  • Integration challenges. FACE’s open systems architecture facilitates plug-and-play interoperability, minimizing the effort required to leverage disparate allied systems. The ability to swap out modular components also decreases integration timelines and costs. FACE’s promotion of common interfaces and data sharing further eases international system integration.
  • Resource allocation. FACE’s incremental and spiraling development process – a risk-driven software development model – enables allies to share costs in smaller increments that are better aligned to shared priorities; that is, the open architecture lets allied nations develop and integrate capabilities that align with shared standards independently. This approach reduces friction over proprietary limitations and control.
  • Fostering innovation. FACE focuses on the interface level and offers ample opportunities for innovation on the prime, OEM, and tier levels. With a standard operating environment established by FACE, vendors can concentrate on implementing new features effectively rather than spending time managing compliance with FACE standards.


[Figure 1 ǀ U.S. Navy photo of F-35C jet by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class August Clawson.]

Countering the unexpected with real-time operating systems and enhanced capabilities

FACE’s modular open systems architecture enables speedy integration and fielding of new capabilities to better counter unexpected threats. This method makes it easier for the military to pivot in response to adversaries exploiting new vulnerabilities. The ability to spiral-develop and swap capabilities provides operational flexibility to adjust tactics as adversaries evolve.

This is where a FACE conformant, DAL A-certified real-time operating system (RTOS), such as LynxOS-178, can provide additional value. LynxOS-178 is certified conformant to the FACE Technical Standard v3.1 across Arm, x86, and PowerPC. LynxOS-178 is one of several RTOS deployment options included as part of the LYNX MOSA.ic operating environment. By leveraging complementary capabilities like partitioning, virtualization, and trimmed-down unikernel architectures, system architects can achieve improved composability and build robust, resilient platforms that meet real-time requirements while still conforming to open standards. LYNX MOSA.ic multitiered partitioning approach enables strict isolation of components into separate virtual machines with allocated resources while the unikernel deployment option provides further optimized RTOS component runtimes that maximize resource utilization and timing, while minimizing excessive, unused RTOS features. (Figure 1.)

[Figure 1 ǀ By leveraging complementary capabilities like partitioning, virtualization, and trimmed-down unikernel architectures, avionics architects can achieve improved composability and build robust, resilient platforms that meet real-time requirements while still conforming to open standards.]

Together, these capabilities empower architects to truly realize the benefits that standards initiatives such as FACE offer, like rapid integration, interoperability, and innovation, while still addressing the performance, safety, and security demands of mission-critical defense and aerospace systems. As experts have stated, conformance testing is only the beginning. To sustain long-term military competitiveness, the U.S. must embrace open standards and innovative technologies that transform those standards into secure, reliable, and adaptable mission-critical computing platforms. The combination of open architectures and hardened real-time capabilities will strengthen the U.S. strategic position in the face of unexpected threats and long-term global competition.

In essence, FACE provides a foundation to rapidly adapt to changing strategic contexts while fostering a vibrant vendor ecosystem. Its focus on modular designs, open standards, and continuous integration enables the U.S. to counter unforeseen challenges. At the same time, the emphasis on open architecture and common standards incentivizes vendors to compete and innovate within a broad, cross-platform market. This vibrant technology ecosystem, enabled by FACE principles, introduces more players and solutions to expand the military’s capabilities.

The critical role of FACE in sustaining U.S. military competitiveness amid global tensions and great power competition cannot be overstated. Embracing open architecture standards comparable to FACE ensures that the U.S. remains at the forefront of military innovation and preparedness, enhancing its strategic position in an increasingly competitive global landscape.


Tim Reed is the CEO of Lynx Software Technologies, a mission-critical edge software company that serves the aerospace, military, and federal markets. Tim joined Lynx in June 2022, after a long tenure with Green Hills Software. During his time at Green Hills, Reed held a variety of roles including senior vice president of the Advanced Products division and a member of the executive leadership team. Tim’s experience spans automotive, industrial, aerospace, and defense end markets. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied science from the California Institute of Technology.

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