Military Embedded Systems

The New FACE of Avionics


June 27, 2012

Chip Downing

Real Time Innovations (RTI)

Earlier this year, Wind River announced its support of the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) technical standard, which hopes to resolve two fundamental problems with military procurements.

The FACE technical standard will create an open, modular, multi-vendor software environment enabling portability and reuse of software components across multiple programs and platforms.  Combining this technical standard with a the FACE Business Guide will expand the selection options for military software components, reduce up-front procurement costs, reduce system integration cost and risk, and reduce upgrade and technical refresh costs.

This standard was created by the FACE Consortium, a US military collaboration, led by the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and US Army Program Executive Office (PEO) Aviation to develop a common operating environment supporting portability and reuse of software components across Department of Defense (DoD) aviation systems.  These two government agencies were joined by sponsor members Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins and over 35 other member organizations from both government and industry, including Wind River, to participate in FACE.

FACE is moving very fast for an industry consortium.  Although it is not quite two years old, the first revision of the FACE Technical Standard was released in January 2012.   The FACE Business Guide was released in September 2011.  These achievements are directly due to the frequency of meetings – there are weekly conference calls with the various working groups, and there are face-to-face meetings every six weeks, where over 100 members attend.

In addition, there are now at least five released Requests for Information (RFI) and Requests for Proposal (RFP) having references and requirements for FACE.  These RFIs/RFPs include US Navy C-130T, US Navy ADDS, US Navy Full Motion Video, Army Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, and the US Navy BAA for the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) research program.  Everyone involved with FACE fully understands that this standard needs to be backed up with program dollars to be successful.  The FACE Outbound Committee tracks these programs at:

On the technical side, the FACE Consortium has defined the key vertical and horizontal software interfaces and will provide implementation guidance for using these interfaces.  The Technical Standard for FACE Reference Architecture document contains a high level architectural overview and a detailed description of the architectural segments interconnected by three key interfaces.  These segments and their interconnections comprise the FACE computing environment, which include:

There is a lot of very conscientious work that has been put into the FACE Consortium – this will become more obvious are more documents are completed and released.

The FACE Consortium members hosted their first at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park, MD earlier this month.  This was a wonderful way to see the key constituents of the FACE Consortium display their examples of industry and government products.  And if you are in the Huntsville, AL or Dayton, OH areas, the Consortium is planning additional events at these locations later in the year.   Stay tuned for more information on the roll-out of this exciting open standard!

More information on FACE can be found on the FACE public web site:

  • First, current aviation systems are typically developed for a unique set of requirements by a single vendor for a single aircraft, resulting in limited portability of software components, increased costs, and creating barriers to competition within and across airborne systems.
  • Second, the military aviation community has not created standardized architectural and software interface standards to sufficiently enable portability of software components across DoD aviation systems.  Commercial aerospace suppliers have standardized on open common core platforms based upon ARINC 653, which is a standard API for integrated modular avionics (IMA), but this has simply not occurred in military avionics systems.
    1. The Operating System (O/S) Segment
    2. The Input/Output (I/O) Services Segment
    3. Platform-Specific Services Segment
    4. Transport Services Segment
    5. Portable Component Segment
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