F-35 Open Systems Architecture Image

Open Systems Architecture for Avionics- Why It’s Critical to Mission Success

Dec 12, 2018

This week, Harris hosted The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE™) Consortium at our Palm Bay, FL facility. The FACE Consortium is comprised of representatives from industry and government that gather to discuss the future of open systems architecture for embedded software platforms—an undertaking that Harris believes is critical to ensuring our military systems maintain tactical advantage over our adversaries.

To understand why open systems architecture is a mission-critical investment, let’s take a step back and look at the threat landscape from a global perspective. Historically, the military has invested in technology advancements to maintain the strategic and tactical advantage. If we look back to post-WWII, we can see how the introduction of nuclear warfare technology led to rapid advancement in quantity and delivery of those systems. Later, during the Cold War era, increased defense spending by the US fostered development in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, precision-guided weapons, stealth technology and space-based military assets.

Many defense strategists now believe we are in a third offset strategy to counter advancements by near peer adversaries. With easy access to rapidly evolving commercial technologies, our adversaries can leverage them quickly and are eroding our ability to maintain capability overmatch. Meanwhile, new US military advancements are hampered by lengthy acquisition processes and rigid, monolithic system architectures. Today, technology upgrades typically require complete system redesign to accommodate a change. All too often, new technology is going obsolete by the time it is fielded despite significantly outspending other world players.

So, how do we improve our nation’s competitive advantage? Most strategists gravitate toward leading trends in technology, like Gallium Nitride (GaN), additive manufacturing, and autonomy, but that does not address the root cause of why we can’t field new technology efficiently or affordably before our adversaries.  The strategy to solve this problem requires a new business model and flexible system architectures that allow us to quickly integrate those new technologies and adapt to new threats under increasing economic pressure. That’s where initiatives like the FACE Consortium come into play. The main goal of the FACE Consortium is to increase the affordability and improve time-to-field for software-based platforms. Harris strongly believes in this mission and has been an active partner since the group was formed in June 2010.

The FACE Technical Standard provides a foundational software architecture coupled with robust, open interfaces and business procedures to ensure a standard operating environment independent of platform or industry provider. Harris is not only invested in partnering with innovative forums like the FACE Consortium, but also in developing more flexible architectures and providing modular, open products. Harris is committed to ensuring that the newest capabilities can be affordably integrated as quickly as they become available to help maintain our warfighters’ tactical advantage.

So, as industry and government leaders in open systems architecture, what can we do to ensure these standards are implemented in our platforms? First, modularity and open standards must become critical requirements for relevant acquisitions. Today, open systems standards are requested but are not discriminators in competitions and we must pivot toward using them consistently, as an integral part of system development. Second, we need to continue to lead by example. As thought leaders in open systems architecture, our continued investments and participation are needed to reach critical mass. With continued partnership across industry and government to define and implement open standards, we lay the foundation for efficiently fielding new technology.

Bryant Henson welcome at FACE Consortium