Military Embedded Systems

Government and industry partnership driving FACE and SOSA success


January 20, 2020

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

Despite experiencing doubt from some corners since inception,the Future Airborne Capability (FACE) and Sensor Open Systems Architecture
(SOSA) consortia are not simply surviving, they are flourishing.

Last month I attended the U.S. Air Force-hosted FACE &
SOSA Expo and Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) event in Dayton, Ohio: The
event was buzzing with a crowded expo floor and at-capacity conference rooms.

The meeting gathered more than 500 attendees, while the Expo
had 56 exhibits, including demos of FACE-conformant products and integrations,
says Richard Jaenicke, Director, Marketing, Safety and Security-Critical
Products at Green Hills Software (Santa Barbara, California). Green Hills
Software sponsored this year’s TIM.

The initial doubts I mentioned above were fueled by similar efforts
over the last several decades that did not succeed due to a lack of cooperation
between the different branches of the military plus a lack of enthusiasm from
industry. That is not the case with FACE and SOSA, however, as the end users –
Air Force, Army, and Navy – are working together to drive these efforts. In
fact, military organizations now count themselves as members of such open-standards
organizations as VITA. (See our three-part
on the tri-services convergence for more details.)

Enthusiasm for the consortia is also now seen from prime
contractors and system integrators. “The SOSA Consortium is developing a unified
modular open reference architecture – and associated business model – for radar,
EO/IR, SIGINT, electronic warfare, and communications,” said Raytheon’s Dr.
Steven A. Davidson, who is Vice Chair of the SOSA Steering Committee, in his
SOSA Overview presentation at the event. “It makes economic sense,” adding that
military collaboration with industry is a “win-win ... and for the most part we
are aligned in every way.”

FACE reduces cost and time to fielding, said Jeffrey
Howington of Collins Aerospace and FACE Steering Committee Vice Chair, during
his FACE Overview presentation. Right now, Howington said, “about 70% to 90% of
aircraft avionics capability is implemented in software.”

That level is unaffordable and unsustainable, and a big
reason why FACE came to be. By leveraging the FACE Technical Standard,
platforms will be able to continue improving capability throughout their life
cycle without incurring astronomical software development cost, such as with
the F-35.

This commonality permits life cycle competition from many
players in the marketplace by creating an environment for portable, reusable
software, Howington explained. The effort is ongoing: “There are now 19
FACE-certified conformant products from 12 different suppliers in the FACE registry,
which lists FACE-Conformant Certified software components. Companies cannot
publicly market their software as FACE-Conformant without being listed in the
Registry. [This enables] customers to independently confirm that a software
product is FACE-Conformant Certified.”

The success of FACE also paved the way for SOSA. “The SOSA
standard is rapidly becoming real,” said Chip Downing, Senior Market
Development Director, Aerospace & Defense at RTI and Chair, FACE Business
Working Group. “This was the SOSA standard’s first external public event, and
it had wide interest from a range of suppliers and users. The SOSA team was
smart,” Downing said, as “they leveraged the best of the FACE Technical
Standard and business approach and built upon that foundation. Their challenge
is larger – the SOSA standard is for both hardware and software. Creating
standardized hardware typically is a much larger investment that must have a
market size that will justify the investment. And they need to get it right
because the cost of changes (and errors) is higher.”

The cost could also be measured in the success of
adversaries, who also use COTS [commercial off-the-shelf products] and continue
to make their systems more complex. The U.S. and its allies must stay ahead of
the opposition; enabling commonality in future designs through open standards
will aid and hasten that effort.

Howington made just that point in his presentation when quoting
Vice Admiral (ret.) Arthur K Cebrowski, “You have a choice: You can either
create your own future, or you can become the victim of a future that someone
else creates for you.”

Next up for FACE and SOSA

SOSA technology will next be demonstrated at The Tri-Service
Open Architecture Interoperability Demonstration (TSOA-ID), an exclusive event
for media, the acquisition community, and industry influencers, on Wednesday,
January 29, 2020, at the Georgia Tech Research Institute Conference Center in
Atlanta, Georgia. Joining tri-service representatives will be industry vendors representing
HOST, SOSA, CMOSS, and VITA standards-development organizations.

Aerospace Tech Week 2020 (to be held March 19-20, 2020 in Toulose,
France) will now have the FACE Pavilion for exhibiting FACE solutions at the
event. “This is the first public FACE event in Europe and expands our
capabilities into NATO countries and strengthens our relationships with our
global coalition partners,” Downing says.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Full disclosure – Author John
McHale is on the Advisory Committee for Aerospace Tech Week.