A cockpit upgrade for 20 U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin C-130Ts could be the first program to use a new open-systems avionics standard developed by government and industry to enable software reuse to speed the fielding of new capabilities.

The first version of the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) technical standard was released Jan. 30, after just 18 months of work by a consortium formed under the auspices of open-systems standards organization The Open Group.

Already, the standard has been included in four Defense Department requests for information and one request for proposals: for the Navy’s C-130T avionics obsolescence upgrade (AOU), which could field the first FACE-compliant software within a couple of years.

Supported by the Navy and Army, FACE is focused on ensuring software is portable between platforms, so that an application developed for one aircraft type can be reused in another, reducing the cost and time required to field a new capability across the fleet.

While the Pentagon increasingly is requiring modular, open-system architectures in new procurements, past efforts have not produced software that can be ported between different manufacturers’ platforms, FACE consortium members say.

“Open architecture is a set of principles companies follow, but in reality we do not get a lot of portability because the architectures are still different enough to preclude reuse,” says Mike Williamson, deputy program manager for mission systems in Naval Air Systems Command’s (Navair) program office for air combat electronics.

“We want to reduce cost and get capabilities out faster, and portability of software across platforms is the best way to accomplish that,” he says. “FACE takes commercial [software] standards and specifies how to implement them to get portability.”

“This is a compilation of different standards [government and industry] are agreeing to use,” says Capt. Tracy Barkhimer, FACE program manager at Navair.

FACE-compliant software applications developed by individual programs will be placed in a repository to be reused by other programs, instead of reinventing the same capability. After the C-130T cockpit upgrade establishes a library, “we’ll be able to say ‘We have an app for that’,” Barkhimer says.

While the Navy kicked off the effort, the Army has joined and proposed FACE for the open systems architecture of the Joint Multi Role family of future rotorcraft. “We are proposing FACE for the current force, to allow efficient fielding of software, and the future force,” says Scott Dennis, director of the Army aviation systems integration facility’s software engineering directorate.

The Air Force is not yet a member of FACE, but the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, was briefed last week as part of a process to get the service approved to join the consortium, which already has 39 government and industry members.

In addition to the technical standard, the consortium has produced a business guide to advise government and industry how and why to use FACE. A contracting guide, conformance rules, and guidelines for the software registry and repository are to follow by late summer, says Lockheed Martin’s Dennis Stevens, chair of the business working group.

The contracting guide will include templates to ensure intellectual property is protected when acquiring software that can be reused, he says. The conformance guide will detail how operating environments and software applications are to be certified as complaint with the FACE standard, to ensure their portability.

The registry and repository guide will detail how software in the FACE library is labeled, and where it is stored, so that “end users can look at the metadata and ascertain enough information to select the appropriate application [for reuse],” Stevens says.