Information Systems

Push for shared standards on military platforms


The Sensor Systems and Information Fusion Technical Committee advances technology for sensing phenomena and for combining the resulting data for display to users.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s AgilePod is being flight-tested aboard a Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Flexibility was a resounding theme for the year in sensor systems and information fusion as military fixed-wing, rotary and unmanned aircraft all rely on navigation, communications and situational awareness but don’t share standards for that software. The U.S. 2017 National Defense Authorization Act included provisions to change that by calling for modular open systems architectures in major platforms, components and interfaces, and U.S. Department of Defense technical directives instruct to expand such open systems architecture standards wherever feasible and cost effective. This would break with the common practice of the Defense Department paying repeatedly for the same functions on different types of aircraft.

Two open systems architectures commonly used by defense aircraft are the Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment and Open Mission Systems.

The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment Consortium, or FACE, has defined an open systems architecture standard for all military aircraft types and a conformance program to verify compliance. In March, Rockwell Collins and Harris Corp. were announced as the first companies with software products verified as FACE compliant. Software products developed by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center and Wind River also completed the FACE verification process.

In April, Lockheed Martin partnered with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and Calspan for the Have Raider II program to demonstrate the benefits of manned and unmanned aircraft working together to improve combat efficiency and effectiveness. Lockheed Martin used the Air Force Open Mission Systems architecture to quickly integrate aviation software from multiple providers into an experimental F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. The F-16 surrogate acted as an unmanned combat air vehicle autonomously reacting to a dynamic threat environment in an air-to-ground strike mission.

The AFRL AgilePod is a standards-based open source pod engineered to support sensor reconfigurability across multiple aircraft. Delivered to the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate by Maryland-based contractor KeyW Corp. in December 2016, the AgilePod is intended to increase the affordability and flexibility of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pods with its modular open systems architecture. Leidos in July announced that as part of the project, it completed testing the AgilePod’s sensor systems, which included testing eight sensors in five configurations. Leidos planned follow-on flight tests on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft for late 2017.

DARPA in June announced a similar effort with its CONverged Collaborative Elements for RF Task Operations, or CONCERTO, program, which it awarded to BAE Systems. The program will develop a single converged radio frequency payload supporting radar, electronic warfare and communications using less space and power than the combination of discrete systems and maximize the use of common apertures. The program is specifically aimed at unmanned aerial systems in which space, weight and power are at a premium.

Push for shared standards on military platforms