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Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Transport Protocol Mediation and Integration



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Electronics, Information Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Lightning II Program

OBJECTIVE: Create a Graphical User Interface (GUI) tool for Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) transport protocol abstraction and platform data model integration that addresses the Navy’s need to create a more efficient process for developing and integrating FACE Units of Portability (UoP), saving both time and money. The tool should be able to highlight disparities between protocols and messages, and data models and facilitate development of interoperability between these approaches.

DESCRIPTION: The Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Technical Standard [1, 2, 3] describes a software Reference Architecture supporting several technical attributes including portability, reusability, flexibility, scalability, extensibility, conformance testability, modifiability, usability, interoperability, and integrate-ability. The FACE Technical Standard provides a framework upon which capabilities can be developed as part of a product line to enhance affordability and speed to fleet by reducing duplicative development efforts. The current FACE 2.0 and 2.1 Technical Standards consist of several layers which seek to abstract the concerns for data distribution and data understanding.

Systems integrated by one lead integrator are most often built in isolation from other systems, and to their own requirements resulting in differing or unique message protocols. This means that one system built to an Open Systems Architecture (OSA) standard may not be interoperable with a system built to the same standard by a different lead integrator. Previous attempts to solve the “Interoperability Problem” with OSA approaches have generally led to specifications of “common message” sets for systems to “speak” the same language but have resulted in little progress due to lack of common protocols and partial implementation of message sets. The FACE Data Architecture attempts to remedy this by requiring specific methods for documenting exchanged data but cases still exist where one system built from FACE conformant components cannot exchange information with another system built from FACE conformant components.

To help streamline the FACE system integration process, new software tools and techniques need to be developed to automate the process and visualize the complexity captured in the data model in a simple manner. Additionally, the standard practice of choosing a protocol for each system introduces additional challenges. To overcome this challenge, the Navy seeks an innovative technology to encapsulate protocols behind an abstraction interface and mediate between protocols allowing interoperability across differing technology innovations and message formats. If protocols become a discoverable, replaceable, pluggable feature, then many of the challenges with system to system interoperability can be solved. This technology could also benefit cyber-security as it would allow the ability to randomly hop between protocols and provide a mechanism to make it harder to intercept network communications. Automation in mapping of disparate messages within FACE Platform Data Models is also desired to ensure interoperability between differing systems.

The functionality of the tools is not limited to these features and additional innovative functionality that assists in protocol mediation and data model integration is encouraged. The technologies resulting from this project should assist system integrators in mediating protocol, visualizing data models, identifying incompatibilities between data models, and combining message models to create or enhance a system.

PHASE I: Develop and demonstrate feasibility of a FACE Transport Protocol Mediation and Integration method for abstraction of protocols and integration of disparate platform data models. The identified methodology will provide the basis for tool prototype efforts during Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on Phase I effort, develop and demonstrate a FACE Transport Protocol Mediation and Integration prototype software tool for meeting the objectives outlined in the Description above. Test cases will be provided to the Phase II recipient and should be demonstrated in less than two hours at the end of Phase II.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Test and apply the developed FACE Transport Protocol Mediation and Integration tool(s) and techniques to a component of a Navy software system (e.g. a new capability). Finalize the prototype tool(s) for broader market utilization (military and commercial). Private Sector Commercial Potential: Many private sector industries developing aviation software supporting the new mandated FACE requirements could greatly benefit from this new technology. It should provide a key tool in modeling software in advance of full system software development. In addition, companies in the industrial and manufacturing sectors that use control systems as the backbone of their business processes (which is now becoming almost omnipresent) would also benefit (as demonstrated by the acceptance of FACE), as those systems are comprised of many diverse systems communicating to perform a common mission. In all cases, these systems have to be integrated in order to work correctly. The tools developed under this effort have potential benefit to these commercial needs.


  • FACE Technical Standard 2.0,
  • FACE Technical Standard 2.1,
  • FACE Shared Data Model 2.1,

KEYWORDS: Integration; Architecture; FACE; Data Model; Portability; Abstraction

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