Efforts started in 2012/13 by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to reduce the cost of doing business through a more disciplined use of resources are likely to continue for some time. Strategies with names such as “Better Buying Power (BBP) 2.0”, which further implements DoD best practices to strengthen buying power, improve industry productivity, and deliver an affordable, value-added military capability to the warfighter provides ample evidence of the direction military program managers now are required to take.


For developers of ever-complex electronics systems for military aircraft, however, the continuing increase in the cost to integrate new hardware and software into existing platforms thus runs counter to prevailing fiscal trends.


What to do?


Open architecture is one obvious answer, allowing multiple vendors to be used within one program, which helps drive costs down and allows military planners to accommodate new capabilities as they become available with the goal of allowing military platforms to fly for decades. For example, the Army Apache team wants to keep its Apache Block III AH-64D helicopters operating until 2040. And Apache’s prime contractor, Boeing, is preparing to chart out future upgrades that leverage open architectures to achieve that goal.


To refresh existing avionics systems for extended service will require software that is portable across multiple platforms. To that end the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Consortium, founded in June 2010 by The Open Group, is an aviation-focused group made up of U.S. industry suppliers, customers and users. The FACE standard created a common computing architecture supporting portable, capability-specific software applications across DoD avionics systems.  FACE – which is an open systems approach for avionics-- aims to reuse software applications from one aircraft to another, even from one military service to another. Software applications running on a mission computer in a helicopter platform, for example, could be reused on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).


As part of its charter the FACE Consortium also is defining requirements for Software Development Toolkit (SDK) extensions and test suites, a Reference Implementation Guide, a verification process, and a repository for modular software applications/services.


The FACE Consortium released Edition 1.0 of its technical standard in 2012 followed by Edition 2.0 in February 2013 and it is now preparing Edition 3.0 planned for release in mid-2014.



Fig.1  FACE standards are designed to facilitate reuse of software applications from one aircraft to another, even from one military service to another.


Partitioned Real-Time-Operating-Systems (RTOS), certified under safety standards DO-178B and ARINC 653, have become essential elements on military and civil aircraft worldwide. The FACE team optimized existing standards, ARINC 653 and POSIX, to create the FACE technical standard. Wind River’s partitioned RTOS — VxWorks 653, a FACE compliant solution-- builds upon its history of supporting open standards like ARINC 653, POSIX PSE52, POSIX PSE54, and Eclipse. It expands upon the tenets of open architecture (OA), integrated modular avionics (IMA), and modular open systems architecture (MOSA) to accelerate the reuse, delivery, and integration of advanced military systems. For organizations developing solutions designed to comply with the FACE reference architecture that is increasingly being mandated as a requirement by the US military, VxWorks 653 provides the base technology to deliver future conformance with the FACE Safety Base Profile of the FACE Technical Reference Manual . This Wind River RTOS is already used in over 300 programs by more than 165 customers on over 60 aircraft, including Airbus and Boeing commercial and military aircraft.


GE Intelligent Platforms has noted the availability of the Wind River VxWorks 653 Platform for its SBC625 6U OpenVPX Single Board Computer (SBC) based on the Intel® Core™ i7 processor. This allows GE’s hardware to be used by military and aerospace organizations in mission-critical avionics applications in which safety and security are of paramount concern.


The SBC625 brings substantially increased processing power, graphics capability, I/O bandwidth and functional density to customers developing and deploying demanding mil/aero applications. These include command/control, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, radar/sonar and signal processing utilization. The SBC offers integrated graphics and ECC memory controllers plus dual and quad core processing up to 2.5 GHz all in one device. Coupled with the Intel ® QM77 chipset this provides a very high level of I/O bandwidth for both on-board and off-board functions.



Fig. 2 GE Intelligent Platforms SBC625 can utilize the Wind River VxWorks 653 for mission-critical avionics applications.


LynuxWorks was able to quickly develop a FACE API on a safety critical OS (LynxOS-178) because the FACE API for an RTOS is based on POSIX , which is the native interface for LynxOS-178,  a time- and space-partitioned RTOS that also has been awarded FAA Reusable Software Component (RSC) certification. The enabling of these APIs makes applications even more portable and reusable than ever before for the airborne computing environment used by the various military branches.


Based on open standards this RTOS is designed specifically to fulfill the stringent needs of multithread and multiprocess applications in safety-critical real-time systems. Within the FACE Technical Standards, there are multiple profiles defined. LynxOS-178 covers 159 APIs for the FACE Security profile, 81 APIs for the FACE Safety profile, and 98 APIs for the FACE Security Extended profile.


Green Hills Software, which makes the POSIX-compliant INTEGRTY RTOS, is a member of the FACE consortium. Its INTEGRITY-178B tuMP multicore operating system was selected for use in the Gen II Mission Computer for upgrades of the U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters. ARINC 653 XML capabilities are the standard supported mechanism for configuring partition resources when INTEGRITY-178B is used as the basis for a FACE Operating System Segment.

Esterline CMC Electronics selected Green Hills Software to provide a real-time multicore operating system for their next generation of integrated avionics computers and smart display units. The operating system functionality selected by CMC includes capabilities required to host applications that align with FACE Technical Standard. The CMC systems will be capable of hosting FACE Technical Standard aligned applications developed using C, C++, and Ada95 programming languages.


In summary, in the past application software embedded in an avionics device was expected to work only with that given device. When a similar capability was needed for new or different hardware, substantial additional development was required. The FACE architecture specifies that designers use standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) to translate between software applications, the operating system and the hardware.  Designers who adhere to the software interfaces specified in the FACE Technical Standard can, as a result,onics more easily modify application software for a new or upgraded system with the assurance that it will work, thus reducing the time, effort and cost of adding in new capabilities.


Contact Featured Alliance Members:

  • Contact Wind River>>
  • Contact LynuxWorks>>
  • Contact Green Hills Software>>
  • Contact GE Intelligent Platforms>>


Solutions in this blog:

Related topics:


Wind River is an Associate Member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance

GE Intelligent Platforms is an Associate Member of the Alliance.

LynuxWorks, Inc. and Green Hills are Affiliate Members of the Alliance


Murray Slovick

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance