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By Julian Nettlefold

23 Oct 12. As the one-year anniversary of The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE™) Consortium’s publication of the FACE Technical Standard approaches, Northrop Grumman Corporation continues to leverage a modular, open architecture approach to rapidly bring new avionics capabilities to warfighters.

During AUSA National last week Northrop took the high-tech approach to press conferences and gave a number of journalists an iPad with different functionality as ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ with different weapon systems. The Editor had the ‘bad guy’ iPad with an RPG.

Different scenarios were carried out with a U.S. Army Section coming under sustained fire from the bad guys armed with Manpads and RPGs with AAC support to shoot down incoming aircraft. Northrop demonstrated how a networked scenario of the battle zone gave huge benefit to the U.S. forces as every enemy attack whether by AAC or MANPAD was networked to every pilot and soldier on the ground to give a clear picture of the war zone and allow the rescue helicopters to find the safest route to retrieve the trapped troops.

The FACE Consortium aims to establish standards for a common operating environment to support software portability and interoperability across avionics systems. The ultimate objective is to increase product innovation while reducing costs and accelerating avionics upgrades.

As a founding principal member of the FACE Consortium, Northrop Grumman was an early advocate of establishing open architecture standards. The company is actively using the FACE Reference Architecture and interfaces on existing avionics programs, including the effort to integrate third party-developed FACE components inside Northrop Grumman’s embedded GPS/inertial navigation system for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System program. Northrop Grumman is also pursuing the FACE Reference Architecture for future programs, including the new UH-60L Cockpit Digitization Program.

Additionally, software components supporting the FACE Technical Standard, such as the full-motion video application for the company’s Integrated Avionics System, have been successfully demonstrated on various hardware platforms. Furthermore, Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Avionics System has already been rated exemplary by the U.S. Department of Defense via the Modular Open Systems Approach Program Assessment and Rating Tool, which measures the degree of implementation of open architecture standards within a program.

“The importance of offering flexible, performance-proven solutions to customers, especially in light of ongoing government budget constraints, cannot be underestimated,” said Ike Song, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s Situational Awareness Systems business unit. “We are leveraging our open architecture expertise and incorporating FACE principles to deliver better products at a more affordable price and quicker pace.”
Northrop Grumman also offers a novel open architecture environment to integrate and test rotorcraft capabilities, reduce risk, and demonstrate size, weight and power benefits through the company’s Rotorcraft Avionics Innovation Laboratory (RAIL). The laboratory has already successfully integrated more than 20 products to demonstrate digital interoperability improvements that can be achieved with current Department of Defense systems.

RAIL has been privately funded by Northrop Grummman with $15 million of PV money. There has been considerable interest from its U.S. customer base and the Company expects to announce funding in due course.

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