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Architecture models shorter production times

  • Published
  • By Estella Holmes, Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs

Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the Air Force Materiel Command Digital Campaign Lines of Effort. The series will focus on one effort each month, providing information on the goals, importance and ongoing successes. Each effort is led by a champion and is supervised by an Air Force Materiel Command general officer and/or Program Executive Officer who helps drive the accomplishment of the campaign objectives.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The Air Force Materiel Command Digital Campaign Line of Effort #2 focuses on Standards, Data and Architectures.

A digital architecture allows faster fielding of weapon systems and the development of various platforms using standardized digital data systems.

“Adversaries are actively closing in on U.S. dominance of Air, Space, and Cyber Space, and China has outpaced the U.S. in average time to field new capability. Standards, Data and Architectures shorten acquisition timelines and reduce development costs,” said Mitchel Miller, Air Force Technical Advisor for Avionics Development and Integration, Air Force Lifecycle Management Center and the AFMC Digital Campaign LOE #2 champion.

The goal of LOE #2 is to provide programs with overarching guidance on the use of Government Reference Architectures (GRA) and related standards and datasets for use in an integrated digital environment.

GRAs are authoritative sources of information that guide and constrain weapon system design solutions by using standard contracting language.

The first of three main objectives to support the LOE #2 goal is to identify, connect and manage existing and emerging GRAs used across the Air Force.

The Government Avionics Reference Architecture (GARA) combines multiple standards to create a holistic avionics suite and is a good example of GRAs.

According to Miller, these set of standards define the hardware and software interfaces both outside and inside the subsystems for: radars, electronic warfare, navigation and timing, and communications, among others. Program offices can take advantage of parts or all of a GARA, as needed, to enable clearer industry-government communications.

“With certifications and methods of compliance baked into the architecture, and more process automation, we will reduce certification timelines and enable fielding weapon systems every 3-5 years versus the current 10-14 years. Also, upgrades and adapting of fielded systems could be accomplished in months versus years,” said Miller.  

Once GRAs and related standards are devised, the second objective is focused on a library of architectures modeled in modern systems engineering tools.

A modern architecture tool, put in a digital GRA catalogue, would give a program office easy access to modeled GRAs and interface standards. Program offices will have a starting point for programs. Duplication of effort across programs would be eliminated, and weapon systems would have to follow open-architecture standards.

The third objective of this line of effort is to develop data elements and relationships that enable the acquisition community to manage and sustain weapon systems throughout the lifecycle in a digital ecosystem.

“Data is the nerve center of the digital transformation, but data language is outdated. Many of our data item descriptions are not asking for the right data in our contracts. For example, many data Item descriptions are still asking for data to be delivered on an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper,” said Miller.

More continuous and automated system engineering technical reviews, milestone reviews, and certifications like airworthiness and cyber security within the data architecture is referred to as the Acquisition and Sustainment Data Package.

Tailorable contracting language, based on the sustainment data package, is being drafted and is currently in review across the Air Force.

The AFMC is transforming the new digital world where architectures and standards are leveraged along with data to amplify command impact.

“Winning a high-end fight hinges on the development of effective warfighting systems and enablers that drive flexibility, agility, and adaptability into our weapon systems,” said Miller.