F-35 avionics evolved - abstracted / modular avionics

Cockpit, radar, helmet-mounted display, and other avionics
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steve2267

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Unread post06 Oct 2017, 23:05

I start this thread not to discuss agile software development, which could certainly be a part of this topic, but to ask the following question:

Could the F-35 avionics system -- hardware + software, but especially software -- become the basis for a modular avionics system for future combat aircraft?

Before going further, I also must ask, does the US govt own the intellectual property to the F-35 avionics, especially the software? If not, if LM kept it (smart of them!), then this idea could become prohibitively expensive.

We have discussed how sensor fusion has become a foundational principle -- and a transformative power -- of 5th generation fighter aircraft, especially with regard to how it enhances the pilot's situational awareness. We have also discussed the networked nature of 5th generational fighter aircraft, and how the system-of-systems concept(s) are transforming warfare, not just aerial warfare.

If I take a step back and look at the F-35 from a broader systems perspective, I see the following elements of the F-35:
  1. airframe
  2. engine (or propulsion system)
  3. thermal management systems
  4. avionics (which can be further broken down as:)
    • hardware -- sensors, computer hardware, network hardware, receivers + transceivers
    • software

Avionics can be further broken down as
  1. flight critical (i.e. hardware + software required to fly the aircraft)
  2. sensors
  3. communications
  4. user interface (i.e. pilot HMDS etc)

Re-arranging these, one can look at an aircraft as:

aircraft = airframe & FC avionics (i.e. flight computers + sw) + propulsion + thermal mgmt + avionics + weapons (1)

It seems to me that if approached properly, almost all the F-35 avionics could become the basis for the Air Force PCA, Navy FX-AA, and that could be a HUGE cost savings. If the future 3-stream engine (from P&W --or-- GE) is airframe plug-and-play compatible with the F135, I could see the PCA / FX-AA starting with an F135 or F135 GO 2, then upgrading to the new motor when it is available.

The aircraft manufacturer, then, has to design / build the airframe and integrate it with the avionics system, propulsion system, and weapons system, which could potentially all be GFE and developed on separate spiral or concurrent development tracks by the government. This is still an important task, and it leaves room for creating eye watering kinematic performance, but 5th generation concepts seem to be showing that kinematic performance is less important than it once was. The manufacturer also has to design the airframe and integrate those systems with a thermal management system to handle ever increasing power demands from both electronics as well as future directed energy weapons.

Since the F-35 is largely a software driven aircraft, and future designs are likely to be also, being able to quickly re-use the huge investment made in F-35 software could potentially yield enormous cost savings for other aircraft. While designing and building new aircraft won't be as simple as clicking legos together -- the aircraft manufacturer still has to integrate the various pieces -- abstracting aircraft design / development into these separate pieces could yield enormous benefits, and potentially enable a faster / tighter development cycle where maybe you are producing a new class or type of aircraft every 5 years with a production run of around 500, rather than a 20+ year development cycle.

For example, Boeing / LM / Northrop could concentrate on airframe design (reliability / performance / low observables / systems integration). Other contracts would continue to develop combat/sensor/communication avionics (based on the F-35 system as a starting point). The same with propulsion and weapons.

Perhaps my imagination has run wild, and this is not realistic given integration issues. Perhaps you lose a lot of performance by plug-and-play aircraft systems modules. On the other hand, kinematic performance is not as important (for airframes, anyways) as it once was. 5th generation / 6th generation and onward seems to be increasingly towards a networked / integrated domain defined more by software and less by hardware.

Is this already underway, or am I all wet? Has anyone read of the Air Force / Navy considering re-use of the F-35 avionics system as the basis for PCA / FX-AA?

[ETA - I just made a bunch of edits a few minutes after posting to try to clarify some thoughts. Apologies to anyone responding already to my original post.]
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post07 Oct 2017, 01:00

Perhaps I could have simply asked, could (or are) the F-35 avionics form the basis for the open systems architecture mentioned in the LRS-B contract announcement and mentioned in many articles about the LRS-B?

Could such an open systems architecture also be used in PCA and FX-AA?
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post07 Oct 2017, 01:51

steve2267 wrote:Perhaps I could have simply asked, could (or are) the F-35 avionics form the basis for the open systems architecture mentioned in the LRS-B contract announcement and mentioned in many articles about the LRS-B?

Could such an open systems architecture also be used in PCA and FX-AA?


....if not perhaps LM should be bound by law to only sale any of the F-35 program software ( or derivatives ) within the US and not to partners or allies.
....if so then the functions and derivatives should be the baseline for any future development and perhaps considered as backward compatible provided with upgraded hardware.
:wink:
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rheonomic

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Unread post07 Oct 2017, 18:14

steve2267 wrote:Perhaps I could have simply asked, could (or are) the F-35 avionics form the basis for the open systems architecture mentioned in the LRS-B contract announcement and mentioned in many articles about the LRS-B?


Air Force has their own open systems architecture they use, Open Mission Systems. (Navy has another one, of course: Future Airborne Capability Environment.)

Not entirely sure, but I think the actual F-35 avionics are LM proprietary.

steve2267 wrote:Could such an open systems architecture also be used in PCA and FX-AA?


OSA is going to feature in pretty much every new system; it's a customer requirement.

neptune wrote:....if not perhaps LM should be bound by law to only sale any of the F-35 program software ( or derivatives ) within the US and not to partners or allies.


This would already be covered by export control, and any exports of the software whether intentional or not would result in severe penalties to both LM as a corporation and the individuals involved (fines, jail time).
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popcorn

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Unread post08 Oct 2017, 00:51

Isn't the crux of Open Systems from the USG perspective is that they own/control the interface standards and not the vendor?
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Unread post08 Oct 2017, 02:11

Before anyone gets carried away... I did NOT state that LM owns the IP to the F-35 avionics / software stack. I did wonder aloud if that is the case. Can anyone definitely state who owns (LM / govt / other entity?) the IP to the F-35 avionics / software?

I seem to recall that there is some part of the F-35 (software-wise) that I believe LM developed on their own dime, as I believe the USG (or JSF program office) did not want (or could not or was unwilling to) pay for. ALIS, perhaps? The upshot, if memory serves, was that since LM owns the IP, the govt is stuck paying LM for maintenance, updates etc. Does anyone recall anything similar? If so, of what do I speak?

Back to OSA... assuming the USG owns the IP to the F-35 avionics / software... since so much time, effort, riches has been poured into the development of the F-35 avionics (sensor fusion / software-defined radios & waveforms (e.g. MADL), HMDS), does anyone know if the F-35 software stack + computer hardware architecture is being leveraged as the basis for the B-21 avionics, for example? Would it not also make a great starting point, to avoid re-inventing the wheel, for PAC / FX-AA avionics?
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post08 Oct 2017, 02:46

No use asking about B-21 - 'no one knows nothing' deliberately. I'll look for IP rights though.... A thread on it here:

Intellectual Property Fights Par for the Course F-35 Program
viewtopic.php?f=62&t=52321&hilit=intellectual+property+rights

ARTICKLE mentioned now here - extract below:
Intellectual Property Fights Par for the Course in F-35 Program [LOTs Omitted - Best Read at SOURCE]
08 Sep 2016 Sandra I. Erwin

"...In the F-35 and many other cutting-edge systems, the software is the secret sauce. What Bogdan often hears from contractors: We are never going to give you that source code. He can understand why, but still finds it frustrating that the government does not have rights to the operational flight plan, or OFP software which enables that system to perform interactive tasks. Bogdan has sought rights to the OFP to build training devices, for example. Suppliers have pushed back on grounds that some of the code was developed at their expense. “Then I have to disprove that it wasn’t. I have to get a group of people and do a forensic autopsy on when that software was created.”

Such IP squabbles are disruptive to programs. In the F-35, he said, “I want to use the OFP in a different environment than the airplane or simulator, I want to create a virtual constructive environment that is not a Lockheed Martin product. But I need the interface to take the OFP and put it into a different environment, and I can’t get there,” he said. That is another illustration of how the training needs of combat units today and the technology available to train could not have been predicted 15 years ago. “We ought to be able to somehow accommodate that change. That applies to both sides.”..."

Source: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/ ... 35-program
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Unread post10 Oct 2017, 04:06

popcorn wrote:Isn't the crux of Open Systems from the USG perspective is that they own/control the interface standards and not the vendor?


Yes.

steve2267 wrote:Can anyone definitely state who owns (LM / govt / other entity?) the IP to the F-35 avionics / software?


I think the best answer is going to be "it's complicated", or alternatively, IP lawyers need to pay for their second gold plated Lamborghini somehow...

steve2267 wrote:...does anyone know if the F-35 software stack + computer hardware architecture is being leveraged as the basis for the B-21 avionics, for example?


Well, █ █████ ████ ████ ███ ███ ████ ██ ████ ████

steve2267 wrote:Would it not also make a great starting point, to avoid re-inventing the wheel, for PAC / FX-AA avionics?


All the contractors will reuse components from previous vehicles to save on cost and schedule.
"You could do that, but it would be wrong."

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