AUSTIN, Texas – The Navy is challenging its program directors to find ways of opening legacy systems to new capabilities, but the process of moving to modular, open systems architectures retroactively is a slow and difficult process, according to a senior service scientist.

“We’re trying to go to modular, open systems where possible,” David Walker, technology director at the Office of Naval Research, said March 20 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Science and Engineering Technology Conference here. “One of the problems I’m dealing with, for the most part, is I have old designs … they’re new but they’re old.”

Many of the Navy’s marquis platforms were designed decades ago and cannot readily accept regular hardware and software refreshes to keep them relevant. The Navy is trying to move toward a more modular, open system approach, but it requires establishing interface standards and open architectures onto systems that are already integrated onto aircraft and ships, Walker said.  

Aegis BMD Photo: Missile Defense Agency
Aegis BMD
Photo: Missile Defense Agency

There are significant costs associated with “breaking into” and modifying or upgrading a system like the Aegis Combat System, he said.

“That’s a huge cost because that’s a very closed, integrated system,” he said. “I really want to be able, over time to break into that and open that up.”

The aviation community has adopted the Future Airborne Capabilities Environment (FACE) avionics architecture and is looking to integrate the Air Force’s open mission systems architecture to standardize its avionics systems.

“It’s a slow process moving the Navy into open systems,” Walker said. “But we need to move there. … I’ve got to put a sidecar on an existing system that now makes it an open system that I can plug new capabilities into without having to go in and break the system.”