Having worked for more than 25 years in the defense and aerospace industry, we have experienced significant changes over the last three decades. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, avionics databus standards and technologies were specifically defined and developed by and for the defense and aerospace industry. Examples of such are the MIL-STD-1553A/B, STANAG3910 and several commercial ARINC standards (i.e. ARINC 429).
Today, this trend has clearly changed to one of which takes advantage of commercially available technologies and adapted and tailored to meet mission-specific needs for avionics applications. Examples for this approach are AFDX/ARINC664P7, which is based on standard Ethernet; ARINC825, based on Industrial CANBus; and ARINC818, based on fibre channel. In all three cases the basic technology is commercially available, scalable, field proven and widely supported.
For avionics applications the commercial technology has been adapted and augmented to meet specific requirements such as deterministic behavior, redundancy and improved robustness. However, with the introduction of these new databus and network technologies for aerospace applications, the older legacy technologies have not been completely replaced and therefore still need to be supported even for the latest military and commercial aircraft.
Furthermore, we specifically see in the military aerospace business that the number of new programs and new developments is in general shrinking (at least within the European Countries and the United States). On the other hand, the life of the weapon systems and vehicles is being extended. These trends have a significant impact on suppliers of test and simulation equipment for avionics databuses and networks. To support the latest avionics databus and network technology significant data rates, throughput and storage requirements need be met, whereby for test and simulation tools for these requirements are even more demanding than for operational equipment’s.
For legacy technologies such as MIL-STD-1553, STANAG3910 and ARINC429 primarily obsolescence issues have to be solved. This has to be accomplished in a very cost efficient way due to the given market conditions. Since we have the coexistence of legacy and modern avionics databus and network technologies in today’s aircraft programs, there is a growing requirement for tools and equipment able to handle the different standards and technologies at the same time and in the same way. In many cases in an integrated fashion, data and events have to be correlated between the different databuses and networks.
In summary, test and simulation tools suppliers have to face different types of challenges: We have to support legacy databuses for the foreseeable future and therefore solve the obsolescence issues in a quick and cost effective manner. To support the latest databus and network technology used in the avionics world, we have to provide tools and equipment that meet the most ambitious requirements with respect to throughput, processing and storage capabilities.