Increase Military Software Innovation and Longevity through Reuse (sponsored)

Discover how the adoption of open source software for military projects and the reuse of software can be a differentiator, providing strategic and tactical advantages on the battlefield.

This article was provided to you by AdaCore.

Software is a critical element in almost any military application and can be a differentiator that provides strategic and tactical advantages on the battlefield. However, it must also meet the challenges posed – it must be durable, reliable and easy to maintain to match the longevity of the military platform on which it is located. This means that it must take into account both innovation and longevity from the outset and be able to work consistently and efficiently for decades without the risk of failure.

Yet in long-term military projects, software is often rewritten from scratch, which increases costs and slows overall completion. For example, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights software slowdown as key factor in F-35 fighter upgrade program non-compliance with the deadlines for transition to full speed production. This is no exception – 10 of the 15 major IT projects of the Ministry of Defense (DoD’s) lag behind the schedule.

Therefore, it is time for a new approach – one that applies the lessons learned from previous military software development and focuses on military classes, open source solutions based on standards that reuse and rejuvenate existing assets. This method will provide the innovative software capabilities that military projects require – on time and on budget.

It is time to return to the future

Software occupies an increasing part of the total budget for many military projects. However, although it is essential for innovation, it is only part of the military platform. It should be able to work, be verifiable, durable and tested – just like the carbon fiber in the wing of an airplane or the steel in the bumper of a tank.

And yet, although carbon fiber is not reformulated from scratch for every new project, the software is often ignoring the existing code base that has been developed and worked for decades for similar projects or applications.

Many reasons can influence the decision to rewrite existing software applications, including a comprehensive cost analysis based on system requirements (although this often considers only upfront costs rather than the lifetime cost of the project), the performance of the existing system, aging the hardware and strength of the specific software ecosystem (including available tools and programming skills).

The problem is that during the planning phase of military projects, programming languages ​​can be chosen that are not necessarily rigorous or continuous to meet long-term military needs. Instead, rewriting and reusing existing, proven code can provide the balance between innovation, cost-effectiveness, and reliability that military platforms require.

We’ve been here before – in the 1970s, the US Department of Defense used more than 450 languages ​​in its software, raising concerns about maintenance, upkeep, and reliability. The result? He commissioned Ada, a new, standard-based open source language designed specifically for long-term, critical software engineering. Ada is designed to be easy for developers to write code, and also for code to be read and understood by development teams for decades to come.

Now Ada is the backbone of projects around the world. The world’s leading missile systems company MBDA has a long-term commitment to the Ada programming language. “Successful development of reliable, high-integrity software is critical to the world’s leading MBDA product portfolio,” said Colin MacDonald, MBDA’s Software Performance Evaluation Manager. “The Ada language is ideal for our global needs as it provides unsurpassed safety and reliability.”

See the full press release here.

Understanding the key criteria for military software

In addition to its main role in the military platform, the software must meet very specific criteria. It must be tested and verifiable to ensure that it will work consistently, whatever the circumstances. It must be hardware independent, able to meet modern cybersecurity threats, be certified to military and civil avionics standards, and have an open data model to help with testing.

Demonstrating this, Airbus Helicopters chose Ada and AdaCore’s GNAT Pro toolkit to develop new software components for its VSR700 prototype project. The VSR700 is an Airbus Helicopters tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAS) designed to meet the demanding requirements of the world’s navies and armies in the 21st century. Commenting on the choice, Mathieu Vatinet, head of embedded software, told Airbus Helicopters: “We chose AdaCore and the Ada language because we believe that this technology and related tools will increase the support and quality of our software and make it easier to provide some evidence of specific software certification objectives. ”

See the full press release here.

An open approach

The best way to cost-effectively meet these criteria is through approaches and languages ​​based on a combination of open standards (such as the Open Group Future Airworthiness Consortium (FACE или) or the Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) approach) and open source . This allows access to a wide range of existing software that can be reused or rejuvenated, while ensuring supply chain security through transparency and traceability, using tools such as Software Composition Analysis (SCA). In addition, ecosystems such as GCC and LLVM provide a combination of open source power tools and technologies, eliminating the risks of proprietary software that can increase project costs.

The adoption of open source software enables military projects to securely use the efforts of the wider community and reuse the code instead of rewriting it from scratch. Designed specifically for the longevity, reliability and critical nature of military projects, Ada is the ideal open source programming language to help rejuvenate software. It is time to return to the future.

Overcoming challenges

However, many military industry human resources departments are concerned about the perceived difference in skills – that they cannot find enough programmers willing to teach Hell about their projects.

What is needed to attract the right talent is a different approach that highlights the elements that today’s programmers will enjoy. Ada is an open source language that provides the opportunity to be part of a growing community that uses open source tools and allows modern, innovative, state-of-the-art software development practices, such as formal methods. While Ada itself has its roots in the late 1970s, it is constantly evolving through ISO standardization of the language, the latest version being Ada 2022. This means that programmers can use innovative software tools and processes while still relying on of the language for its effectiveness and rigor.

In addition, defense executives can expand the reach of talent on their own by working with colleges, offering apprenticeships, and investing in continuous training and mentoring for developers. Given the longevity of military projects, learning Ada gives programmers secure work for a lifetime and the opportunity to constantly upgrade their skills.

Therefore, adopting Ada for software reuse benefits projects, developers themselves, and their wider communities by creating long-term, high-level employment opportunities.

Ensuring software innovation and longevity

We live in a software-driven world and it is vital to understand the critical role of software in the modern military platform. However, it is not necessary to re-create every time – rejuvenate the existing code and focus on the right language for the job. Military projects are long-lasting, complex and critical to the mission. This means that you need a language and approach that meets your needs. The obvious choice is an open source language that has been embedded in a number of security-critical platforms and has been tested and proven through operational use. Adopting Ada is the key to ensuring that your military software is truly both innovative and immortal and innovative.

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