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FC-AE-1553 and the Future of Smart Weapons

We live in a world that is constantly changing as new technology becomes available. If you’re in the aerospace industry, you’ve probably given some thought to the growing conversation on how advances in technology can lead to new forms of weaponry. If we look into the near future and think practically, we’ll see that these new “smart” weapons will need to support applications such as transfers of terrain maps, program, files, target templates, and digitized video and images. All of these applications will require a high-speed data interface.

The System So Far

For the last 20 years, MIL-STD-1760 has been the defining standard of the interface between aircraft stores management computers, missions stores, and carriage stores. This standard defines the signal set definitions, types of interfaces, connector, topologies, signal path requirements, and power. It also comes with special requirements for MIL-STD-1553 bus interfaces, which includes a command set complete with detailed message formats and a defined protocol for mass data transfer.

The Next Step

The SAE AS-1A2 task group released AS5653 in 2008, the High-Speed Network for MIL-STD-1760, also known as High-Speed 1760. This new standard defines a new gigabit-speed communication option for the old standard, specifying a network based on Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel is a high-performing networking standard currently deployed on various military and aerospace programs and platforms. It is transmitted in series of frames defined by upper layer protocol mappings. One of these protocols is FC-AE-1553.


The FC-AE-1553 Fibre Channel is based mainly on familiar word structures, message formats, and command/response protocol of MIL-STD-1553. In addition, it defines a number of additional capabilities and extensions. It supports all of MIL-STD-1553’s constructs, including sub-addresses, mode codes, broadcast, command and status, RT-to-RT transfers, and extensive error checking.

Weapons Future

The messaging software for future smart weapons will be based on Universal Armaments Interface (or UAI), which is an emerging high-level interface that is an extension of MIL-STD-1760’s message set. The goal is for UAI to enable software reuse of common software for weapons’ operational flight programs, working to reduce the validation and integration times for new weapons. In the future, this application may possibly extend to sensors and training pods.

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