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ACC’s U-2 Federal Laboratory rapidly integrates Platform One in first weapons system flight

Members working at computer

Air Combat Command U-2 Federal Laboratory’s Dr. Jeff Hanes (left), Director of Artificial Intelligence, Modeling, and Simulation, and Dr. Jeannine Abiva (right), Director of Advanced Mathematics, collaborate in the lab’s facility at Beale Air Force, California, March 26, 2021. Contracted to the lab through Booz Allen Hamilton, Dr. Hanes and Dr. Abiva led the Laboratory’s efforts to integrate Platform One onto the U-2 Dragon Lady, requested on behalf of Mr. Nicolas Chaillan, Air Force Chief Software Officer and co-lead for DoD Enterprise DevSecOps initiatives, and his team in the Secretary of the Air Force Acquisitions Office. Their efforts resulted in a rapid execution within 12 days from point of request to mission success, further proving the capabilities of the lab for quick adaptation and deployment of new products within edge development. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brittany Curry)

U-2 Taxing

210323-F-KV337-3272 – U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady prepares to taxi at Beale Air Force, California, March 24, 2021. This training sortie conducted the Department of Defense’s first integration of Platform One, a DevSecOps tool for the department, onto an operational major weapons system, which was facilitated by Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory, located at Beale, in partnership with the Platform One engineering team. This integration demonstrated how warfighters can leverage Platform One products and services, and affirmed how DevSecOps can be rapidly integrated into current systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brittany Curry)

Members pose for a photo

Air Combat Command U-2 Federal Laboratory’s Dr. Jeannine Abiva (left), Director of Advanced Mathematics, and Dr. Jeff Hanes (right), Director of Artificial Intelligence, Modeling, and Simulation, pose in front a T-38A Talon trainer at Beale Air Force, California, March 26, 2021. Contracted to the lab through Booz Allen Hamilton, Dr. Abiva and Dr. Hanes led the Laboratory’s efforts to integrate Platform One onto the U-2 Dragon Lady, requested on behalf of Mr. Nicolas Chaillan, Air Force Chief Software Officer and co-lead for DoD Enterprise DevSecOps initiatives, and his team in the Secretary of the Air Force Acquisitions Office. Their efforts resulted in a rapid execution within 12 days from point of request to mission success, further proving the capabilities of the lab for quick adaptation and deployment of new products within edge development. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brittany Curry)

U-2 Landing

U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady takes for a high-altitude training sortie at Beale Air Force, California, March 24, 2021. This flight conducted the Department of Defense’s first integration of Platform One, a DevSecOps tool for the department, onto an operational major weapons system, which was facilitated by Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory, located at Beale, in partnership with the Platform One engineering team. This integration demonstrated how warfighters can leverage Platform One products and services, and affirmed how DevSecOps can be rapidly integrated into current systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brittany Curry)

Pilots prepping for flight

U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady pilot assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, prepares for a high-altitude training sortie with the assistance of his chase car pilot at Beale Air Force, California, March 24, 2021. This pilot conducted the Department of Defense’s first integration of Platform One, a DevSecOps tool for the department, onto an operational major weapons system, which was facilitated by Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory, located at Beale, in partnership with the Platform One engineering team. This integration demonstrated how warfighters can leverage Platform One products and services, and affirmed how DevSecOps can be rapidly integrated into current systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brittany Curry)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory at Beale executed the first rapid, successful in-flight test of Platform One capabilities on an operational major weapons system with a U-2 Dragon Lady during a local training sortie March 23.

Platform One, the first DoD Enterprise DevSecOps Enterprise Service, offers a suite of tools that DoD systems can use today to continuously develop, integrate and deliver software on any Cloud or hardware systems from months and years to hours, days and weeks.  Fundamentally, DevSecOps practices combine software development, cybersecurity, and operations to quickly deliver top-tier, secure software functionality to end users.

“This partnership has proven the value provided by Platform One, the DevSecOps Enterprise Service and the immediate return on investment seen by adopting DevSecOps methodologies for all software innovation,” said Mr. Nicolas Chaillan, Air Force Chief Software Officer and co-lead for DoD Enterprise DevSecOps initiatives. “It also shows that combining Platform One capability with other forward-thinking organizations is unequivocally instrumental in swiftly delivering utility to warfighters at the tactical edge. This is a huge milestone of bringing a modern software infrastructure to the operational fleet of the Air Force.”

While this integration is not the first time for Platform One on a weapons system with previous success on an F-16 Fighting Falcon, the success of this iteration marked a DoD-first in that it was flown on an operational major weapons system where the F-16 proof of concept did not involve flight. 

Alongside the successful flight, this accomplishment is grounded in the lab’s speed of execution.

In addition to demonstrating how warfighters can leverage Platform One products and services, and affirming how DevSecOps can be rapidly integrated onto current systems, the flight further provides value in the lab’s embedded construct as a method to quickly bridge the gap between new technologies and fielded major weapons systems, according to Maj. Raymond Tierney, ACC’s U-2 Federal Laboratory Director.

“This model brings development and acquisitions in-house with operations, leveraging the insight of the warfighters throughout the process,” Tierney said. “In doing so, it enables a faster, more accurate delivery of capabilities that meet the needs of the boots on ground, which is further shown in our ability to achieve this integration for the SAF acquisitions team within 12 days from the initial request.”

A Proven Model

Federal Laboratories, like the one on Beale, offer agencies, like Platform One, an opportunity to garner peer-to-peer feedback regarding DevSecOps tools, which allows for quick adaption and deployment of those new products at the edge, Tierney stated.

“Our Chief of Staff, Gen. C. Q. Brown, is looking to Airmen to outpace key competitors’ decision cycles, to be empowered in our ability to accelerate change, and create asymmetric advantage over our competitors,” Tierney said. “The Federal Laboratory is doing just that, and proving that we can meet Gen. Brown’s ask of us through this embedded warfighter, developer, and acquirer model.”

The combination of Platform One’s suite of pre-approved products and services with the Federal Laboratory’s capabilities is not the only successful example of edge development led by the lab’s team, on behalf of Air Force-level offices.

In mid-December, the Federal Laboratory successfully flew artificial intelligence as a working crew member that was trained to execute specific in-flight tasks that would normally be accomplished by a human pilot. The team developed and flew this technology only 35 days after being challenged to quickly accomplish this task by Dr. Will Roper, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Approximately three months prior to the AI flight, the lab’s team successfully leveraged Kubernetes— an open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management—another first for the DoD, and for the integration of DevSecOps tools onto a major weapons system.

“This flight is another win for the team, further proving that they can quickly take on problems for the Air Force and DoD, and find and implement rapid integration where the requirements exist—at the warfighter level,” said Col. Heather Fox, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Commander. “Just as they met Dr. Roper’s challenges to fly Kubernetes and conduct the first artificial intelligence flight in DoD history within a short timeline, we have another data point that this model for the Federal Laboratory is an asset for the edge development we need to outpace our adversaries.”

What’s next for this Federal Laboratory? 

According to Dr. John Matyjas, Air Combat Command Chief Scientist, the Lab has requested, and been approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, under the Department of Commerce, to change public policy and establish the 20th Laboratory Accreditation Program in the Federal government. 

“Through ACC’s partnership with NIST, this accreditation program will establish the competence, impartiality, and operational consistency required to institutionalize this, and future Federal Laboratories of this type, within the Command,” said Dr. Matyjas. “We are not interested in the alternative to accelerate change,” referencing Gen. Brown’s call to “Accelerate Change or Lose.”