EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California (AFNS) — Members of the Air Combat Command Federal Laboratory, test pilots at Edwards Air Force Baseand software developers from the 309th Software Engineering Group hit several milestones in one flight F-22 Raptor24 Aug.
The achievement is the first instance of third-party software running on a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and the first in-flight use of open-source container orchestration software on a fighter aircraft.
Fifth-generation fighter jets have historically not been available for third-party software integration. To solve this problem and lower barriers to entry, the team built and tested their new Open Systems Enclave, or OSE, consisting of a government-operated software architecture with existing hardware on board. This new enclave proved that it can quickly integrate new technologies from the first line of code to flight in less than 60 days. In recognition of this value proposition, there is now a formal requirement for the establishment of OSE on F-22 at the direction of the head of F-22 requirements.
“This breakthrough fundamentally changes how we can deliver combat capability to the war fighter,” said Major Allen Black, F-22 test pilot and co-project leader. “We’ve proven that we can rapidly evaluate and integrate next-generation technologies developed by experts in government, industry and academia at a lower cost, with software portability across defense platforms.”
Founded in 2018, the ACC Federal Laboratory functions under the office of the Chief Scientist and operates with a vision to evoke and merge a “Confluence of Warfighters, Developers and Acquirers” while bridging advanced technologies with field weapon systems . The result is an inspired defense industrial base with intellectual property protection and enhanced safeguards for mission-critical systems.
This confluence model quickly proved its worth in 2020 by achieving its first defense division in artificial intelligence when human-AI teaming was flown with an AI co-pilot, “Artuµ.”
The lab changed public policy in 2021 and established the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s 20th Laboratory Accreditation Program, known as Federal Warfare Systems. NIST accreditation standardizes the competence, impartiality, and operational consistency of federal labs of this type in the DoD, providing senior leaders with published policies to sanction and endorse this activity.
The ACC Federal Laboratory is uniquely positioned to utilize the space left over from formal requirements, where technologies vital to all air energy systems can be matured, verified and validated in comparable technical and operational environments.
“The Complementary Position of the ACC Fed Lab. within the acquisition process, the government can fly before they buy,” says Maj. Ray Tierney, founder and director of ACC Federal Laboratory. “This increases modernization throughput, decouples software development from operational flight program cycles, and enables the delivery of advanced capabilities to ensure dominance in strategically competitive environments – creating cost offsets previously thought impossible.”
As a Total Force Integration entity, the ACC Federal Laboratory consists of active duty, surveillance, reserve, civilian and contractor personnel. “We have had an overwhelming interest from government, industry and academic partners in making our platforms more capable and deadly,” said Lt. Col. Raven LeClair, test pilot and co-leader of the project. Most notable, however, is the mutual interest of fighters within the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, as well as the US Space Force and the US Navy.
Ultimately, this milestone signals a bright future for software acquisition in the DoD, one where apps are rapidly developed, matured, and delivered to the war fighter at the touch of a button. Initially partnered with F-22 Program Office as an early adopter of OSE, the team is evaluating and integrating various candidate combat capabilities as cross-platform solutions.
“We need to build a lasting advantage for our fighting force,” he said Gene. Mark Kelly, commander of the Air Combat Command. “This ‘bring the future faster’ initiative enables us to rapidly discover and replicate combat capabilities and stay relevant with advanced technology and accelerate affordable changes in the delivery of combat air capabilities as an enterprise.”