Nov. 24, 2020 | By Bruce Katz, EPASS, Public Affairs Lead, Kessel Run
Kessel Run and Kobayashi Maru are members of an expanding and moderately publicized Department of Defense software ecosystem modernizing the United States Air Force and Space Force with new, agile software solutions for the warfighters of today and the future.
The two software activities share many common practices and processes, but each has a mission focus different from the other. Kessel Run, the oldest of the DoD software development activities, places priority on providing products and services to the Air Force for Air Command and Control (C2), while Kobayashi Maru and its Section 31 team is targeting solutions for Space C2. Each activity employs its own unique set of product teams, technologies and platform services to develop, deploy, monitor and service its applications.
In an age where data, information dissemination, and speed will determine the outcomes of future conflicts or threatening scenarios involving near-peer adversaries, these two programs travel a parallel path, but along two independent, stand-alone platforms and are not truly integrated or able to cross-communicate. That was until recently, when the belief of integration became a proven concept.
“Kobayashi Maru and Kessel Run leadership had been talking about this type of collaboration for a long time, but Section 31 was not yet at the maturity level to support providing any meaningful software at the time, until this experiment,” explained Air Force Capt. Carlo Viray, Director of Product at Section 31. “There were two primary reasons we wanted to experiment with this collaboration; show that the top two software factories in the Air Force could provide working software and share data across different technology platforms, and to experiment with a lightweight proof of concept for the focus on a Joint All-Domain C2 (JADC2) vision.”
According to Adam Furtado, Product Line Chief of Kessel Run’s All-Domain Common Platform and former chief of its Operations C2 product line, the opportunity to work collaboratively with Kobayashi Maru was a direct result of feedback from the 609th Air Operations Center and its commander, Col. Trey Coleman.
“We have been working directly with the 609th AOC in the Middle East for some time. Our focus has been on replacing decades-old capabilities and calcified-workarounds with modern, user-centered, technologically-relevant software solutions in order to allow those warfighters to more effectively do their job,” shared Furtado.
“The thing DevOps provides for us is the ability to rapidly sense and respond to needs on the ground,” Furtado noted. “In a conversation with Col. [Trey] Coleman, the 609th commander, we heard that they were struggling with getting space data into their decision-making process with any real sort of speed.”
Armed with this information, Furtado connected with Viray and his team at KM’s Section 31 and suggested the two units work together to address the customer concern shared by Coleman. The goal for the collaboration being to take the Combined Space Tasking Order (CSTO) that KM’s S31 was helping build and the Air Tasking Order (ATO), that KR’s Ops C2 helps build through its KRADOS Suite, and for the first time ever, make it possible to view both air and space tasking data simultaneously.
“It took a week for the initial proof of concept to be confirmed in the KR staging environment and it was shown to be technically feasible for the two systems to be able to share data and information,” recalled Gato Harvey, a technical lead on Kessel Run’s Triton product team. “In the two weeks following this understanding, the teams were able to confirm meaningful features and utilization for the proof of concept, thereby acknowledging the technical solution could be used to accomplish the stated goal of the project.”
The most extensive work reported by Harvey was a few months of time spent to get the product to work on SIPR and additional platform work and collaboration to obtain Kobayashi Maru and Space Force certificates required to allow the two networks to communicate with one another. Once completed, the teams were able to validate the product’s ability to work in an operational environment.
“The big implication, from my perspective, is that the Triton-Relay integration validates the ability to collaborate across classified networks on different on-premises infrastructures and platforms,” said Matt Galvagni, Platform Enterprise Services team member at S31. “This contradicts the idea that we all have to be tied to the same cloud infrastructure or platform and opens the door for future integrations between organizations.”
According to Viray, the collaboration proves software developed using modern, cloud-native application principles and technology could easily integrate and share data. The integration experiment addressed Coleman’s feedback and request to have a shared informational product providing JADC2 warfighter capability to users downrange and proved ability for two DoD entities to integrate platforms and products in order to provide capabilities to warfighters. In this case, the ability to view and analyze both air and space tasking information, enabling the AOC to have greater speed, visibility, and access to resources for planning and executing its missions.
“We were able to combine forces to solve a need that would make today better, but also set us up for the All-Domain future that we are all after. It was a great collaborative effort across the board,” added Furtado.
“With all that has been discovered with this collaboration and the successes attained, we realize this is only the beginning and know there are a lot of exciting opportunities in the future,” commented Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, Senior Materiel Leader, Space C2, (aka Kobayashi Maru).
Kessel Run Commander, Col. Brian Beachkofski, noted there is additional value and benefit to the DoD and the Air Force showcased in this demonstration and its modern software.
“The benefit of modernizing our software is that we get opportunities like this to have integration for free. Open APIs enable integration without needing to build a monolithic system,” he shared.