HomeNewsArticle Display

Kessel Run hits hyperdrive

Hannah Coley, a contractor from Apex Systems, Inc., assigned as a Project Kessel Run software designer works on an application for the Air Operations Center on her first day at the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab, May 7

Hannah Coley, a contractor from Apex Systems, Inc., assigned as a Project Kessel Run software designer works on an application for the Air Operations Center on her first day at the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab, May 7, 2018, in Boston. Coley is part of a team working to improve the applications used by Airmen who orchestrate combat airpower in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel, the Air Force’s director of Information Technology Acquisition Process Development at the Pentagon, cuts the ribbon for the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab opening in Boston May 7

Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel, the Air Force’s director of Information Technology Acquisition Process Development at the Pentagon, cuts the ribbon for the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab opening in Boston May 7, 2018, with Victoria Galvin, KREL’s chief business officer, Capt. Bryon Kroger, KREL’s chief operating officer and Adam Furtado, KREL’s chief product officer. Col. Don Hill, right, represented the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Battle Management Directorate, which oversees sustainment and upgrade of Air Operations Centers throughout the world. The KREL space will house teams of Airmen tasked to create software specifically for use in AOCs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Demographics showing Project Kessel Run location and workspace attract millennials, who will be needed members of an innovative coding team working to revamp major software systems like the Air Operations Center.

Market research performed by Project Kessel Run acquisition specialists indicates location and workspace attract millennials, who will be needed members of an innovative coding team working to revamp major software systems like the Air Operations Center. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Maj. Matthew Nelson)

BOSTON -- Thirty active duty Airmen, Air Force civilians and contractors gathered in a shared workspace downtown May 7, 2018, for the opening of the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab, where they will build the next generation of combat software.

WeWork’s shared innovation space in Boston’s North End is usually home to constantly shifting startup companies, but listen closely to the T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing Airmen now milling around its fully-stocked kitchenette. Instead of compound annual growth rate, or return on investment, they use terms like kill chain integration and battle damage assessment. This shared space, occupied by a smattering of startups, will also serve as the Air Force's KREL.

“It’s one thing to say you’re going to do business differently,” said Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel, the Air Force’s director of Information Technology Acquisition Process Development at the Pentagon. “But look around and you can see that these Airmen are learning. They’re building actual products, and they’re writing the book on how to be combat engineers for the information age.”

Zabel cut the ribbon for the 90-seat facility, complete with open floor plans, paired workstations and small, private offices where teams tackle technological hurdles faced by warfighters. Some of the Airmen now working in KREL served in air operations centers, where at the time complex plans for refueling operations were written by hand, transcribed into common office applications not designed for the task, or shouted across a busy room.

“I’ve never seen anything like this project in 16 years with the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Wingrove, an analyst with the 324th Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, who is on temporary assignment to KREL. “Purposely designing applications, so that systems work for us, is so important. I volunteered to come here because I really think there’s an opportunity to impact combat. That’s at the center of what we’re doing.”

Wingrove, like many at KREL, has a technology background. He codes on the side, and applied his HTML and Javascript knowledge to improve his unit’s SharePoint site. In the Air Force, where he’s a valuable asset, only about 300 Airmen are dedicated software engineers.

Project Kessel Run is managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Battle Management Directorate at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. AFLCMC oversees sustainment and upgrade of the Air Operations Center.

The AOC weapons system consists of a series of applications, computer functions and Airmen who orchestrate combat airpower. The AOC 10.1 team sustains the fielded baseline and keeps existing systems functional, which allows Kessel Run personnel to focus on modernization. Project Kessel Run’s initial focus was improving the AOC that oversees most air combat in the Middle East. Now they are expanding to the entire AOC Enterprise across the globe, to include an eight-region cloud platform and the stand up of 10 additional application teams by the end of the year.

“We’re all consumers of this software,” said Michael, a government civilian intelligence analyst at the 15th Intelligence Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on his first day at KREL. “Sometimes your job is just to make a system that is 15 years old work for you today. Hopefully, we’re starting down the road of building better systems that we can go forward and use ourselves.”

Michael and Wingrove are both on six-month temporary assignments to Project Kessel Run. They’ll spend a short time in Boston, orienting themselves at the KREL space. Then, they’re paired off with software professionals in Washington D.C., San Francisco, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, who are on contract to train Airmen how to build custom programs. Finally, they’ll come back to KREL to work with fellow trained Airmen at a type of Air Force software factory.

Three Hanscom AFB contracting and program specialists worked a series of Other Transaction Authorities, sole source contracts and small business contracts to get Project Kessel Run off the ground. KREL is the latest step. The space in which Kessel Run Airmen will ply their knowledge includes resources and facilities rivaling the fastest growing software startups, giving Air Force developers access to the tech sector culture that has revolutionized modern life.

The OTA with Pivotal, Inc., which paired Airmen and leading commercial practitioners, began in August 2017. Then, with Airmen ready to 'graduate' from Pivotal Labs, the team worked with a software development company called TDMK Digital, which set up the turnkey software development environment at KREL. TDMK subcontracted WeWork's Boston space, and provided the hardware, digital connections and resources necessary for 90 workspaces at one-year cost to the government of $1.6 million. There is an option to exercise next year for $1.5 million.

“Bottom line is we’ve proved the acquisition side of the house can keep pace with the technology side of the house,” said Kevin Dolan, a Battle Management program manager assigned to Kessel Run. “We’re exclusively supporting this effort, and it’s a real-startup feeling. A year ago there was one product. Since then, we’ve scaled to eight product teams, looking at supporting 18 by the end of the year and more than 30 by the end of 2020.”

The Boston space is modeled after the Pivotal Labs training locations in Cambridge, San Francisco and Washington D.C., which are home to similar innovation hubs. The Air Force in the Boston offices share space with startups. Major tech firms also deploy small teams to these types of shared workspaces to cross-pollinate with the type of innovation occurring.

“No matter where these Airmen are working, they’re working for combatant commanders and warfighters,” said Zabel. “You can count on these Airmen to be in contact with the warfighter’s edge, and to see where a difference can be made. They can see and articulate what needs to change, and they have the will, and now the experience, to see it done.”

Note: Michael’s last name is withheld for operational security reasons.

Engage

Twitter
“Together we have been able to reinforce our strong partnership with the #AirForce by going out and visiting these… https://t.co/SfZNCwryKb
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Where do I sign up, TSgt Munoz Case? I’m ready to change the world with you! #bettertogether https://t.co/6BLHH5GZKB
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: “We, the @USAirForce & @SpaceForceDoD, have a terrific story to tell...meeting #Airmen & #Guardians to see where they li…
Twitter
“This award reflects the wing’s culture of critical self-assessment and significant investment in full-spectrum rea… https://t.co/csZpCTa8tH
Twitter
Service members assigned to Andersen Air Force Base and @USMC Base @MCBcampblaz have partnered with the @StateDepthttps://t.co/FSMB2xGuXU
Twitter
Beginning April 19th, the @DeptofDefense will make COVID-19 Vaccine appointments available to all who are authorize… https://t.co/7bofo3TmnQ
Twitter
The @DeptofDefense’s desired outcome for the Arctic is a secure and stable region. @HQAirUniversity is seeking jour… https://t.co/fyflQtyHtj
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Collecting, processing & sharing data faster than a competitor provides a decisive advantage. The Advanced Battle Manage…
Twitter
Purple Up! Today, everyone is encouraged to wear purple to show support for military children who overcome so many… https://t.co/ibXSWprtai
Twitter
.@Team_Tinker, @HillAFBUtah and @366FW #Airmen participated in the Exercise Agile Thunder 21-02, designed to sharpe… https://t.co/kvRhWgb1Ig
Twitter
Happy Birthday Air Force Reserve! The @usafreserve's mission is to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight and… https://t.co/S0gU4oBfaO
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: In honor of #NationalWeldingMonth we salute our experts across the command who keep our platforms and systems #mission ready!…
Twitter
“This change will improve @Andrews_JBA’s ability to build multi-capable Airmen now and into the future as we work t… https://t.co/YfXlpIiY20
Twitter
“Everything AFCENT does starts and ends with the coalition.” - Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force… https://t.co/zT7pORj54Z
Twitter
“Mobility is increasingly playing an integral role in executing Agile Combat Employment, ensuring the Joint Force c… https://t.co/uZ4Jgy9soG
Twitter
We help our Airmen reach their full potential by putting #SafetyFirst. Congratulations and great job, all! #AimHigh https://t.co/5uLCs8dbBC
Twitter
Our military families experience a lot of changes, especially the children, and in April we celebrate the Month of… https://t.co/JrlVxzEbRB
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,342,381
Follow Us