HomeNewsArticle Display

Cyber Airmen fuel innovation

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFNS) -- Cyber Airmen assigned to the 557th Weather Wing recently teamed with the Defense Innovation Unit program to improve how airborne tankers’ scheduling.

The changes are the direct result of a March 8, memo from Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, in which he stated, “bringing the future faster requires both expanding our culture of innovation and balancing prudent risk acceptance with agile reaction.”

That is the goal of the Defense Innovation Unit where members of the military partner with companies that specialize in fields such as artificial intelligence and information technology, to find new solutions to complex problems. DIU used to be known as DIUx, the ‘experimental’ part of the acronym was dropped due to the success of the program.

Senior Airman Erik Tatro, a 2nd System Operations Squadron alphanumeric collections technician, and Senior Airman Wayne Maung, a 16th Weather Squadron computer systems programmer, both worked on Project Jigsaw, with the goal of to optimizingthe efficiency of scheduling airborne tankers.

In these programs, Airmen go on temporary duty for six month assignments, collaborating with programmers in places like Silicon Valley, Boston and Chicago. Part of the secret to their success is rooted in how the teams work together.

“Here we use a balanced team,” Johnson said. “We have engineers, projects managers and designers all sitting together and sharing ownership of each project. I think this is very different than at the 557th and many other software development shops where teams are often defensive and don't want to take on high risk projects because of the fear of being blamed for not meeting deadlines set by outside sources.”

The other secret is how they approach software design. Working like a start-up company, they create applications that rapidly tackle one small problem at a time. This can deliver a better product faster than waiting two or three years for a complete software suite to be delivered.

Any problems discovered in the software can be more easily corrected, a small failure being preferable to correcting the shortfalls of an entire software suite. Changes requested by the customer can sometimes be delivered in just a couple days.

Prior to Jigsaw, the tanker mission planners would use whiteboards to plot out their fueling rendezvous.

“Rather than taking hours to run the calculations by hand for the hundreds of sorties scheduled each day to find a feasible plan,” Tatro said. “The program logs events in order to detect and report errors in scheduling.”

It didn’t take long for the new software to start paying off.

“Before Jigsaw was delivered to the tanker planners, they would be spending 8 to 12 hours a day with a team of five planning a day of tanker missions,” Maung said. “Now they only need three people and it takes them 4 to 5 hours, usually done before lunch.”

Since the program was put into use in April 2017, Jigsaw has saved approximately $200,000 per day, just in fuel. There were other benefits as well.

“There’s the maintenance, the parts and the people are happier,” Maung said. “There’s so many small effects that it’s hard to take into account how much money is saved.”

Beyond the savings, the Airmen in these programs also benefit by becoming stronger programmers, finding new ways to tackle problems. When they return to their units, they can share their knowledge and experience with their coworkers.

“Being on a DIUx project was incredibly informative,” Tatro said. “The knowledge and expertise of those working at Pivotal Labs has helped to broaden my view of computer programming and its applications. Every day I was out there I felt that I had made a meaningful contribution by maximizing efficiency of resources through Project Jigsaw.”

Jigsaw’s success has led to it being rolled into a larger operation, Kessel Run, which seeks to improve the software used in air operation centers.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Sleep tight. We work nights. A1C Donald Edwards, crew chief, inspects a C-17A Globemaster III at Joint Base Charl… https://t.co/pawAK7TUn7
RT @SecAFOfficial: Appreciate your leadership & time spent with our #Airmen who stand the watch! https://t.co/IAV7nIZCcX
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: A @usairforce HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 56th Rescue Squadron flies over #Aviano AB, Italy, Feb. 12. The 56th in…
Congratulations to Col. Terrence Adams who was recognized with the Military Service Award at the 34th Black Enginee… https://t.co/HYj7JhZfDg
RT @USAF_ACC: Happy #WarthogWednesday from the @A10DemoTeam 🐗🤙 #USAF 🎥 by Tech Sgt. Eric Flores | @usairforce | #AimHigh https://t.co/Zeq6…
RT @US_TRANSCOM: The @USAirForce air refueling fleet is the backbone of rapid U.S. global operations. “Tankers” are the lifeblood of our Jo…
The 332nd explosive ordinance team safely verified that a suspicious package was not a threat to any Airmen or faci… https://t.co/DJrFBsoz9F
RT @AETCommand: #PilotTraining - 2nd Lt. Joshua Harms preflights a T-38C Talon prior to a training sortie Feb. 11, 2020 at Vance AFB, Okla.…
RT @US_Stratcom: #DYK becoming a @usairforce #B2 pilot is a highly selective process? Regardless of the type of mission, those who fly the…
Airmen from the Ohio @AirNatlGuard, 180th Fighter Wing, are participating in exercise Green Flag-West at @NellisAFBhttps://t.co/5q6MEi4uew
These Airmen are making sure the F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th Fighter Squadron are ready for each day train… https://t.co/LOAxoraDX8
RT @SecAFOfficial: Spent time with the men & women of Incirlik Air Base @39_ABW, Turkey 🇹🇷, to thank them for their dedication, service, &…
RT @AirNatlGuard: Training and repetition is key to being #AlwaysReady Exercises like #SouthernStrike2020 allow our Airmen to work with tot…
Over 100 aircraft are flying over the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micr… https://t.co/XwsxbIXET9
RT @PACAF: Gen. CQ Brown Jr. met w/ allies & partners from across the Indo-Pacific & beyond @SGAirshow to showcase U.S. commitment & discus…
Good luck to all the drivers in today's #Daytona500, but we may be a bit biased on who we want to win it all.… https://t.co/PDLqBdl39X
Thanks for a great game @LAKings and @Avalanche. #ICYMI the @NHL Stadium series made a stop at the @AF_academy las… https://t.co/VyNsvpQM6o
RT @Creech_AFB: Singapore Airshow has been flying by (🥁-tss) meeting with international friends & partners! Repub. of Singapore Air Force…
Our own TSgt Nalani Quintello, vocalist with @USAFBand Max Impact, will perform the National Anthem prior to the 62… https://t.co/Asf5dTlXU8
RT @SecAFOfficial: Valuable hands-on experience @RAFMildenhall! Grateful to meet innovative #Airmen executing complex missions around the w…