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QRIP-equipped CAF F-35s set the stage for future Crowd-Sourced Flight Data platform integration

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin
  • 53rd Wing

In March 2022, the first set of U.S. Air Force operational aircraft were equipped with the Quick Reaction Instrumentation Package, or QRIP, enabling the first Combat Air Forces contribution to Crowd-Sourced Flight Data, or CSFD.

The 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron partnered with the Test Resource Management Center to leverage advances in technology and invent QRIP.

Instrumentation packages like QRIP are traditionally reserved for integration on test aircraft, designed to collect data strictly for test and evaluation purposes. These devices have historically been too large, cumbersome and expensive to consider for operational aircraft integration until now.

The QRIP is roughly the size of a football with the capacity to record almost a terabyte of data per flight. Applying this technology to CAF aircraft significantly boosts the amount of CSFD available to developers within minutes versus the traditional weeks or months to access the data. Ultimately, the QRIP informs operational data sets while improving mission data reprogramming, data products and software development.

“QRIP captures data that is currently not being recorded, or being discarded at the cutting room floor, and makes it available and accessible at the speed of relevance,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Malafa, 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron commander. “Big data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence do the heavy lifting to sift through this data and highlight where action needs to be taken.”

Nineteen CAF jets have been modified with QRIP to date, with several taking part in exercises outside of the continental United States. The CSFD gathered thus far has accelerated reprogramming changes, highlighted software deficiencies, enabled rapid debriefs, and provided data products previously unavailable to pilots and intelligence officers.

“This is the power of edge-node computing, and we’ve now demonstrated it to great effect by watching video from OCONUS sorties minutes after the data is ingested over 6,000 miles away,” Malafa said. “The implications of this are only limited by our imagination.”

While this technology is currently only implemented within the F-35 fleet, the intent is to expand to all fielded U.S. Air Force fighter variants, as well as other platforms.

“The more data we can collect from the Air Force’s diverse portfolio puts the crowd in CSFD and amplifies data sets we can use to gain competitive advantage against our adversaries and competitors,” Malafa said.