BRAVO 0 Hackathon Proves Air Force Can Build Weapons Capabilities in Less Than a Week > Air Force > Article Display


On January 11, the Air Force concluded the first department-wide secret classification innovation hackathon in Nellis Air Force Base inside the Threat Training Center hangar after six days of 24-hour operations.

Working under the wings of MiG aircraft strewn with network and power cables, more than 80 hackers – product managers, engineers, pilots and data and visualization scientists – with experience ranging from E-3 to general officer and with contributions from two partner industries – developed capabilities leveraging Air Force weapons, sensors, health and maintenance data. These new abilities were demonstrated at a science fair-style exhibit.

The approximately 100 hackers, support staff, contestants and judges came from Air Force software engineering groups, software factories, and flight and front-line units. The group included 15 participants at the general officer level and judges participated, including the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff, data managerdirector of experience, scientific directorand other senior members of air combat command.

Stuart Wagnerthe Director of Digital Transformation for the Department of the Air Force, set the original vision for the event.

“Universities and tech companies have sponsored hackathons for decades where participants rapidly develop products leveraging data infrastructure and technology,” Wagner said. “We believed that a classified-level hackathon could develop emerging weapons system capabilities with unprecedented speed and impact, and at lower cost. Senior executives validated this assumption.

The 11 teams in the event focused on challenges such as: viewing and reading jet sensors, target planning and matching, multi-jet sensor fusion analysis, mitigation of artificial intelligence assisted radar sensor failures, maintenance visualization and automation/artificial intelligence assisted personnel recovery.

“The DoD has prioritized security to such an extent that it has hampered our ability to adapt weapons systems to emerging threats. Opponents regularly unleash invisible abilities requiring agility,” Wagner said. “If we build and refine capabilities and tactics in an integrated fashion against telemetry data collected daily, we can deploy these updates improving our ability to react and deter new red capabilities. risk to need-to-know, software availability and data accessibility with appropriate controls, BRAVO hackathons will change the way we wage war.

Teams contributed open-source software, created their own virtual machine images, and added live data such as new automatic dependent surveillance broadcast recordings.

The “inaugural voyage” of the BRAVO hackathon included support from Air Force CyberWorx, Chief Information Office, Chief Data Office, ACC (Operations, 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, Chief Scientist Officer, 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Shoc-N), 16th Air Force, Morpheus, AFWERX, TRON, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and others.

The event included industry involved through the Air Force CyberWorx Partnership Intermediary, which selected 12 industry partners from a field of approximately 60 applicants.

Lt. Col. Judson Dressler, Director of CyberWorx, said, “Industry partners have played a critical role at BRAVO, and CyberWorx will consider other ways to break down barriers between industry and government.

This year, BRAVO plans to move to exercises involving more than 500 cross-service, cross-agency, foreign and industry partner hackers.

While hackathon events are sometimes misidentified as solely security-focused, the Air Force plans to use these events to creatively improvise or “hack” solutions to unresolved problems or limitations.

The results of these events range from immediate capability for operational integrators to prototype ideas that answer questions posed by program offices, requirements managers, or strategic offices. Led by Jimmy Jones, the STITCHES Warfighter Application Team, which hosted the event information system, leads the post-hackathon operationalization.

To enable hackers to rapidly develop software and AI capabilities, BRAVO used the Joint AI Center’s Joint Common Foundation platform led by Captain TJ Wiley, Head of AI Infrastructure and Platforms to Joint Center for Artificial Intelligence.

“Through our partnership with the Air Force, we provided our newest enterprise-level AI DevSecOps capability to the event while gaining important feedback from a diverse group of scientists and data developers solving real-world problems,” Wiley said.

Named BRAVO in the spirit of Project B, participants wore shirts emblazoned with messages such as: “Build >> Talk”, “Be Disagreeable” and “#3”. The event provided a new level of creative freedom for hackers who pitched ideas, formed teams, and even selected their working hours.

The BRAVO series of hackathons takes its name from Project B, a 1921 series of joint Army-Navy target exercises conducted on surplus ships in response to Army Brig. General Billy Mitchell’s claim that bombers are sinking battleships. This assertion undermined the then-current investments and strategy of the former War Department. SECWAR and SECNAV authorized Project B to disprove and disgrace Mitchell by demonstrating the meaninglessness of air power. Mitchell instead ordered his bombers to destroy all test ships, change military strategy, replenish defense for aircraft and carriers, and ultimately the War Department by proving the need for a separate military department of the Air Force.

Inspired by Project B, BRAVO hackathons are sponsored by seniors defense department leaders to provide technical and cultural innovation environments that allow government and industry to test and validate bold ideas on real Department of Defense data.


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