U.S. Air Force Capt. Christian Picotte (left) and Maj. Lamb, C-17 Globemaster III pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, transport troops and equipment between forward operating locations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Jan. 25, 2018. The C-17 is not only proficient of transport of troops and cargo but can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and transport ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

Engineering Directorate conducts successful plugtest

In an effort to field sensor technology faster, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Engineering Directorate recently held a “PlugTest” event which drew a variety of companies and other U.S. Department of Defense organizations from across the country.

The event allowed companies to showcase and demonstrate their plug-in hardware circuit cards which could potentially be used in a chassis box within Air Force aircraft.

Chassis are the brains of aircraft sensors, which captures imagery and data related to the battlespace, and are an integral part of the plane.

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“Think of a chassis as a big computer box and a circuit card as a video card, or intel processor that you plug into your desktop,” said Dr. Ilya Lipkin, technical expert with the Engineering Directorate. “That’s what chassis are to aircraft.”

The plug-in circuit cards showcased at the event provided individual capabilities that can be inserted into a chassis to enable the sensor to do certain things.

Part of the event included testing whether cards from various companies would work together in the same chassis.

“We added intel processors, network cards, GPS navigation units and encryption cards, radio cards and we mixed and matched between vendors (companies),” said Lipkin. “We’ve proven the concept that you can take any card of any vendor – small, medium or large – and plug it into the same chassis and exchange data.”

Ultimately, the goal was to test the ability to update cards in a chassis and field sensor technology faster.

“The PlugTest was great, because we were able to get small, medium and large businesses to show their unique capabilities and integrate them quickly, which allows us to decrease acquisition cycle time and technology cycle time,” Lipkin said. “Currently, the strategy for sustainment and upgrades is to take out the entire chassis and put in another one.

“The better business model would be to replace pieces/circuit cards that go obsolete or the ones you want to upgrade, as demonstrated at our PlugTest, and we’ll be able to upgrade and field a new or improved capability in a matter of weeks, not years.”

Lipkin and his team plan to conduct additional demonstrations and testing to reduce risk of adoption by programs of record.

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