Raytheon is delivering new software functions that are two to ten times faster as part of its contract to modernize the US Air Force’s Air and Space Operations Center Weapon System using agile development methods.
The company has delivered no fewer than half a dozen updates to the field since it transitioned from the traditional waterfall software development method more than a year ago, said Todd Probert, vice president of mission support and modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, in an interview at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on 17 September. Updates to Air Operations Center (AOC) include new features for targeting, battle damage assessment and logistics applications, he says.
The USAF is encouraging contractors to adopt the agile method, which emphasises incremental work, flexibility and close co-operation with users. In the commercial software, the process has shown success in stopping cost overruns and speeding up delivery of functions.
Raytheon’s contract to sustain and modernize the AOC, which was awarded in 2017, has an initial value of up to $375 million over six years. The company is contracted to update the existing AOC’s baseline software, and develop and deploy new software upgrades to improve the efficiency of operations.
Many of the upgrades being added to AOC are intended to integrate previously disconnected systems, allowing information to automatically be passed around the command and control center and to aircraft in the field.
“I don’t care what command and control architecture you go into today across the [Department of Defense] you’ll see a lot of it that’s been brought together out of necessity and the integration points often are human centric,” says Probert. “Targeting information gets passed on a piece of paper.”
However, networking multiple computer systems creates vulnerabilities.
“As you start to open up architectures and start to have more machine-to-machine discussions or enablement, that makes cyber hardening all the more important because all those [communications] touchpoints give you opportunities [to be hacked],” says Probert.
Agile development is helpful for countering cyber risks too, as the shorter development cycles of weeks or months that come with the method allow Raytheon to quickly respond to the discovery of vulnerabilities, he says.
“If I can deliver incrementally new updates, I’m not building stuff up and waiting for two years to go through the [waterfall] test process to go deliver them,” says Probert. “We need a model that allows us to continuously look at what’s going on, assess, test, check. Make sure nobody has opened up a door that nobody wants opened up, and then drive forward.”