The brand new stealth U.S. Air Force B-21 bomber has taken one more key technological step towards being prepared for battle, via built-in laptop automation designed to streamline data, enhance focusing on and provide pilots organized warzone data in real-time.

Air Force and Northrop Grumman builders just lately accomplished a necessary software-empowered course of meant to deliver higher ranges of data processing, knowledge administration and new measures of computerized autonomy, in line with published statements from Air Power Acquisition Govt Dr. William Roper.

By means of virtualization and software-hardware synergy, B-21 sensors, computer systems and electronics can higher scale, deploy and streamline procedural features resembling checking avionics specifics, measuring altitude and pace and integrating in any other case disparate swimming pools sensor data. In impact, it means war-sensitive sensor, focusing on and navigational knowledge will probably be managed and arranged via elevated laptop automation for pilots to make sooner and extra knowledgeable fight selections.

Roper’s publish on LinkedIn defined it this manner: The “USAF innovation hasn’t missed a beat throughout COVID-19. Our B-21 crew simply ran containerized software program with Kubernetes on flight-ready {hardware}! One other step in direction of ‘DevStar’: our initiative to deliver radical autonomy to software program improvement, partnering with Northrop Grumman.”

While most of the B-21 development is “black,” for comprehensible causes, Roper’s remark presents an fascinating window into a few of what builders usually describe as a brand new technology of sensing, computing, focusing on and processing data made potential by fast software program modernization. He referenced plenty of phrases which, upon nearer examination, level to some technical modernization strategies in a position to massively enhance fight efficiency.


Containerized software program, amongst different issues, refers to a capability to program laptop working methods to streamline and compartmentalize totally different features concurrently, but with out launching a complete machine for every app, in line with “Kubernetes” website.  Roper cited Kubernetes, which is a pc system for “automating software deployment, scaling and administration.” A lot of this, as cited by Roper, is made potential via what’s known as software containerization; it’s outlined as an working system-level “virtualization methodology used to deploy and run distributed functions,” in line with Containerization allows a number of “remoted functions or companies run on a single host and entry the identical working system.”

The B-21 Raider - artist's impression.

The B-21 Raider – artist’s impression.
(U.S. Air Power)

By drawing upon software-enabled virtualization, methods can improve sooner, scale back their {hardware} footprint and higher make use of automation, AI and machine-learning functions. In all-out warfare phrases, this implies B-21 pilots can share information and find and destroy targets such as enemy air defenses … a lot sooner. That is one thing which may expedite precision weapons assault and determine approaching air and floor threats and, maybe of best significance, hold pilot crews alive.

AI-applications, optimized by new algorithms, can soak up new war-sensitive data, bounce it off a seemingly limitless database and shortly carry out comparative analyses to make selections, prioritize data and streamline the group and presentation of information for people working within the position of command and management. The idea is to, as Roper put it in his publish, higher expedite the well-known OODA-loop decision-making course of. OODA Loop, made well-known years in the past by Air Power fighter pilot John Boyd, stands for Remark, Orientation, Determination, Motion. It refers back to the significance of getting inside an enemies’ decision-making course of by finishing the OODA loop sooner and extra precisely, subsequently taking key life and demise actions to destroy an enemy … sooner.

The idea behind elevated automation is to ease the “cognitive” burden upon pilots by performing time and energy-consuming procedural features autonomously … all whereas leaving human decision-makers within the irreplaceable position of command and management. This fashion, dynamic, succesful human drawback fixing could be extra totally and successfully leveraged in fight. In abstract, pilots will be capable to make sooner and higher selections, subsequently “proudly owning the OODA Loop” as Roper put it in his revealed remark.


Not solely will built-in next-generation software program exponentially speed-up war-sensitive resolution making, however it should additionally enhance efficiency for weapons methods. Issues like weapons steerage methods, weapons community safety, processing speeds and main battle platform performance. Lengthy-range sensors for an airplane’s command and management methods and naturally procedures to mixture in any other case stovepiped knowledge methods, can all be optimized via software program upgrades.

All of this pertains to Roper’s reference to “DevStar,” a method via which the Air Power has been expediting technical improvement to deliver a brand new technology of weaponry and expertise to battle rather more shortly. A lot of this, in line with Roper’s strategic imaginative and prescient, depends upon software program integration and innovation. An Air Force DevStar paper describes it as “pace, high quality, focus and collaboration.” The concept is to, at the very least partially, circumvent or streamline prolonged, at instances, bureaucratic acquisition procedures to fast-track confirmed methods to battle, all with out compromising high quality. A lot of this, Roper has typically defined, could be expedited via digital improvement, primarily modeling designs and technical methods previous to “bending metallic.”


Roper has lengthy emphasised the significance of fast software program improvement and integration, having at one time advised reporters that software program modernization could certainly “determine who wins the subsequent war.”


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