Our friends in the Air Force have graciously consented for Mav6 to create a Blue Devil Block II (BD2) blog dedicated to documenting the experiences, milestones, and lessons learned associated with this important program.
Under contract to the U.S. Air Force, Mav6 is building a prototype multi-sensor persistent aerial fusion node hosted on a massive 350-foot optionally piloted airship. The BD2 airship is designed to stay aloft for close to a week carrying a mission payload of 2,500 lbs or more. It features a modular Payload Integration Infrastructure (PII) based on the NATO 463L pallet system, which enables new payloads to be installed on the airship in a matter of hours without incurring permanent modifications to the airframe. This “federated” payload approach enables true plug-and-play functionality so that mission systems can be quickly configured in the field to accommodate the widest range of operational needs. The BD2 airship boasts an unprecedented 19,000 cubic feet of available payload volume, making it uniquely suited for a wide range of mission applications.
The BD2 airship will host over a dozen independent payloads, to include, wide-area EO/IR sensors, multiple SIGINT sensors, multiple Full Motion Video EO/IR gimbals, and a laser communications data link. All of these payloads are connected to an on-board super-computing infrastructure that has the equivalent processing power of 2,000 single-core servers. This computational infrastructure normalizes, indexes, and compresses all of the sensor data feeds to enable automated cueing between different sensor assets for enhanced target detection and characterization. The platform-based processing also significantly reduces the analyst burden by optimizing the data presented to the analyst based on specific user-defined filters. Finally, an on-board data storage and retrieval system allows multiple users to remotely search and analyze historical sensor data.
Pretty cool stuff.
But the most significant contribution of the BD2 program may have less to do with the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities it delivers and more to do with what it can teach DoD and the Defense industry about the proper mode and conduct of Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) development efforts. The BD2 program is at a scale and complexity that goes well beyond normal QRC activities. Think about it. We are literally building a massive new aircraft from the ground up while simultaneously integrating all of the associated systems required to support the Air Force’s ISR mission. But it is this scale and complexity that make BD2 such an appropriate laboratory for developing and validating new QRC processes and methodologies.
This blog memorializes lessons and insights from the BD2 program that will (hopefully) inform future QRC programs. In order for DoD to remain competitive in the contemporary threat environment, it must internalize the QRC approach (faster, better, cheaper) as a core competency. And in order for this to happen, DoD and the Defense industry must develop a corporate memory concerning the proper mode and conduct for QRC programs. The BD2 blog is a small step in that direction.