586th FLTS testing software management program for aircraft

Kubernetes is being implemented on the instrumentation system of T-38 aircraft for a flight test by the Arnold Engineering Development Complex 586th Flight Test Squadron, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. (Air Force photograph)

The Arnold Engineering Development Complex 586th Flight Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is conducting a test program to evaluate potential for the platform Kubernetes to be used in operational aircraft.

Kubernetes, according to kubernetes.io, is an “open-source system for automating deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications.” The container system allows applications to be isolated, preventing failure of one piece of software from impacting other software installations. The information passed between containers can also be controlled.

The 586th FLTS implemented Kubernetes onto their T-38 Talon instrumentation system for a flight test scheduled for Sept. 18. A portion of an operational flight program software was installed within the containers to demonstrate that Kubernetes could run on the OFP aircraft. The T-38 instrumentation it was installed on is not critical to flight of the aircraft. This allows for testing in a safe and secure environment.

Kubernetes provides benefits in both the test and the operational flight environments.

“These features will allow us to host low TRL (technology readiness level) experiments on our instrumentation system without worrying that it will damage or disrupt our instrumentation system,” said Capt. Trevor Breau, assistant director of operations for the 586th FLTS.

“In an operational setting, software containers could allow quicker software updates by reducing the amount of regression testing required,” he said. “Additionally, Kubernetes could enable rolling software updates, much like Google or Amazon, where the old software seamlessly hands over to the new software without interruption.”

Kubernetes also holds potential for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, outreach for the Air Force.

“Because of the inherent safety of software containers, we could potentially host programs written by high school or college students in a software challenge or competition,” Breau said.

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