In a First for the DoD, Kubernetes Installed on U-2 Dragon Lady – Aviation Today

A U-2 Dragon Lady equipped with a U-2 Federal Lab-developed open software architecture orchestrated by Kubernetes parks on the flight line Sept. 22, 2020, at Beale Air Force Base, California.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

For the first time, Kubernetes, an open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management, was used on an operational major weapons system in the Department of Defense (DoD). The U-2 Federal Laboratory used Kubernetes during a September U-2 Dragon Lady test flight, the Air Force confirmed in an Oct. 6 press release[1].

During the test flight, which took place at Beale Air Force Base in California, the flight computers on the U-2 were able to use Kubernetes to run advanced machine learning algorithms without any impact on the aircraft’s flight or mission systems.

“The successful combination of the U-2’s legacy computer system with the modern Kubernetes software was a critical milestone for the development of software containerization on existing Air Force weapon systems,” Nicolas Chaillan, the Air Force Chief Software Officer, said in the release.

Kubernetes, which was designed by Google and now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, uses a container-centric management environment that powers computing, networking, and storage. It also allows for the deployment of complex microservice-based applications with complete automation, according to the Air Force.

The U-2 Federal Laboratory promotes “edge development,” developing new software integration on operational systems in a bounded, safe environment, and brings vertical integration to the aircraft bringing together the warfighter, developer, and acquirer. It is a 15 U.S.C. compliant organization and is approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish the 20th Laboratory Accreditation Program in the federal government.

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