WASHINGTON — With help from Silicon Valley, the nation’s youngest military branch is already proving it can do business faster than its more established sibling services.
The US Space Force, in partnership with VMware, accelerated the development of several technology applications for the service’s space software package. The cloud-based software package, affectionately dubbed Kobayashi Maru (a “Star Trek” reference), was developed by Palo Alto-based Palantir Systems and is used by both the US Air Force and US Space Force. to track and monitor objects in space.
U.S. Air Force Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, who is currently leading efforts to further develop Kobayashi Maru’s capabilities, spoke to CNBC exclusively about how the services branch uses its relationships with the private tech sector.
“Traditionally, with DoD software, development takes a very, very, very long time, and then by the time something is delivered, it may no longer be operationally relevant to the warfighter,” Krolikowski explained. , the Principal Materials Manager for Space C2 at Space and Missile Systems Center, a component of the US Space Force.
“The legacy application we had before took about three years to build and cost about 10 times the cost of what we were able to do in six months with VMware support,” Krolikowski said.
President Donald Trump first floated the idea of Space Force as part of his National Security Strategy on March 13, 2018.
“Space is a combat domain, just like land, air and sea,” Trump told an audience of military personnel at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “We can even have a space force, develop another one, the space force. We have the air force, we will have the space force.” Three months later, Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin building the new branch immediately.
In January, Trump unveiled the Space Force logo, which looks a lot like the fictional Starfleet from Star Trek.
And earlier this year, 86 cadets graduated from the US Air Force Academy and were commissioned into the US Space Force for the first time.
Krolikowski, who holds multiple advanced engineering degrees, said one of his main goals is to configure Kobayashi Maru for Space Force in a way that allows the software to continually evolve. One of the ways the service has been able to do this is by identifying and partnering with tech industry leaders on specific needs.
“The way the DoD has previously built software is that we would hire a contractor who would kind of do the whole project. They would be responsible for applications, platforms and infrastructure,” she said. explained, adding that the approach was not always effective or efficient. .
“If we separate those elements, we can get the best people working on each of those particular layers and that’s where we brought in VMware because if we were to build it ourselves or work with a company that doesn’t didn’t have that level of expertise, we would still be working on it,” Krolikowski said.
Edward Hieatt, senior vice president of services and support at VMware, said the company’s successful partnership with the youngest services arm was down to collaboration.
“We teach customers like Space Force how to modernize their existing applications and infrastructure and build new, modern applications for themselves; we don’t just do it for them. It’s powerful because it empowers Space Force Airmen to be self-sustaining and leverage modern software and infrastructure to achieve mission results faster,” Hieatt told CNBC.
“It used to take eight to ten years to acquire, develop, accredit and deploy usable software. We teach Airmen and soldiers to do this in months,” he added.