US Air Force Uses Kubernetes System on U-2 Flight

The Kubernetes container-orchestration system will give airmen access to critical data in battle.
Chris Young

The U.S. Air Force's U-2 Federal Laboratory has announced that it used Kubernetes, an "open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management," during a training mission on a U-2 Dragon Lady on September 22.

This represents the first time Kubernetes has been used on an operational major weapon system, the U-2 Dragon Lady, by the U.S. Air Force.

The Kubernetes system is aimed at giving Airmen unprecedented access to real-time battle data, a development that could change the way the U.S. Air Force plans its future operations.


Kubernetes allows for advanced automated applications

The Kubernetes system, which was originally designed by Google and is maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, allows for the completely automated deployment of complex microservice-based applications. 

As reported in a U.S. Air Force press release, the Department of Defence (DoD) says that Kubernetes will allow military weapon systems to pool available on-board computing power together to allow for on-demand advanced computing power, something that could prove crucial on the battlefield.

US Air Force Uses Kubernetes System on U-2 Flight
The US Air Force's U-2 Dragon Lady. Source: U.S. Air Force

The U-2 Dragon Lady flight saw Kubernetes run advanced machine learning algorithms aboard the aircraft's flight-certified computers without any negative effects on the plane's flight or mission systems.

'A critical milestone' for software containerization

"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, Air Force chief software officer, explained in the press release.

The US Air Force has stated that future victories on the battlefield may largely depend on the service utilizing the latest cutting-edge digital technologies.

Demonstrating the use of Kubernetes in-flight on a major weapon system such as the U-2 Dragon Lady is one more step in the Digital Air Force's goal of giving Airmen access to critical real-time data in battle and mission situations.

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