Eglin steps up as proving ground for digital modernization effort

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The 96th Test Wing’s cutting-edge foray into digital modernization took a leap forward Feb. 28 when experts from diverse base organizations came together to tackle new developmental test programs. 

This collaboration is hosted under the Autonomy Data and AI Experimentation proving ground whose mission is to operationalize autonomy and artificial intelligence through experimentation and testing.

The ADAx is a Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office and AFWERX venture, with the 96th TW as the lead and Eglin units supporting.

“We want to prepare the warfighter for the digital future that’s upon us,” said Col. Tucker Hamilton, 96th Operations Group commander and Air Force AI test and operations chief.  “This event is about bringing the Eglin enterprise together and moving with urgency to incorporate these concepts in how we test.”

Hamilton continued by saying he wants the units to be able to experiment and try new ideas with these concepts and platforms and not be hindered or slowed down by standard military processes and the ADAX can help with those issues.

The team plans to test myriad programs to include airdropping autonomous drones, improving communications and digital interoperability, and evaluating autonomous magnetic navigation technologies; all while proving out agile processes associated with acquisition and test.

Notable efforts include the Viper Experimentation and Next-gen Ops Models (VENOM) under which Eglin F-16s will be modified into airborne flying test beds to evaluate increasingly autonomous strike package capabilities.

Additionally, Project Fast Open X-Platform (FOX) strives to establish an open software enclave to install apps directly onto aircraft without altering proprietary source code.  These apps would enable numerous mission-enhancing capabilities such as real time data analysis, threat replication for training, manned-unmanned teaming, and machine learning.

“It’s going to take big change for us to ensure our democracy is preserved,” said Hamilton.  “It’s the diverse expertise and motivation embodied by this group that will break barriers and lead to transformative war-winning capabilities.”