Open Innovation for Faster Fighter Jet Upgrades

Published Oct-16-19

Speeding up software development for one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets.

Lockheed Martin, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation for Faster Fighter Jet Upgrades Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor, a single-seat, fifth-generation twin-engine stealth tactical aircraft is one of the world's most advanced and fastest fighter jets. However, concerns that processes governing its software development were too slow led the global aerospace corporation to adopt open innovation approaches.

Fifth-generation is a jet fighter classification used all over the world that encompasses fighter technologies developed during the first half of the 21st century. As other nations began to test-fly and deploy their own fifth-generation fighters, Lockheed Martin concluded that its software development processes were delivering new capabilities too slowly for the Raptor to maintain its dominance.

For example, according to Michael Cawood, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-16 and F-22 product development, it took the company two to three years to develop a plan for new F-22 capability and around seven years to deliver it.

So Lockheed Martin worked with Red Hat, an American multinational software corporation that provides open-source software products.

The engagement started with a small team from each company meeting for an eight-week pop-up open innovation residency. “We like to keep it to what we call a two pizza team—eight from Lockheed Martin and six from our side,” said Will Watkins, transformation lead for Red Hat’s consulting arm, the Open Innovation Labs.

During this time the Lockheed Martin team was kept away from colleagues and management to let them “really focus on discovering what was possible” with development processes and automated software tools.

Open Innovation Benefits

The fruits of this open innovation approach were soon forthcoming. Thanks to the pop-up residency, Lockheed Martin replaced the cumbersome development program used for F-22 upgrades with an agile methodology and DevSecOps (development, security and operations) practices. Together, Lockheed Martin and Red Hat created an open architecture to accelerate application development and delivery.

The first product to come off the production line was a new communications capability for the Raptor that was developed in one year instead of the four it would have taken with the company’s traditional development process.

Spreading Knowledge

In addition to a faster development process, Lockheed Martin sought to capitalize on skills it had learned through working with Red Hat by hiring facilitators to transfer that knowledge to more than 100 employees.

“By working with the Red Hat Open Innovation Labs team, we changed everything ‒ our toolchain, our process, and most importantly, our culture. With our new culture firmly rooted in DevSecOps and agile, and a more flexible platform based on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, the F-22 team will continue its work to ensure the Raptor meets America’s defense needs,” added Cawood.

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