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University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Strengthen Partnership with Cooperative Research and Development Agreement

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April 8, 2022

University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Strengthen Partnership with Cooperative Research and Development Agreement

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The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) at Tinker Air Force Base and the University of Oklahoma are working together to create innovative solutions for national defense sustainment and modernization challenges. OU and OC-ALC have now further strengthened their collaboration with the establishment of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. The agreement formalizes the exploration of artificial intelligence and machine learning for defense software applications.

OU Senior Associate Vice President for Research And Partnerships, John Antonio, said the focus of the agreement is to establish “end-to-end research and development, including the deployment of a software pipeline for the implementation of intelligent algorithms.”

The OC-ALC is one of the largest units in Air Force Materiel Command and is responsible for the development and sustainment of a diverse portfolio of aircraft, weapon systems and mission-critical software for the Air Force. The 76th Software Engineering Group is one of five groups within OC-ALC that work together to provide maintenance, sustainment and innovation support for the Air Force. The 76 SWEG delivers a wide spectrum of software and systems engineering solutions in a dynamic cyber environment.

“At Tinker Air Force Base, we employ around 1,500 computer scientists and software engineers drawn from across this region, and OU is really our primary partner for us as far as developing a strong pipeline of engineers to be able to do this portfolio of work,” said Michael Jennings, senior leader for weapon system software sustainment for the Air Force Sustainment Center at OC-ALC.

“When we talk about modern weapons systems, like he F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it’s a really amazing piece of aerospace equipment, but it is also an extremely complex software system with millions of lines of code integrated into this complex system that is interacting with its environment to keep the pilot safe and flying faster and higher than anybody else,” Jennings said. “Our goal is to ensure that those pilots have the best capability possible…that our warfighters have the most capable systems with the best insight into the environment around them. The engineers and scientists within these software groups are the Air Force’s organic expertise to be able to do this work.”

“Software is driving capabilities across the battlespace, and that’s only going to continue,” said Jenniffier Bieberbach, technical director for the 76th Software Engineering Group. “From the 76th SWEG perspective, one of the things we rely on this partnership with OU for is to give us a way to reach back into the academic community to augment our technical skillsets to continue to support modern weapons systems software development. With respect to AI/ML, that is an area where we know we are going to need to grow and one way we are looking to do that is through direct collaboration with OU through OADII and this partnership.

OC-ALC researchers sit at a table discussing their latest project
Personnel with the 76th Software Engineering Group on the OU Norman campus

OC-ALC established a satellite research office on the OU Norman campus to ease collaboration between researchers and students and 76 SWEG civilian software and computer engineers. OU established the Oklahoma Aerospace and Defense Innovation Institute with leadership provided by its inaugural executive director Lt. Gen. (ret) Gene Kirkland.  

Kirkland said, “OADII brings together OU’s capabilities and resources with a network of industry and government partners to impact sustainment and modernization of U.S. defense, radar innovations, advanced technologies, and international security policy.”

By working with faculty and students, Bieberbach said the 76 SWEG can gain a fresh perspective to approach challenges from a different angle and discover innovative solutions yielded faster.

This latest agreement follows the establishment of an Educational Partnership Agreement between the two organizations in 2020 to improve and enhance aerospace technology development and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Megan Allen, program manager for the 76 SWEG, said a benefit of the partnership is to help orient students to OC-ALC’s mission and the impact of the work they could engage in as employees post graduation.

“Our opportunity to be on campus is vitally important to help orient students to our mission and what it’s like to work with us,” Allen said. “Our vision is to allow our recruiting team to start engaging with students early in their academic careers, so we can establish those relationships and provide a multitude of opportunities to engage with Tinker and the work that we do at the 76 SWEG.”

Additionally, the collaboration provides unique professional development opportunities for current OC-ALC personnel.

“One of the goals of the partnerships is for our existing workforce to work directly with OU faculty and develop collaborative professional development opportunities for our employees,” she said.

The sustainment and modernization partnership between OU and the OC-ALC has supported multiple collaborative engineering projects, and academic research advancements for both organizations, with several upcoming research efforts in development.