FEBRUARY 2, 2023 – The 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron hit major milestones in the development and testing of their Multi-Utilization Secure Tactical and Network Ground Station, or MUSTANGS, through its recent participation in Pacific Edge 22.
During the exercise, MUSTANGS proved its ability to process, curate, and send F-35A Lightning II data over-the-horizon to a reprogramming laboratory, all in a matter of minutes.
Part of the Crowd-Sourced Flight Data program, MUSTANGS is a mobile vehicle that can download, process, and offload important data from Quick Reaction Instrumentation Package-equipped aircraft without the need for fixed, operational test infrastructure.
“Right now, MUSTANGS are for the test community, but it has massive operational implications,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Malafa, 59th TES commander. “Our intent is to reduce risk and show the CAF (Combat Air Forces) the value of obtaining and communicating data from the operational edge.”
Before MUSTANGS, edge-collected data had to be downloaded in a secure facility, transferred to a hard drive or disk, and hand-delivered to a data customer; an outdated process that is cumbersome and too slow for the rapidly changing operational environment.
With MUSTANGS, however, the 59th TES has proven that data processing is flexible, reliable, deployable, and most importantly: immediate.
“A modern, contested environment is constantly changing,” Malafa said. “The faster and more accurate data is made available to decision makers, the more likely the warfighter will succeed over the adversary.”
The 59th TES is looking to generate another MUSTANGS milestone during the upcoming exercise, Northern Edge 23. The team plans to use F-35s participating in the exercise to find a unique waveform in the operating environment, transfer that data to MUSTANGS, curate the data, and make it available to the U.S. Reprogramming Laboratory, which is managed by the 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The 513th EWS is responsible for producing Mission Data Files for all U.S. F-35s, including those flown by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, making them the most lethal and survivable combat aircraft.
Once the 513th EWS receives the data, they analyze and action it to reprogram and updated MDF, push it to the MUSTANG, and load it back on the F-35s prior to their next flight. This process normally takes days to weeks and has never been accomplished before in a matter of hours.
“Data evolutions like MUSTANGS turn edge data into information rapidly, which is exactly the kind of innovation we need to stay ahead in the modern age of warfare,” Malafa said. “There is no doubt that those who can transmit information at the speed of relevance will win.”
By 1st Lt. Lindsey Heflin
53rd Wing Public Affairs