Vermont National Guard Logo News
Articles
News | Feb. 12, 2020

Kessel Run Brings 'Mad Hatter' to 158th Fighter Wing

By Julie M. Shea 158th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Vermont’s 158th Fighter Wing partnered with Kessel Run to complete its first test and evaluation of their new software, a suite known as Mad Hatter, during February 2020 at the Vermont Air National Guard Base in South Burlington.

Over the course of two weeks, the Kessel Run team started with zero Mad Hatter users from the Vermont Air National Guard and grew to 78 user accounts at the 158th Maintenance Group (MXG), during which the Airmen were able to recover, service, and launch aircraft entirely using Mad Hatter applications, resulting in 10 successful sorties flown.

Mad Hatter is a U.S. Air Force team, part of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC, Detachment 12), known as Kessel Run, organized under Air Force Materiel Command in partnership with the F-35 Joint Program Office and other entities. They are a government entity and software development organization based in Boston, and are primarily focused on employing new technologies to modernize the Air Force, including innovating F-35 maintenance.

“Kessel Run is the Air Force’s first real foray into trying to do software better, smarter, faster with modern technology,” explained Alexander Morris, portfolio owner at Kessel Run and Air Force civilian employee. “Inside Kessel Run we have two branches, one is air ops… We’re under wing ops, which handles aircraft maintenance. Mad Hatter is the product name, it’s our customer-facing name for everything we make. Right now, it’s eight different applications all rolled up together.”

The Kessel Run team arrived in South Burlington in late January to provide user briefings on the functionality of the Mad Hatter suite and to complete onboarding for the first group of users. Throughout their first week in Vermont, they observed F-35 flying operations, gathered and responded to user feedback, and resolved issues where needed, further completing onboarding during January’s drill weekend.

On average, members of the 158th MXG were able to create a new account in a single day. Mad Hatter accounts are able to be created by the user, in-house, in a much shorter amount of time, and these Airmen were able to start using the application immediately. Lockheed Martin’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) has proven to be a timely process that requires filling out request forms and waiting on approval from a third party in another office, who then creates the account on the requester’s behalf. This often takes weeks or months, reducing the efficiency of onboarding new maintainers.

“Mad Hatter is a program working with Kessel Run and the DoD to create a more user-friendly program for the F-35,” said Tech. Sgt. Leah Curtin, a crew chief assigned to the 158th MXG. “Basically, to make the job easier for not only for the maintainers on the flight line but also for production and being able to schedule maintenance easier, schedule flying, and have the program all in one, live and up-to-date so anyone can actually keep tabs on what aircraft is flying, what aircraft is maintenance, and a better way to fix the jet in a reasonable amount of time.”

To address those tasks and improve the efficiency between roles, the Mad Hatter suite is currently composed of eight different applications: Fleet Management, Personnel Management, AV Schedule, Tech Orders, AV Config, Debrief, Work Orders, and Aircraft Status, all of which work in conjunction with Lockheed Martin’s ALIS.

“We’ve got eight different applications that are designed to take the functionality that is in F-35’s ALIS and modernize it to the point where we save thousands of maintenance man hours per year in duplication of entry, scheduling our folks more effectively to work on the flight line,” said Morris. “Our eight different applications – which we’ve started with and we’ll probably grow into a couple more in the future – are significantly more user-friendly, when they’re hosted in the cloud. They’re going to be adopted by the F-35 Joint Program Office into a massive overarching modernization effort.”

The primary advantage of the Mad Hatter platform is the ability to pull and transfer data between all eight applications and integrate that information into an intelligent display and readout that is consolidated onto a single screen, capable of updating in real-time due to the use of modern software technology.

“Mad Hatter provides several applications ... all within one program, very simple to navigate. It’s also very user-friendly in the way everything views. Whereas ALIS, you gotta go back and forth between windows just to accomplish one objective. Mad Hatter… it’s all right there on one page,” said Senior Airman Liam McKelvey, a crew chief assigned to the 158th MXG.

Used on government computers, the Mad Hatter interface can be accessed sitting at a desk inside an office or transferred outside, such as on the flight line, by using mobile computers with touchscreens. The Wi-Fi connectivity and application integration provide ease of use, while the use of cloud storage provides modern security.

Curtin explained that Mad Hatter has made their jobs easier, as it can be used on the go. She continued that there is excitement that the portability will allow crew chiefs to fill out forms and complete jobs immediately on the flight line, rather than hours later back in the office.

With an emphasis on user experience, the Kessel Run team was focused on developing maintainer-to-software developer relationships during their visit to the 158th Fighter Wing. During this training, 21 Kessel Run employees visited Vermont at varying times to be able to interact with Airmen. They shadowed maintainers who were using their products for the first time, provided training and tips for use, and gathered feedback on how to improve the software and user experience.

Establishing such relationships allow for coders and designers to have direct contacts for feedback, providing Mad Hatter product teams with a wealth of knowledge from the maintainers in Vermont who provide product and user experience feedback. In return, the Boston-based team is available to provide regular help desk support on all applications, quick to understand, respond, and meet the needs of the F-35 maintenance community by talking directly to the maintainers using their products.

“Two weeks ago, I was introduced to Mad Hatter, and I’m hoping it becomes a thing here and Air Force-wide,” said McKelvey. “So far, the product has been pretty handy, pretty user-friendly, and pretty easy to navigate, especially compared to [other products].”

National Guard News
An F-15 Eagle assigned to the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, flies over the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, during exercise Sentry Savannah 22-1 May 12, 2022. Sentry Savannah is the Air National Guard’s premier counter air exercise, encompassing 10 units of fourth- and fifth- generation fighter aircraft.
Sentry Savannah builds warfighter readiness, lethality
By Tech. Sgt. Morgan Whitehouse, | May 25, 2022
SAVANNAH, Ga. – About 1,300 Total Force Airmen, joint personnel and civilian partners and more than 50 airframes participated in exercise Sentry Savannah May 2-15.Hosted by the Air Dominance Center at Savannah’s Combat...

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, visits with Hawaii Army National Guard members, Maui, Hawaii, March 5, 2022. Hokanson testified May 24, 2022, before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense about operations of the Air and Army National Guard.
Recent events, past decades have transformed Guard, chief says
By Air Force Master Sgt. Erich B. Smith, | May 24, 2022
ARLINGTON, Va. – The past 20 years have proven the National Guard has transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational force, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told lawmakers Tuesday.Addressing the House Committee...

Two F-15C Eagles from the 144th Fighter Wing and two F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Fighter Wing prepare to take off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, April 18, 2022, during an Aerospace Control Alert training scramble. It has been almost a decade since F-15 Eagles have sat alert in the region, protecting the airspace of the United States and Canada.
144th Fighter Wing trains for fighter jet integration in Alaska
By Capt. Jason Sanchez, | May 24, 2022
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Ten U.S. Air Force F-15s and more than 200 Airmen assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing deployed to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to support Dissimilar Aircraft...

A ceremonial groundbreaking is held May 19, 2022, for an energy resilience project at Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California. From left: Stephanie Kline, project director, and Robert Hughes, executive director, both with the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives; Robert Smith, president of Bright Canyon Energy; Paul Farnan, principal deputy, assistant Secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment; U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Refugio Rosas, from the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard; Anthony Marasa, project manager with Bright Canyon Energy; and Lt. Col. Manju Vig, garrison commander of Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos.
Solar project begins on Los Alamitos joint base
By Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman, | May 24, 2022
LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – A 100-acre solar project that will bolster the power grid in Southern California and provide two weeks of emergency power for Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, broke ground May 19.The...

Alabama Air National Guard Master Sgt. Nathan Friday refuels a KC-135 Stratotanker the day before a joint midair refueling exercise with the 117th Air Refueling Wing and Romanian Air
Force in Bucharest, Romania, May 16, 2022. The Alabama Guard and Romania are partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
Alabama Air National Guard, Romania complete exercise
By Sgt. Samuel Hartley, | May 24, 2022
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - Alabama Air National Guard members from the 117th Air Refueling Wing conducted a week-long joint exercise with the Romanian Ministry of Defense and Romanian Air Force.U.S. Airmen and Romanian F-16 pilots...