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AEDC Test and Communications Branch provides secure data, communications capabilities

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

The Test and Communications Branch, or TSDI, operates across the Arnold Engineering Development Complex as part of the Test Support Division located at Arnold Air Force Base. The TSDI team provides the networks, data collection equipment, analysis tools, and functional expertise to ensure data is collected, analyzed and securely delivered to both local users and test customers.

Three sections make up the TSDI Branch: Plans and Operations, Test Information Systems and Cybersecurity. All three sections work together to meet the test mission requirements at Arnold Air Force Base, the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, and AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland. The TSDI team, which includes U.S. Air Force civilians and contractors, also works closely with the other geographically separated units across AEDC to ensure they have the information technology systems necessary to meet mission requirements.

 “Each of the TSDI sections have their own responsibilities, but are tightly integrated in working to support test operations across AEDC,” said Brandon Stiles, chief of the Test and Base Communications Branch. “The sections work daily to resolve operational issues and to plan for and deliver new capabilities to meet future needs of the Complex.”

The Plans and Operations Section is responsible for standard base communications, which includes computer systems, telephones, land mobile radios, fiber optics inside buildings and outside to allow for connectivity between buildings, network equipment, servers, software development and help desk services. The section supports the Test Information Systems and Cybersecurity Sections by installing and maintaining these systems, along with providing functional information technology expertise.

For Air Force Enterprise provided capabilities, such as the internet, email, and other Office 365 capabilities, the Plans and Operations team works closely with the Air Force network team to support their efforts to meet the daily mission requirements.

“We’ve had a lot of Information Technology improvement efforts at AEDC during the past two years,” said Eric Scurry, Chief of the TSDI Plans and Operations Section. “We’ve replaced all of the NIPRNet (Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network) and SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) workstations and all the local servers that support AEDC operations. In addition, all of the network infrastructure equipment was upgraded within the past few years.

“Now that we’ve upgraded and improved our primary IT infrastructure, we’re working to improve user capabilities through increases in external bandwidth, new telephone equipment, and utilization of network analysis tools.”

The Test Information Systems Section provides instrumentation, data acquisition and control, or ID&C, systems support to AEDC test facilities, primarily at Arnold, NFAC and Tunnel 9. The team is tasked with developing and maintaining the hardware and software required to deliver a simulated test environment while also being able to collect, process and analyze data from AEDC test cells and facilities.

“We think of ourselves as both having an operational need and a development need,” said Cameron Liner, Chief of the TSDI Test Information Systems Section. “Maintaining strict configuration control of our data acquisitions systems is critical to providing a high-quality product to our test customers that’s repeatable every time they come back to us.”

The Cybersecurity Section is responsible for communications security, which includes providing for secure transmission of information and communications. In addition, the emissions security, or TEMPEST, staff focuses on preventing spurious transmissions from electronic equipment and cables from being intercepted.

Another part of their role is to continually monitor the evolving cyber environment to maintain awareness of cyber threats and policy changes. They use the cyber information gathered to interpret and implement processes to protect AEDC networks and systems. The mission of the section supports the other two sections by staying vigilant in securing the systems under their responsibility.

“Cybersecurity is constantly trying to stay ahead of our adversaries,” said Ralph Stebbins, Wing Cybersecurity Officer and Chief of the TSDI Cybersecurity Section. “It is an intense pace at which we operate. We get as many as 15 cybersecurity orders a week that must be implemented across 3,000 to 6,000 computers. This requires a great deal of focus, manpower, and a knowledgeable staff to complete the full implementation.”

Together the three sections enable fellow AEDC team members to execute the mission to support the National Defense Strategy.

“Our effort and challenge every day is to manage the balance between the security of our systems while also working to provide strong operational performance of those systems to our users,” Stiles said.