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AFSAC develops first FMS case for Kessel Run software.

Graphic illustrating the air-to-air refueling (AAR) process using software to automatically calculate fuel loads and flight paths. (Courtesy graphic)

Graphic illustrating the air-to-air refueling (AAR) process using software to automatically calculate fuel loads and flight paths. (Courtesy graphic)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- In May 2021, the NATO interoperability exercise Ramstein Ambition 21 made headlines about the successful execution of JIGSAW, a software package developed by Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Detachment 12, also known as Kessel Run, used for planning tanker refueling missions.

NATO purchased the software capability through Foreign Military Sales (FMS). It was a classic example of technology replacing manual methods. Prior to JIGSAW, NATO members would use markers and a white board to manually develop a Tanker Plan to support a day’s Air Tasking Order (ATO) missions. Now, a software application helps develop ATO missions in a fraction of the time.

Behind-the-scenes, AFLCMC’s Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate (AFSAC) worked directly with NATO to clarify requirements and develop the formal FMS case. The case was the first-of-its-kind. No Kessel Run software had ever been purchased as an FMS capability.

“Writing the first FMS case for this capability had many challenges and obstacles to overcome,” explained AFSAC NATO Command Country Manager Tammy Heron. “There was no precedence for how to write an FMS case for JIGSAW.”

Heron and her team were assigned to the NATO FMS portfolio and worked with NATO representatives from idea to final delivery of the capability. They held multiple stakeholder meetings to identify the appropriate points and keep all agencies involved up-to-date with this novel case development.

With this FMS case being a first for Kessel Run, Heron and her team provided the oversight and AFSAC FMS expertise on the FMS process for the Kessel Run team.
They also carefully reviewed FMS case lines to make sure everything was developed to meet the final capability delivery requirements of the NATO partner.

“The results of this FMS case were game-changing,” emphasized Heron. “Before using JIGSAW, air-to-air refueling (AAR) was a very cumbersome process that would require 7-10 AAR planning staff to spend 3-8 hours per Tanker Plan depending on the complexity of the plan. They would literally print out the schedules, tape them together, and use a slide rule and calculator to manually do the math for each mission. If there was a significant change near the end of the planning day, then it was impossible to provide an adequate or accurate AAR plan.”

NATO will use the JIGSAW software as an interim solution pending development of an internal NATO Platform which will host the rest of Det. 12’s ATO/ACO planning software suite of applications…KRADOS. NATO is hoping to have its platform ready to receive KRADOS within the next few months.  Because of the successful execution of the experimental software at Ramstein Ambition 21, the NATO Innovation Cell and Kessel Run are looking at more potential collaboration opportunities in the future.