CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
“We adjust our weapon delivery systems to prohibit damage to unintended targets. The communication in doing so is improved massively with my program,” said Capt. Ryan DeCarlis, 16th Special Operations Squadron copilot. “It’s all about having the most situational awareness as a platform as possible. With all the people working onboard [an AC-130W Stinger II], it’s vital. It’s just another feature that keeps us on top of our game.”
DeCarlis took up an opportunity to work on a program that, according to him, had flaws.
“Existing software gives us that battlefield awareness,” DeCarlis said. “Essentially, data files were unnecessarily large when sent from the intelligence community to the pilots, so I trimmed these files to accelerate the communication between the two.”
Imagine sending an email to someone with a large attachment. It’s a large file being transmitted digitally through many miles separating you, the database to which the email service is based from, and the recipient. Sending a large map of an event to someone? It might take a while.
What DeCarlis is essentially doing is trimming the file size down. By trimming unnecessary information stuck around the file, the file now gets sent from intel databases to AC-130W crews must faster. It sounds like a simple process, but the work put into it was anything but.
He started working on these systems soon after completing AC-130W pilot training in October 2016. After completing this training, he completed a further three months of qualification to become fully combat mission ready. It was during this period that he found the time to code his program.
“[The first part of the development process] was testing out the installed software,” DeCarlis explained. “What needs to be in it to work? That was the first step.”
DeCarlis’s years of toying around with programming came into hand well, but he couldn’t program, test and approve the program all by himself. He then gained the help and support from one of the more experienced combat systems operators and was taken out to an aircraft and began to test file uploads.
“I got an idea of how it should work…there were a couple weeks of writing code for me. I had to think how users onboard, in the middle of a flight, could use this software toward completing a task that was important.”
Once coding had completed the following January, the program began to go through the proper channels within DeCarlis’s unit to ensure it became approved for official use. The final product was tested in combat for the first time March 2017, and since then, the results have been successful.
“It’s been used in every combat mission since it was introduced,” DeCarlis said. “No one has struggled to get it to work. There’s also a 0% failure rate of it being used in the past seven months.”
Every 16th SOS mission has used his program since its introduction. Currently, it’s being used with Cannon missions only.
The key to this was thinking one step ahead of the curve.
“I had to take into consideration all the possible software and user errors that could occur whilst it’s in use,” DeCarlis said.
This is one example of how 16th SOS aircrews are keeping Air Force Special Operations Command operations relevant to the fight today and ready for the fight tomorrow. Airmen aren’t just getting the job done, they’re fully devoted to innovating how it’s done. DeCarlis was just doing what he loves, and saved the Air Force thousands of dollars and programmed a system that will further prevent unnecessary casualties in combat.
“I can’t think of any other platform in the Air Force that runs as fast as ours,” DeCarlis said. “Tons of people in my squadron are doing great stuff. We make decisions at a very low level for policy and how we’re going to use new technology at an operational capacity.”