WPAFB launches first of its kind supercomputing capability

Local News

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (WDTN) – Top secret research at Wright Patterson Air Force Base is moving to the cutting edge.

Tuesday, base leaders and community stakeholders attended a ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking to debut the first ever “Shared Above-Secret Department of Defense High Performance Computing Capability.”

The ceremony unveiled four new supercomputers at the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) DoD Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC).

The high-performance machines are all named after famous aircrafts: Mustang, Shadow, Spectre and Voodoo. They’re designed to accomplish complicated tasks necessary for research and development.

“On a regular, old-fashioned work station, what would take years, is now down to weeks or days,” explained Kelly Dalton, the technology director at the AFRL.

Lloyd Slonaker, chief of the Advanced Hardware and Software branch at AFRL added, “We’re looking at everything (from) downt to the microscopic, sub-atomic levels all the way up to where we’re looking at satellites.”

While the research lab has used high performance computing for years, the new additions afford a new level of security for shared information. The AFRL DSRC explained globalization and international security risks are changing computing needs.

“It has to be locked down to the point where we ensure only our researchers have that information,” said Tim Yeager, the AFRL systems security chief.

Tuesday’s groundbreaking is part of secure addition to the existing AFRL building. It will house top-secret supercomputers Shadow, Spectre and Voodoo to create the DoD’s first ever shared, classified high-performance supercomputing center.

All of the machines require their own infrastructure. 

Mustang is currently operating in a separate building with other non-classified supercomputers, which runs on as much power as downtown Dayton and uses its own water supply to keep everything cool.

The complexity of operating supercomputing systems makes the new sharing options more cost-effective for taxpayers. Rather than each base or project building and operating its own system, they can streamline research from Wright-Patt’s central base.

Staff explained the greater availability will save the DoD billions of dollars, while also making life-saving reseach more accessible.

“We can go through and test different parameters… and nobody was put at risk. No test pilots were put at risk, no soldiers were put at risk,” Yeager said.

The AFRL Department of Defense DoD Supercomputing Resource Center, created in 1994, is one of four sites included in the congressionally funded High Performance Computing Modernization Program. 

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