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Software flight 'Conjures' warfighter solutions

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Douglas Aliano
  • 375th Communications Support Squadron

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – The 375th Communications Support Squadron software services flight, Air Mobility Command’s only software factory, have developed and published a brand name and logo. The flight will now be known as “Conjure,” a name inextricably linked to the 375th CSPTS “wizard” mascot and AMC's airlift heritage of the Phoenix. The software development team has proven their ability to conjure software solutions to warfighter problems at the speed of relevance, and now they will have a unique and recognizable name and logo to display beside the other DoD software organizations.

Conjure is directly supporting AMC’s global mission by maintaining and refining Magellan, a web-based application used for long range planning and optimization of AMC cargo and tanker aircraft requests. Additionally, the team is updating the Attachment Three Assessment Tool used by HQ AMC to conduct continual evaluation of wing programs across the command. The men and women of the 375th CSPTS take great pride in their mission and are excited to display the Conjure brand.

Picture this, excel spreadsheets with 15-thousand data points to plan 6-thousand mobility aircraft sorties, spanning nine aircraft types across organizations spread around the globe. With the help of an agile software development team, the process for planning global air mobility allocation got a modern reboot with the scheduling tool, Magellan – and it took less than a year to deploy across Air Mobility Command.

Conjure partnered with Pivotal Labs, AMC/A3 (Operations, Plans and Requirements), and the Air Force Operational Energy office to create a digital application for the long-term scheduling of mobility “tails and crews.” In January 2020, AMC officially recognized Magellan as a tool of choice for allocation planning and began integrating it into normal operations in the following months. Hosted on the Kessel Run platform, Magellan enables operational planners to allocate mobility aircraft and crews over several months, providing greater visibility and allowing them to de-conflict recurring missions and high-demand periods.

Previously, planners were required to use spreadsheets, email and conference calls – often needing to spend several hours each week to sync information across wings and address overlapping missions. Today, the teams can log onto Magellan where aircraft and crew data are updated and synced automatically, saving them hundreds of man-hours each month by eliminating the need for multiple Allocation Development Team and steering group meetings. Since then, the 618th Air Operation Center’s now uses the application as the single source of truth for the Readiness Driven Allocation Process.

Senior Airman Dane Hansen, the Magellan product manager, guided feature prioritization and development to ensure the application improves planning efficiency and provides greater visibility on aircraft location and crew availability. AMC now has the ability to see capacity data, or the number of available aircraft, at a base for a chosen timeframe. Magellan alerts planners if there are too many tasks for each day, highlighting when they need to adjust crew or aircraft allocation. The tool can also provide increased flexibility when last-minute scheduling conflicts occur or when changes are needed.

Hansen led the Magellan development effort for Conjure, working side-by-side with Airmen and contractors in designing, coding and updating the software. When the effort kicked off in April 2019, the team of approximately 15 Airmen traveled to Pivotal Labs’s Chicago office on a rotating basis to receive comprehensive training in software engineering. As they’ve completed training, the Airmen returned to Scott AFB to continue developing the product. The 375th CSPTS has leveraged this training to award a special experience identifier to the Airmen in order to better manage talent and training requirements for future coders and AMC software products.

The development team released a minimal viable product to the customer in only 62 days. Since its release, they have continually updated the tool’s capabilities through five major features and 347 minor features, allowing for broader use outside of the original scope. For example, the tool originally accommodated requests for aircraft only, but now operational planners can take those requests and build allocation plans with a new interactive interface that can rebalance aircraft and crews in real-time. 

In April, Magellan was used to brief AMC senior leaders on how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact operations, giving them real-time data to make informed decisions about global air mobility requirements. This crisis response planning enabled the first use of a Transport Isolation System aboard a C-17 for three COVID-19 positive patients from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base.

To date, the tool has nearly 200 users worldwide and the team will continue to expand its utility and provide any needed maintenance. The development team has fielded over 1400 user requests, and they are planning to make Magellan available for classified data starting this June.