Maui wildfire burned ‘within 3 miles’ of a defense supercomputing data center

Operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory as part of the Space Force’s nascent 15th Space Surveillance Squadron, the supercomputing center is also currently managed under contract by the University of Hawaii. 
A member of the National Guard walks through a charred neighborhood in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 16, 2023. The number of people known to have died in the horrific wildfire that levelled a Hawaiian town reached 106 on August 15, authorities said, as a makeshift morgue was expanded to deal with the tragedy. US President Joe Biden will head to fire-ravaged Hawaii on August 21 to meet with survivors and first responders still hunting for victims, the White House said on August 16. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Though flames from the deadly wildfires that burned through Hawaii this month came within miles of the Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC), that facility — notably, one of only five Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers in the U.S. — remains fully operational with no physical damage to report, DefenseScoop confirmed on Thursday.

Still, it will likely be a long road to recovery in the wake of this historic natural disaster, for many members of DOD’s thriving supercomputing community on the island.

Launched in 1993, MHPCC houses multiple advanced military supercomputing assets and is a component within DOD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). Broadly, those key technological resources underpin research and development in fields including space domain awareness, full-spectrum cyber operations, and digital ecosystem design. The hub provides cutting-edge capabilities for teams across the DOD that perform system design, software development, research, artificial intelligence training, test and evaluation, and acquisition engineering.

Now operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) as part of the Space Force’s nascent 15th Space Surveillance Squadron, the center is also currently managed under contract by the University of Hawaii. 


In separate responses to inquiries from DefenseScoop this week, officials from AFRL and the university said that, so far, there is no major destruction to MHPCC facilities — and that all academic, government and contracting staff associated with MHPCC are accounted for at publication.

“Despite having no direct impact to the site and its assets, the people and supporting community are impacted indirectly, by friends and family being directly impacted. The loss of life and homes are felt throughout the community as we rally to support all those displaced; contributing our time, personal resources, and individual skills to the response and recovery of the neighborhoods,” said Scott Pierce, AFRL’s MHPCC, 15th Space Surveillance Squadron director.

More than 100 people have been confirmed dead — and hundreds more remain missing — in the early aftermath of several devastating wildfires that broke out in Maui just over a week ago.

“Though wildfires near Kihei reached within 3 miles of the datacenter, MHPCC experienced no damage to any of its facilities or assets,” Pierce told DefenseScoop.

Beyond also confirming that MHPCC is at this point operational, a spokesperson from the University of Hawaii told DefenseScoop that the Air Force has been checking in with its team — and “seeing how we can help others on Maui with needs.”

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop's Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

Latest Podcasts