DARPA seek­ing au­to­mated de­ci­sion aids for pi­lots and bat­tle man­agers in con­tested en­vi­ron­ments


Ad­vanced al­go­rithms, soft­ware and hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­faces are needed to help oper­a­tors man­age the scale and com­plex­ity of op­er­a­tions in near-peer con­tested en­vi­ron­ments. As commercial tech­nolo­gies be­come more ad­vanced and widely avail­able, ad­ver­saries are rapidly de­vel­op­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that put our forces at risk. To counter these threats, the US mil­i­tary is de­vel­op­ing sys­tems-of-sys­tems con­cepts in which net­works of manned and un­manned plat­forms, weapons, sen­sors, and elec­tronic war­fare sys­tems in­ter­act over ro­bust satel­lite and tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions links.

These ap­proaches of­fer flex­i­ble and pow­er­ful op­tions to the warfighter, but the com­plex­ity in­tro­duced by the in­crease in the num­ber of em­ploy­ment al­ter­na­tives cre­ates a bat­tle man­age­ment chal­lenge. Cur­rent bat­tle man­age­ment sys­tems of­ten lack the ben­e­fit of au­to­mated aids to help com­pre­hend and adapt to dy­namic sit­u­a­tions. Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, in fu­ture con­flicts US forces may face degra­da­tion or de­nial of crit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions ca­pa­bil­i­ties es­sen­tial for co­or­di­na­tion and shared sit­u­a­tion un­der­stand­ing. With both the com­plex­ity of co­or­di­nat­ing in­no­va­tive sys­tems of sys­tems, and the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of ad­ver­sary ca­pa­bil­i­ties ex­pected to grow, au­to­mated de­ci­sion aids be­come vi­tal.

The De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Dis­trib­uted Bat­tle Man­age­ment (DBM) pro­gramme aims to ad­dress these chal­lenges. The pro­gramme aims to de­velop con­trol al­go­rithms and demon­strate ro­bust de­ci­sion-aid soft­ware for bat­tle man­age­ment at the tac­ti­cal edge. “We’re look­ing for in­no­va­tive al­go­rithms from the plan­ning and con­trol the­ory com­mu­ni­ties that go be­yond cur­rent al­go­rithms, many of which as­sume as­sured com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the tac­ti­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” said Craid Lawrence, DARPA Pro­gram Man­ager. “Ad­vanced hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­ac­tion tech­nolo­gies for cock­pits and bat­tle man­ager sta­tions are also an area where we’re look­ing for novel ap­proaches to en­able greater com­pre­hen­sion and quick de­ci­sion­mak­ing in an in­creas­ingly con­tested and com­plex bat­tlespace.”

The pro­gramme en­vi­sions two phases. Phase-1 fo­cuses on tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment—plan­ning, con­trol, and sit­u­a­tion un­der­stand­ing al­go­rithms, and de­sign of ap­pro­pri­ate hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­faces—and sys­tem en­gi­neer­ing. Phase-2 plans for a team to build an in­te­grated DBM ca­pa­bil­ity to man­age air-to-air and air-to-ground com­bat in a con­tested en­vi­ron­ment and to demon­strate that ca­pa­bil­ity in large-scale sim­u­la­tion and live fly events. SP

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