Military

2020/09/18 Creating Cross-Domain Kill Webs in Real Time

Two DARPA-developed technologies – a novel decision aid for mission commanders and a rapid software integration tool – played a critical role in the recent Air Force demonstration of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). The Adapting Cross-domain Kill-webs (ACK) program and the System-of-systems Technology Integration Tool Chain for Heterogeneous Electronic Systems (STITCHES) were among a number of technologies employed in the Aug. 31 – Sep. 4 ABMS on-ramp demonstration, which involved attacks using live aircraft, ships, air defense batteries, and other assets. ACK is developing a decision aid for mission commanders to assist them with rapidly identifying and selecting options for tasking – and re-tasking – assets within and across organizational boundaries. Specifically, ACK assis...

2020/09/18 Teams Demonstrate Swarm Tactics in Fourth Major OFFSET Field Experiment

DARPA OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) researchers recently tested swarms of autonomous air and ground vehicles at the Leschi Town Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF), located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington. The Leschi Town field experiment is the fourth of six planned experiments for the OFFSET program, which seeks to develop large-scale teams of collaborative autonomous systems capable of supporting ground forces operating in urban environments. [embedded content] Two Swarm Systems Integrators – Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Raytheon BBN Technologies – are creating swarm systems architectures, advanced interfaces, and virtual and physical swarm testbeds for OFFSET. The Swarm Systems Integrators tested their autonomous platforms – comprising...

2020/09/04 DARPA’s SIGMA Program Transitions to Protect Major U.S. Metropolitan Region

On a blustery winter day last December, a car carrying radioactive material approached one of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s major transportation hubs. As the car got closer, an alarm flashed and sounded on a large monitor in the police operations center, identifying on a digital map the exact location of the vehicle and the specific radioactive isotope radiating from the car – Cesium-137. Within minutes, officers in the Port Authority Police Department – equipped with vehicle-mounted and pocket-sized radiation sensors displaying the same real-time digital map – tracked the vehicle and apprehended the suspects in a parking lot. Thankfully, the potential terrorists and radiation-emitting isotope were not a threat, as the scenario was only a drill. The December exercise mark...

2020/09/02 Episode 32: The Opportunity Hunter

In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Air Force Lt. Col. C. David Lewis, a program manager since 2018 in the agency’s Defense Sciences Office, takes listeners on a tour of the amazingly diverse portfolio of programs he oversees. The foci of these range from the deep math underlying optimization challenges, such as planning complex routes and managing supply chains, to using untapped signals in the atmosphere as indicators of both natural and human activities on the planet’s surface. He also shares a chronicle of his navigation, as a Black person, through the individual and systemic racism that confronted him as he pursued his love of science (which his sixth-grade teacher and key educational ally recognized) and later his ambition to become a fighter pilot (and even an astronau...

2020/09/01 DARPA Completes Key Milestone on Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Program

DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) today announced successful completion of captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year. The joint Agency and Service effort seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. HAWC performers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight. Their upcoming flight tests will focus on hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufact...

2020/08/26 AlphaDogfight Trials Foreshadow Future of Human-Machine Symbiosis

A small Maryland company took first place in last week’s AlphaDogfight Trials Final event, a three-day competition designed to demonstrate advanced algorithms capable of performing simulated, within-visual-range air combat maneuvering – commonly known as a dogfight. Heron Systems’ F-16 AI agent defeated seven other companies’ F-16 AI agents and then went on to dominate the main event – a series of simulated dogfights against an experienced Air Force F-16 pilot – winning 5-0 through aggressive and precise maneuvers the human pilot couldn’t outmatch. “The AlphaDogfight Trials were a phenomenal success, accomplishing exactly what we’d set out to do,” said Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “The goal was to earn the respect of a fighter pilot – ...

2020/08/25 DARPA’s Gremlins Program Completes Second Flight Test in Demonstration Series

After meeting several primary objectives during risk reduction flights at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in late July, DARPA’s Gremlins program now is targeting additional tests of its X-61A vehicle later this year. The program seeks to develop and demonstrate air launch and air recovery of up to four unmanned aerial systems (UASs), known as Gremlins Air Vehicles (or just Gremlins), within 30 minutes. Over several days in July, the technology development team completed multiple flight tests of the Gremlins air-vehicle ground and recovery systems, including demonstration of a recovery system safely retrieving and stowing the air vehicles. The team also conducted a controlled launch of a Gremlin flying for more than two hours and performed rendezvous and autonomous formation s...

2020/08/07 AlphaDogfight Trials Go Virtual for Final Event

The third and final competition in DARPA’s AlphaDogfight Trials will take place virtually August 18-20 instead of in person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Participating teams and audience members will watch online as artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms control simulated F-16 fighters in aerial combat, culminating in a matchup on August 20 between the top AI and an experienced Air Force fighter pilot flying a virtual reality F-16 simulator. “We weren’t able to host the finals at AFWERX in Las Vegas as we’d originally planned with fighter pilots from the Air Force Weapons School at nearby Nellis Air Force Base,” said Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “We are still excited to see how the AI algorithms perform against each other as w...

2020/07/30 Enhancing Understanding of Legacy Code to Simplify Software Re-engineering Process

Defense and commercial systems alike are riddled with legacy software that is difficult to modernize, enhance, and re-engineer, largely due to a lack of effective understanding of the underlying legacy code, which makes predicting the effect of modifications a challenge. From a defense perspective, there is a growing need to enhance or replace components of existing software in critical platforms and systems with more secure and performant code, as well as a desire to use legacy software on new hardware to improve system performance. When introducing enhancements or replacements into large legacy code bases however, there is a high risk that the new code will not safely compose with the rest of the system. Existing means of verifying that updated software is correct-by-construction focus o...

2020/07/28 Miniature Telescope Demonstration Focuses on Sharpening View of Distant Objects in Space

A recently deployed DARPA CubeSat seeks to demonstrate technology that could improve imaging of distant objects in space and allow powerful space telescopes to fit into small satellites. DARPA’s Deformable Mirror (DeMi) CubeSat deployed from the International Space Station July 13, beginning the technology demonstration of a miniature space telescope with a small deformable mirror called a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mirror. DeMi made first contact about a week following launch, demonstrating the expected power from its solar arrays, as well as correct spacecraft pointing and stable temperatures. The team will focus on payload checkout over the coming days. Deformable mirrors can adjust the shape of their reflective surfaces to correct for the effects of temperature and mechanica...

2020/07/24 Subterranean Challenge Pivots to All-Virtual Competition for Cave Circuit

DARPA’s Subterranean (SubT) Challenge focuses on discovering innovative approaches to map, navigate, and search complex underground environments across three diverse subdomains: human-made tunnels, urban underground, and natural cave systems. Two previous scored events – Tunnel and Urban Circuits – featured both Virtual and Systems Competitions. DARPA has made the difficult decision to proceed only with the Virtual Competition for the Cave Circuit, due to safety considerations surrounding COVID-19. The date for the Cave Circuit Virtual Competition webcast/public event will be announced in the coming weeks. Teams must qualify by a September 15 deadline to participate in the Cave Circuit Virtual Competition, which includes team registration and registration on the SubT Challenge Virtual Port...

2020/07/20 DARPA Awards Contracts for New X-Plane Program Based on Active Flow Control

DARPA has selected three performers to work on the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program, which aims to demonstrate an aircraft design based on active flow control (AFC), an area not fully explored compared to traditional flight controls. The goal is to demonstrate significant efficiency benefits of AFC, as well as improvements in aircraft cost, weight, performance, and reliability. “The performers are looking at using active flow control very early in the design scope. That’s the differentiating piece that hasn’t been done before,” said Alexander Walan, the program manager for CRANE in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “AFC has been explored at a component level, but not as an integral piece of aircraft design. By altering the design approach, CRANE seek...