Air Force Advances Weapons That Collaborate

For some time engineers from Air Force Research Laboratory develop autonomous network autonomous technologies. Ammunition, which acts in coordination with unmanned aerial vehicles, lures and other systems, makes decisions, changes course and achieves a mission. Researchers have successfully designed platforms to support such capabilities, as well as to develop and integrate complex subsystems that support networking, collaboration, and autonomy. However, the researchers’ approach to the so-called Golden Horde project is one of the early successful attempts to use digital engineering, he said. Regiment Gary Haase, Commander and Director, Ammunition Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

“The kind of change is to incorporate more of this approach to building from living virtual design aspects and this digital foundation to where we can have more opportunities to introduce digital testing models in a digital environment and then move on to, depending on from the levels of maturity, hardware in the loop or software in the loop, ”explains Colonel Haase.

Previously, researchers at the lab, known as AFRL, pursued a more traditional and longer approach to advancing network autonomous collaboration capabilities. With a mandate last fall from Will Roper, former Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, to embrace a new reality for digital acquisition, engineers have shifted course, used digital tools and are now ready to provide autonomous networks for collaborative combat solutions. fighters earlier, through the Weapons Program of the Air Force Program (PEO Weapons). Researchers have also improved the digital capabilities of enterprises for modeling and simulation, the use of digital twins, living virtual design environments (LVCs), and computer support for design and testing.

The researchers’ efforts to develop joint autonomous ammunition weapon systems stemming from the AFRL program, called Gray Wolf, are a clean design, a modular platform with an open architecture, the colonel said.

“The intention was to be a cheap type of cruise missile platform with a cost truck, which would give us great flexibility,” explains Colonel Haase. “The first phase of this was to test the platform itself, which we are completing now, and then to continue working by including networking autonomous technologies in the platform and then expanding some of these collaborative technologies in particular. The types of advantages of the capabilities we see with autonomous network autonomous technologies are that we can have different types of weapons or lures or other consumables working together. We can have a swarm that has one or two systems that have a more advanced ability to search for an intelligence, surveillance, intelligence (ISR) sensor to sense what is happening around the environment. Then you may have something that has more e-warfare capabilities to provide some lure or other type of capabilities. “

AFRL engineers also pursued several related network stand-alone demonstrations of collaborative technology (JCTD), including one that includes GPS anti-jamming GPS technology, and another that explores GPS home of GM’s secret technology. An additional effort by the JCTD is pairing the AFRL with the Navy to further explore various autonomous networking opportunities. ‘This included L3 Harris’ [BNC2] a network-defined radio and the co-autonomy processor of the Georgia Tech Research Institute, in fact a kind of flight computer that hosts all autonomy algorithms, ”the colonel suggested.

“While we were going through this, Dr. Roper challenged us to look at what we were doing with the Gray Wolf,” Col. Haase continued. “It challenged us to move faster with autonomous network autonomous technologies. He said, “What’s stopping you from taking them and including them in a recording program and doing a demonstration of the technology to keep doing it.” We said, “Yes, we can do it,” and so we changed gears from the longer, stretched serial process we did with the Gray Wolf. We finish the “Gray Wolf” after we complete the flight tests and demonstrate it as a platform. We will have it on the shelf to explore it further or use it as a test site, which we could do because of its modularity, but essentially we are no longer working on it as a program. “

Instead, the program changed its name to Golden Horde, and engineers took the best components from JCTD projects and repackaged the network autonomous technologies at the front of a small-diameter laser-controlled bomb (SDB) to make room for the joint. weapon components.

“The laser SDB has the appearance of that bulbous front that holds the laser finder,” the colonel said. “We kept the form factor and just took all the pieces of laser detectors out of the front end so we could pack the anti-muffler, GPS-home and home-on-jam finder. Then from the network standalone JCTD we were making, we took the BNC2 radio, the autonomy module and then the part of the viewer from the other JCTD and we were able to package it entirely in this laser SDB 1 form factor. “

The resulting solution is what researchers call a small-diameter joint bomb, or CSDB. “We could do a demonstration with that pretty quickly,” he confirmed.

Researchers continue to refine the three main aspects of the CSDB: the network, the collaborative and autonomous systems, to apply the solution to multiple weapons, drones or other systems and operate them autonomously in coordination with each other to defeat rival threats in different environments.

To network, researchers are exploring how different platforms communicate with each other. “We are looking at the possibilities in terms of software-defined radios, aspects of different types of networks and network connections both between weapon systems but also sensors, and how this transmits information back to weapon systems or other sensors there,” the colonel suggested. “It’s about ABMS [Advanced Battle Management System] a kind of philosophy of everything that speaks to each other. “

The available radio technologies have different capabilities in terms of size, weight, power and their ability to network, the colonel explains. “You need to have this integration part to be able to connect to a larger network and whether my radio will be able to talk on that larger network or be in the shape of a wave to connect to a Link 16 network or in some network networks or other networks there, “he says.” There is a lot of ongoing work on software-defined radio stations. Ultimately, we would like to have some flexibility to be able to handle different networks or waveforms, so to have more freedom to talk to many different types of networks. “

Network co-weapons naturally require autonomous capabilities, and Golden Horde researchers are working to support a third version of the autonomous architecture originally developed by the so-called CODE program or co-operations in a denial environment launched at DARPA and now owned by the Navy.

Autonomy is designed with predefined “playbacks” or pre-programmed actions that can be autonomously redistributed or changed based on the operating environment and defined mission parameters. “[This is] what we call a “game” perspective, notes Koh Haase. “It’s the ability to feel the environment and report, ‘Hey, something’s changed, so how do I work together like a swarm to deal with that change in my environment?’ Is there a threat I should avoid, or is this threat a higher priority now than what I followed before? You two get out of the swarm, deviate and take care of this goal, and the rest of us will continue on our way to pursue the main goal. This is also related to the autonomous part, where we have these rules of engagement, which are defined in this type of plays. “

The common goal of autonomous capabilities is to build a common state software architecture for autonomy. “This is where we want to go so that we can use many of them, not only for weapons, but also for drones and aircraft,” he said. “This would allow us on the part of the government or other partners in the industry to import some of our plays or other options … against our own supplier system, which would have a potentially longer time frame for integration and more costs. “

The basis of autonomous network collaboration technologies would apply to new systems, the colonel said, adding that “we will see potential ramps for existing inventory” of weapon systems or other platforms. And the size of the swarms will naturally depend on the needs of the mission and the associated platforms. “We had a lot at JCTD [groups of] “10 unmanned aerial systems that work together,” he said. “In the Golden Horde with the joint SCB, in the first flight test we have only two more. And in the other testing we use four. It depends on how you would like to structure this and what the goal you are looking for is. “

In addition, researchers use the existing modeling and simulation infrastructure to conduct LVC and digital design and testing of the enterprise. “It was one of the things that came from the work of the Gray Wolf, is that we have a digital twin of the real Gray Wolf,” the colonel said. “We can do a lot from the digital environment to hardware and software in a cyclical environment. And because of the capabilities of the variable payload, we can more easily insert new testing subsystems. We can trace the entire thread through early concepts in a digital environment to put hardware and software into the system, test hardware and software in a loop in a lab environment, and then potentially even fly and drop. “

The digital corporate environment also allows researchers to try out different concepts of employment, “and aspects other than technology,” the colonel said. Researchers are also saving money and advancing the use of digital enterprise.

“Considering network autonomy in a virtual environment allows us to look at larger numbers without having to spend a lot of money on real systems,” said Colonel Haase. “And there are a lot of complexities as you add more systems to the test in terms of the scope of the infrastructure that can track all these different systems.

“Dr. Roper helped us shake things up a little bit for us, and I’ll be honest that it was a little painful on my first engagement to him, which turned the Gray Wolf into a Golden Horde, but it was the right thing to do,” he said. “It really helped us think a little differently than that longer, stretched serial process on the road we were on, and it helped us see that we could do it. This helped change our culture and way of thinking so that we could continue to think, “Okay, yes, we can do things differently.” And this continues with the chief of staff [Gen. Charles Brown, USAF, Air Force Chief] and its impetus for “acceleration, change or loss.” So even though Dr. Roper is no longer there at SAF headquarters, I think the thinking and culture is there to help us keep “moving faster, being more agile, and taking on some risk ”, mentality. “