Golden Horde: F-16 Fighters Armed with A New Killer Weapon
Two small-diameter Air Force F-16s were able to share threat data with each other while on a flight to a target, using an emerging type of joint weapons coordination, allowing bombs to adjust trajectory and change course in response to the identification of enemy directions attenuating signals.
The development program, called Golden Horde, continues to show great promise with the ability to use software-defined in-flight radio signals enabled by computer processors preloaded with advanced algorithms. While the test earlier this year was successful in terms of the ability to demonstrate the initial capabilities of co-targeting weapons in flight, the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory Brig. General Heather Pringle explained that there was still much to learn and improve about the weapons network.
There are many unanswered questions about networking. For example, what types of radio technology will work best depending on the flight distance? In addition, there are still questions about how best to build algorithms to work together, Pringle said.
As is often the case with the very challenging and technologically complex modern war, gathering vast amounts of information to share in real time is of great value. However, the data must be organized, distilled, analyzed and properly transmitted in small, useful steps. This is part of the challenge that arises when it comes to arming weapons with the ability for sensors to collect and share data on the way to an attacking target. After all, what may matter most is not just that the information can be shared, but rather what kind of information and its relative degree of urgency.
These weapons must share the same information, Pringle said. In the past, the Air Force has looked at game books in an attempt to achieve more sophisticated iterations of artificial intelligence and autonomy so that they can make decisions on the go. What type of information is shared? Is it shared? What is the minimum amount? Pringle said she was curious about the maximum score and all those repetitions in between.
At the same time, the joint weapons experiment shows great promise, perhaps to a large extent, as artificial intelligence-capable algorithms can be integrated into small-form factors such as the small-diameter bombs used. Advanced sensors built into the weapons themselves can monitor the combat environment and, using artificial intelligence, repel specific inputs from an extensive database of known, cataloged information to make immediate identifications, perform analyzes, and recommend optimal actions. For example, perhaps a sensor embedded in a small-diameter bomb captures the electronic signature of an enemy silencer and is then able to transmit organized and identified data to the other bomb in flight, thus allowing it to change course. and or adjust its flight path and direction accordingly.
This is the kind of advanced networking technology that Pringle probably had in mind when referring to ongoing tests related to the Golden Horde network and the use of artificial intelligence, autonomy and various network technologies.
“I think it’s good to have a digital ecosystem that has the best of the breed in terms of networking autonomous technologies, whether it’s algorithms or radios,” Pringle said. The idea is that different technologies can have an environment in which they can compete and see which network technologies will work better in different circumstances, Pringle explained.
Kris Osborn is a security editor at National interest. Osborne previously served at the Pentagon as a highly qualified expert in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborne has also worked as a leading and terrestrial military specialist on national television networks. He is a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also holds a master’s degree in comparative literature from Columbia University.
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