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July 27, 2020 | Local, Aerospace

These Companies Will Work on R2-D2-Like Drone Helper for Air Force Pilots

24 Jul 2020

Military.com | By Oriana Pawlyk

Four defense companies have been selected to begin work on the U.S. Air Force's Skyborg program, which aims to pair artificial intelligence with a human piloting a fighter jet.

The service chose Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc., and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to move forward on the program; however, the companies will be competing for the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, estimated to be worth up to $400 million, according to an announcement.

The autonomous Skyborg is intended for reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in a manned-unmanned teaming mission; the drones are considered "attritable," or cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.

"Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft. White and Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), together lead the Skyborg program.

"We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power," White said in a release.

"Autonomy technologies in Skyborg's portfolio will range from simple playbook algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies," added Pringle. "This effort will provide a foundational Government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous and open-architecture unmanned aerial [systems]."

Skyborg is one of three initiatives in the service's Vanguard Program portfolio for rapid prototyping and development of new-age technologies it can leverage for multiple operations. The Vanguard program brings together the research lab and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to "quickly identify cutting-edge technology and transition directly into the hands of the warfighter," the release states.

The Air Force launched the bidding process for Skyborg in May; it expects Skyborg's initial operation to be ready by the end of 2023.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, first spoke of the Air Force Research Lab-led program last year.

He told reporters during the 2019 McAleese Conference that, while it is reminiscent of the Air Force's proposed Loyal Wingman program to send out drones ahead of fighters to act as scouts, Skyborg will take the concept even further, with an AI plane that trains with its pilot, acting as a sidekick, rapidly thinking through problems and taking command if necessary.

In short, it's R2-D2 from "Star Wars" in an aircraft of its very own, he said.

"I might eventually decide, 'I want that AI in my own cockpit,'" Roper said. "So if something happened immediately, [the AI] could take hold, make choices in a way that [a pilot would] know because [a pilot has] trained with it."

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/07/24/these-companies-will-work-r2-d2-drone-helper-air-force-pilots.html

On the same subject

  • Frigate design decision faces another delay after latest challenge

    November 28, 2018 | Local, Naval

    Frigate design decision faces another delay after latest challenge

    Murray Brewster · CBC News The federal government's plan to award a group of companies led by Lockheed Martin Canada the contract to design and support the construction of the navy's new frigates was dealt another setback late Tuesday by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, CBC News has learned. The agency said it intends to investigate a complaint by one of the other bidders, Alion Science and Technology Corp., and its subsidiary Alion Canada.The tribunal ordered the Liberal government to suspend negotiations with Lockheed Martin, which was selected last month by Public Services and Procurement Canada as the preferred bidder on the $60 billion program. "You are hereby ordered to postpone the award of any contract in connection with the above-mentioned procurement until the Canadian International Trade Tribunal determines the validity of the complaint," said a copy of the letter that was obtained late Tuesday by CBC News. Alion asked the CITT last week to investigate the procurement deal, saying the preferred warship design will need substantial changes and that it doesn't meet the navy's requirements as spelled out in the government tender. Last week, the company asked the Federal Court in a separate filing for a judicial review of the long-awaited decision.Three companies were in the running to design the next generation of warships to replace the navy's aging Halifax-class frigates. Navantia, a Spanish-based company, was the other bidder in the competition. Alion proposed its De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command (LCF) frigate, a Dutch-designed warship, for the Canadian competition. The ship is already in service in other countries. No one from the trade tribunal, nor the federal government was immediately available for comment late Tuesday. Program already behind schedule Experts had warned the trade challenge and the court case might delay the program, which is already behind schedule. The design competition stretched for almost two years as public services officials and executives at the federal government's go-to shipyard for combat vessel construction, Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax, worked with bidders to ensure a fair competition and to avoid post-decision court fights. Public Services and Procurement Canada declined comment when the court challenge was launched last week. But a senior federal official, speaking on background at the time, said the federal government has up to 20 days to respond in Federal Court. The official — who was not authorized to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the file — said there is flexibility built into the timeline and the government is optimistic it can meet its goal of an early 2019 contract signing. The substance of the Alion complaint is that the Lockheed Martin Canada-led bid should have been disqualified from the outset because it allegedly doesn't meet the navy's criteria in terms of speed and crew space. The Liberal government said it wanted to go with a proven warship design, rather than starting from scratch, because it would be faster and cheaper. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/frigate-design-decision-faces-another-delay-after-latest-challenge-1.4923364

  • Canada takes initial step in modernizing fighter aircraft training ranges

    February 25, 2019 | Local, Aerospace

    Canada takes initial step in modernizing fighter aircraft training ranges

    DAVID PUGLIESE The federal government has issued a notice for a proposed procurement that would ultimately see the modernization of RCAF fighter aircraft training ranges. The government is looking to develop a road map for the modernization of RCAF fighter aircraft training ranges, and to allow for the creation of what it is calling Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) training and experimental environments. Details of the proposed procurement were released last week to industry. The road map for the modernization will include the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and Bagotville training ranges as primary ranges, and other air training ranges including and not limited to, Gagetown, Wainwright, Valcartier, Nanoose and Suffield as secondary ranges, according to the government notice. In December, Postmedia reported that the RCAF was postponing its major exercise in 2019 at Cold Lake as it brings in improvements to its fighter jet base in Alberta. Exercise Maple Flag, which was to take place in Cold Lake, Alta., is the premier air force training event that allows pilots to test their skills with scenarios similar to “real-world” operations. But Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger announced in December that Maple Flag won't be held next year as the service brings in improvements to the base and range that are designed to boost training for both Canada and its allies. Col. Paul Doyle, commander of 4 Wing at Cold Lake, told Postmedia the new infrastructure will eventually include a specialized facility to allow for larger classified planning sessions, briefings and debriefings about missions. In addition, work will be done on new communications systems, data links and upgrades to the threat emitter pods that are on the base's weapons range. Maple Flag is primarily conducted in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, a training area of more than a million hectares, located about 70 kilometres north of Cold Lake. It is a major effort for European air forces and those from other nations to come to northern Alberta for the training and Canada's allies, while still keen to train there, have noted the need for improvements at the base, according to military officers. “Infrastructure-wise, it's to have the facilities to allow us together to plan, brief and debrief at a classification level that allows us and our allies to maximize our training on a large force employment exercise,” Doyle said in December. Computer networks will be improved and the Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) System will be upgraded, he added. The ACMI system is capable of simulating air-to-air, air-to-surface, and surface-to-air weapons employment with real-time monitoring capabilities as they relate to actual aircraft position. The ACMI system was developed by Cubic Global Defense and first installed in 1982, according to the RCAF. It was upgraded in 2003. There are two main components of an ACMI system: the instrumentation pods and the tactical display system. The mobile pods contain the avionics that track and record aircraft events and position. The display system allows its users to control, track, and monitor the exercise as it happens, and provide mission debriefs upon completion, according to the RCAF. “We want to make (the systems) more robust, better connected,” Doyle said. “That is something we can benefit from on a daily basis” in addition to improving future Maple Flags. “Threats are evolving and modernizing,” Doyle explained. “We want to make sure we're on that leading edge.” He declined to get into specifics about various threats air crews are facing but Doyle did highlight the development of integrated air defence systems that some nations are putting in place. Some social media posts have indicated the Maple Flag postponement was due to a lack of Canadian pilots and fighter jets or delays in Canada receiving new aircraft. But Doyle said such claims don't reflect reality. “Do we have shortages? Sure. But this in no shape or way has anything to do with that,” he added. Officials at Cold Lake have been advocating for several years for the improvements so as to continue to attract allied nations to Maple Flag and to keep the RCAF's own training regime up to date. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/canada-takes-initial-step-in-modernizing-fighter-aircraft-training-ranges

  • Will a sixth Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship be built for the Royal Canadian Navy?

    September 6, 2018 | Local, Naval

    Will a sixth Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship be built for the Royal Canadian Navy?

    DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN There is still no word on whether the Royal Canadian Navy will receive a sixth Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship. Irving Shipbuilding is building five AOPS. There is the possibility of building a sixth ship if costs are kept in line and that vessel could be constructed within the project budget. It is unclear if the financial state of the project would allow for a sixth vessel or whether the federal government would have to contribute more funding to allow for the construction of an additional AOPS. Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough has said she is open to the idea of additional AOPS being purchased for Canada but has provided few details. It is expected a decision on the sixth ship will be made in the coming months. “We are hopeful that the Government of Canada will construct a sixth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship at Halifax Shipyard and understand they will make a decision before the end of 2018.” Irving spokesman Sean Lewis told Defence Watch. As reported in Defence Watch recently the first AOPS will be delivered in the first week of October. There is a possibility one of the government politicians attending that ceremony might make an announcement then of the construction of a sixth ship. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/will-a-sixth-arctic-offshore-patrol-ship-be-built-for-the-royal-canadian-navy

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