2 septembre 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité, Autre défense

Pentagon’s central AI office wants to standardize its acquisition process

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's top artificial intelligence office released a request for information Aug. 28 outlining interest in establishing a new acquisition approach for standardizing the development and procurement process for AI tools.

According to the solicitation, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is “considering” starting a competition for a 501(c) nonprofit manager or managers of its prototype “Artificial Intelligence Acquisition Business Model” that looks to use other transaction authorities to more quickly purchase AI products.

The JAIC's prototype business model could deliver “AI capabilities through meaningful market research/front-end collaboration and optimal teaming arrangements of both traditional and non-traditional companies for AI product procurement,” the RFI said. If the plan moves forward, the JAIC would also “explore the possibilities of using the model to enable agile AI acquisition processes to the DoD at scale.”

The JAIC is the Defense Department's main hub for artificial intelligence and is responsible for increasing adoption of AI across the department. It works with the services and combatant commands to develop AI tools that have practical use.

To meet the military's needs, the JAIC uses the traditional government contracting process, known as Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contracts, and works with the General Services Administration, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Innovation Unit. The traditional acquisition strategy currently being used is unlikely sufficient enough to help the JAIC carry out its mission, the RFI stated.

“To scale this strategy to other DoD service requirements or respond to emergent requirements such as COVID-19 is challenging and may not be the most efficient use of acquisition tools,” the RFI read. “The JAIC will therefore prototype a new AI Acquisition Business Model to assess the potential for non-FAR-based contracts mixed with FAR-based contracts to meet JAIC requirements.”

JAIC's goals are to streamline awards while maintaining flexibility between FAR and non-FAR awards, and to maximize competition while minimizing restrictions, the RFI explained.

The JAIC recently awarded major contracts through DISA and GSA. In May, it awarded a five-year contract with an $800 million ceiling to Booz Allen Hamilton through the GSA for its new joint war-fighting national mission initiative, though JAIC officials have continuously noted that the value of the contract won't hit $800 million.


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  • Bell V-280 flies autonomously for first time

    9 janvier 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    Bell V-280 flies autonomously for first time

    By: Jen Judson ARLINGTON, Texas — The Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor demonstrator flew autonomously for the first time Dec. 18 at the company's Arlington facility in two sorties. Over the course of the day, the V-280 met all of Bell's flight goals for the aircraft's first venture into flying autonomously. The V-280 performed an autonomous takeoff, conversion into cruise mode, precision navigation to various waypoints, loiter maneuvers, conversion into vertical takeoff and landing mode and also landed autonomously, Ryan Ehinger, Bell's program manager for the V-280, told reporters at a company demonstration of the aircraft in Arlington on January 8. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) attended the demonstration. While safety pilots riding in the cockpit took over between different elements of autonomous flight throughout the sorties, the V-280 completed all pre-programmed elements “without issue,” Paul Wilson, the program's chief engineer, said. The company has yet to determine future flight tests as part of a continued effort to advance the tiltrotor's autonomous flight capabilities or whether it might specifically conduct a flight where all autonomous elements are stitched together without pilot intervention in between each maneuver. Bell developed its objective in late 2018 to run autonomous flight demonstrations with the V-280 and, just a year later, was able to execute the flight tests. The V-280 was built for the Army's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration and had its maiden flight in December 2017. The autonomous flight took place on the second anniversary of the aircraft's first flight. The JMR-TD program is meant to inform the Army's Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. A Sikorsky-Boeing team is also flying a demonstrator — the SB-1 Defiant — as part of the program but got off to a late start, flying for the first time in March 2019, mostly due to delays related to issues building the rotor blades for the coaxial helicopter. The Army is planning to modernize its fleet through an ambitious effort to acquire two new Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft — FLRAA and a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) — back-to-back. The service intends to field FLRAA by FY30 following a full-and-open competition. The Army wants both FLRAA and FARA to be optionally piloted aircraft, but whether that capability comes in the first tranches when the fleet is fielded remain to be seen. Bell told reporters at the demonstration that since its first flight two years ago, the V-280 has logged over 160 flight hours among seven test pilots. It has demonstrated it can fly over 300 nautical miles in one trip and proven it can do 2G acceleration turns, can climb to 11,500 feet and has reached speeds of over 280 knots. The V-280 flew at 200 knots during the January 8 demonstration and performed other agility maneuvers while showing off its hover performance. While the JMR-TD phase is over, Bell continues to consider what could still be demonstrated with the V-280 before the aircraft is officially put to bed. https://www.defensenews.com/land/2020/01/09/bell-v-280-flies-autonomously-for-first-time

  • JSTARS Recap is officially dead

    25 juillet 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    JSTARS Recap is officially dead

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However, according to the new defense policy bill unveiled Monday, it will not be able to retire any of the 17 planes until “increment 2” of the ABMS system is declared operational, although Congress will allow the Air Force secretary to phase out planes on a case-by-case basis if an aircraft is no longer mission capable. While the Air Force has not spelled out to the public exactly what comprises its ABMS plan, it involves a host of different upgrades for existing platforms —for instance the MQ-9 Reaper and E-3 AWACS early warning aircraft — that will allow them to network together in new ways. A congressional aide told Defense News on July 24 that the Air Force have three ABMS increments in a series of classified briefings to members of Congress' defense committees. Phase one, which lasts from now until about 2023, involves upgrades to datalinks and some space-based technologies, as well as linking sensors from several stealth platforms and drones together, the aide said. Increments 2 and 3 quickly get into more classified territory, said the aide, who declined to provide greater specifics. The defense authorization bill would accelerate ABMS by adding $120 million for six MQ-9 Reapers, which the aide said could be used to help boost the architecture's ability to prosecute targets during a low-end conflict. It also included $30 million to continue development of the ground moving target indicator radar developed by Northrop Grumman for the JSTARS recap program. In addition, Congress levied a number of other restrictions and reporting requirements on the Air Force as part of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act, including: The Air Force's plan for modernizing and sustaining the current JSTARS fleet, including how it will increase the availability of the E-8Cs to support demands worldwide. Quarterly reports from the Air Force secretary on the progress of ABMS. Certification by the defense secretary that the Air Force has a long term funding plan that will allow it to retain JSTARS and that the ABMS acquisition strategy is executable. A report on ABMS from the Government Accountability Office, which provides independent oversight to Congress. The report will review the maturity of the plan and any risk associated with fielding or funding it. A directive to the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office to reexamine the cost and schedule for restarting a re-engine effort of the E-8C, which had begun in 2008 but was since abandoned. The Air Force “procured three ship-sets of engines, after investing $450.0 million, and the engines remain unused,” even though “the legacy E-8C engines are the number one issue driving excessive non-mission capable maintenance metrics for the E-8C fleet,” the bill stated. The end of the JSTARS recap program is bad news for Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, who were each vying for the prime contractor spot and the $6.9 billion contract for engineering, manufacturing and development. A total of 17 new planes were planned to be built throughout the program. Over the past year, Air Force leaders grew disenchanted with JSTARS recap, saying that new battle management planes would not be survivable in future, contested battlespaces. But while the Senate defense committees leaned in to support ABMS, House lawmakers sought to force the service to keep going with JSTARS recap. Will Roper, the Air Force's top acquisition official, told Defense News on July 17 that he was hopeful that Congress would move forward with ABMS. However, he still acknowledged that the Air Force had never modernized a “system of systems” like ABMS before. “It definitely needs to be a program where we embrace failure up front and prototype, because there's going to be a lot of learning to do about how do you make things work together as a team,” Roper said. “We get a sense of how commercial industry is solving it and I imagine we can use a lot of their lessons learned, but probably not all of them.” Infighting in Georgia What was once a disagreement between the House and Senate seems to have turned into a fight among the members of the Georgia delegation. In a surprising move, Republican Rep. Austin Scott pointed the finger at Sen. David Perdue, a fellow Georgia Republican, for allowing the recap program to be cancelled. Georgia's Robins Air Force Base is home to the 461st Air Control Wing, the joint Air Force-Army unit that operates JSTARS. “When Senator Perdue [...] withdrew his support of this program which the Georgia Congressional Delegation – including Senator Perdue – has overwhelmingly supported throughout the last seven years, it effectively ended the program,” said Scott. “Unfortunately [...] the replacement aircraft will not be fielded, forcing a higher risk to our men and women in uniform by continuing to fly the 48 year old legacy JSTARS aircraft which are in need of recapitalization.” Perdue hit back in his own statement, saying that ABMS is a better long term solution for Robins. “The Advanced Battlefield Management System will give us the capability to access both restricted and non-restricted airspace. This is a necessity in supporting our troops in harm's way as well as our overall intelligence gathering,” Perdue said. “With the solution I support, we save JSTARS jobs, maintain the JSTARS fleet into the next decade, accelerate the implementation of ABMS, and gain a new mission for Robins. All of this guarantees a very bright future for my hometown base.” https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/07/24/jstars-recap-is-officially-dead/

  • Airbus’s First Wide-Body Deal Since March Is for Sole Tanker-Jet

    29 septembre 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    Airbus’s First Wide-Body Deal Since March Is for Sole Tanker-Jet

    Charlotte Ryan Airbus SE announced its first wide-body order in almost six months -- for a single aerial refueling and transport aircraft based on an old model of its A330 jet. The A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport or MRTT was ordered by Europe's multinational procurement body on behalf of NATO and will be available to the air forces of six nations, Airbus said in a statement Monday. The military purchase highlights the collapse in sales to airlines and leasing firms that traditionally dominate orders as the coronavirus crisis shatters travel demand. In normal times, Airbus and Boeing Co. would expect to have racked up dozens of orders for hundreds of planes over the summer. Airbus's last twin-aisle deal, for 10 A350-900 jets, was secured on March 31. Since then, the pandemic has compelled the Toulouse, France-based company to focus more on protecting existing orders by allowing its struggling customers to defer deliveries rather than targeting up new business. The tanker purchase comes after Luxembourg agreed to maximize participation in the shared program and means all three options for additional MRTT planes have been exercised, taking the total fleet to nine. In addition to air-to-air refueling, the jets can carry troops, cargo and be used for medical evacuation. Airbus will announce full order and delivery figures for September next week. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-28/airbus-s-first-wide-body-deal-since-march-is-for-sole-tanker-jet

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