DARPA seeks to automate battlefield decision aids

Today’s battlefield commanders have a spectrum of flexible and powerful tools, including manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors and electronic warfare systems that interact over robust satellite and tactical communications links. While increasing situational awareness, the resulting complexity creates a battle management challenge that the military expects will grow as adversaries become more sophisticated and communications become more vulnerable. In such a scenario, current battle management systems lack the automated aids that can help commanders comprehend and adapt to dynamic situations.

DARPA’s Distributed Battle Management (DBM) program aims to address these challenges by “developing control algorithms and demonstrating robust decision-aid software for battle management at the tactical edge,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in its announcement of the program.

The DBM decision aids will be integrated into onboard software and will help airborne battle managers and pilots maintain situational awareness, recommend tasks for platforms and systems and generate detailed execution plans. This will enable complex kill chains in real time, improve the speed of response and keep workloads manageable, the agency said.

Research on battle management has been ongoing in academia and industry. The challenge for the DBM program is to make the algorithms robust and reliable in realistic environments and to demonstrate them in virtual simulations and simulated combat.

 “We’re looking for innovative algorithms from the planning and control communities that go beyond current algorithms, many of which assume assured communications in the tactical environment,” said Craig Lawrence, DARPA program manager. “Advanced human-machine interaction technologies for cockpits and battle manager stations are also an area where we’re looking for novel approaches to enable greater comprehension and quick decision making in an increasingly contested and complex battlespace.”

The program envisions two phases. Phase 1 focuses on technology development and system engineering. Phase 2 calls for a team to build an integrated DBM capability to manage air-to-air and air-to-ground combat in a contested environment and to demonstrate that capability in large-scale simulation and live events.

DARPA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation for the first phase of the program, which has three objectives:

  • Distributed adaptive planning and control to assist pilots with real-time management of a range of aircraft, weapons and sensors. 
  • Distributed situation understanding to generate and share data across platforms, giving battle managers the best possible estimates of friendly and adversary force positions, identification and status.
  • Human-machine integration to enable operator and pilot teams to identify specific decisions that they need to make during air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

Interested proposers may register for a Proposers’ Day scheduled for Feb. 28, 2014.

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