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Video: Army Research Lab Scientist Describes Human Brain as Sensor Connecting With AI

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington D.C.) Two Air Force F-16 fired Small Diameter Bombs were able to share threat data with one another while in flight to a target using an emerging kind of “collaborative” weapons coordination, enabling the bombs toadjust trajectoryand change course in response to identifying enemy guidance “jamming” signals.

The developmental program, called Golden Horde, continues to show great promise with an ability to use software-defined radio signals to exchange data in flight enabled by computer processors preloaded with advanced algorithms. While the test earlier this year was successful in terms of an ability to demonstrate initial capabilities for collaborative in-flight weapons targeting, Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle explained that there was still much to learn and refine regarding the networking of weapons.

“There are a lot of questions that we don't have answered about networking and, for example, what types of radio technologies are going to work best, depending on distance of flight? Or, how we best build the algorithms to work together?” Pringle said.

As is often the case with highly challenged and technologically complex modern warfare, gathering massive amounts of information to share in real time is of great value .. yet the data needs to be organized, distilled, analyzed and properly transmitted in small, useful increments. This is part of the challenge, it appears, when it comes to architecting sensor-enabled weapons themselves to gather and share data in route to an attack target. Therefore, what may be of greatest significance is not simply that information can be shared, but rather what kind of information and its relative degree of pressing relevance.

“You can have all the weapons sharing the same information. In the past, we've looked at playbooks that were trying to get to more advanced iterations of artificial intelligence and autonomy so that they're making decisions on the fly. What kinds of information are they sharing? Are they sharing? What's the minimum amount? What's the furthest they can take it, you know, in all those iterations in between?” Pringle asked.

At the same time, the collaborative weaponsexperiment is showing great promise, perhaps in large measure because AI-capable algorithms can be integrated into small form factors such as the Small Diameter Bombs that were used. Advanced sensors built into the weapons themselves can surveil the surrounding combat environment and, using AI, bounce specific incoming data off of a vast database of known, catalogued information to make instant identifications, perform analyses and recommend optimal courses of action.For instance, perhaps one sensor built into one Small Diameter bomb picks up the electronic signature of an enemy “jammer” and is then able to transmit organized and identified data to the other bomb in flight, thus enabling it to change course and or adjust its flight trajectory and targeting accordingly.

This is the kind of advanced networking technology Pringle was likely referring to when she referenced ongoing testing related to Golden Horde networking and its employment of AI, autonomy and various networking technologies.

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“I think it's goodness to have a digital ecosystem where we have the best of breed in terms of networked collaborative autonomous technologies, whether they're algorithms or radios. The idea is that different technologies can have an environment where they can, you know, kind of have a competition and look at whichnetworking technologies will fare better under various circumstances,” Pringle explained.

The service’s Golden Horde technology engineers high-tech seekers into weapons such as Small Diameter Bombs to enable them to avert or thwart enemy attempts to jam GPS targeting and share flight-trajectory and battlespace data between weapons on route to a target. An Air Force essay describes the technology as a “software defined radio for communication between weapons and a processor preloaded with collaborative algorithms.”

In flight “collaborative targeting” enables one weapon to use its advanced seeker to identify an enemy jammer and transmit that tactical detail to another weapon allowing it to adjust course as needed. A recent test of Golden Horde using collaborative Small Diameter Bombs exchanging data in flight showed great promise, as well as areas of needed improvement. The Air Force tested the ability of air-dropped bombsable to share target-sensitive data with each other in flight to adjust attack specifics, find GPS-jammers and optimize the speed and precision with which attack operations can be conducted.

Now, the Air Force Research Lab is aligning its development efforts with the service’s acquisition entity to build upon its progress developing the innovations needed to operationalize the weapon.

“As we go forward with our acquisition partner, who is PEO weapons, they know how to better structure the future acquisition of those weapons. We're in partnership with acquisition. This is an S&T (science & technology) effort for sure, but partnering with PEO Weapons will enhance the subsequent acquisition initiatives it is furthering,” Pringle said.

Pringle’s discussion of an AFRL S&T efforts alliance with Air Force acquisition aligns with current service-wide efforts to better synergize successful innovations from S&T with accelerated acquisition initiatives aimed at fast-tracking promising new technologies to war. The concept, as articulated in a recently published AFRL strategy document, is described by Pringle as an Air Force effort to closely align its research and laboratory community with rapid acquisition experts to leverage the near term promise of new technical breakthroughs.

“It's a natural evolution of the progress that Golden Horde has made to date. Of course, you're familiar with the small diameter bomb flights that occurred in February, those were successful in looking at multiple SBDs and having them converge on aparticular target on time and on target. And so this is just a natural progression, but it's also a step in the right direction, because it just gets us closer to that digital environment,” Pringle said.

The technical and tactical conceptsof the SBD in-flight weapons collaboration, Air Force assessments explain, are designed to enable sensors integrated into the weapons themselves to discern new information, assess it in relation to front-loaded mission specifics and perform the analytics needed to make course corrections as needed. While fully bringing this to fruition may require even more advanced AI-enabled autonomy, it represents the cusp of very significant breakthrough technology.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

-- Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --