Come January, the Air Force will launch Project Kaiju, a giant new effort to ensure the future of U.S. air dominance with plans for nine sub-projects and tasks, all named after famous strange beasts.
As the Air Force grapples with peer and near-peer adversaries getting more advanced detection and anti-aircraft technologies, the service wants to use cognitive electronic warfare, artificial intelligence and work through advanced systems integration “to generate and/or maintain a competitive advantage due to the sheer volume of data, speed of activity, and complexity of threat capabilities,” according to a notice of contract action posted Thursday to SAM.gov.
The notice—which announces a forthcoming $150 million broad agency announcement contract expected to drop in January—notes the U.S. military has held aerial dominance for many years.
However, “adversaries have closed the gap,” the documents state. “U.S. aircraft are increasingly required to operate in hostile environments heavily defended by integrated air-defense systems,” or IADS.
Those capabilities are only growing more advanced, with Air Force officials expecting adversaries to begin deploying “multi-spectrum technology” designed to take down U.S. planes and drones.
“That is, U.S. aircraft will be expected to counter IADS equipped with missiles guided by sensors that operate with various levels of coordination between the [electro-optic/infrared] and [radio frequency] regimes for detection, navigation and/or tracking processes,” the notice states.
The Air Force’s countermeasures for many of these defense methods have been “developed for a single spectrum threat” and aren’t calibrated to deal with all of them at the same time.
This is also becoming more of an issue for high-value airborne assets, or HVAA, which tend to fly high enough to stay out of the battlefield while giving support to troops on the ground.
“With adversaries understanding the importance of HVAA to mission success, as well as their vulnerabilities, HVAA may become a likely target for emerging longer-range advanced threats,” the notice states.
To get ahead and stay ahead, the Air Force is looking to develop a set of advanced apps and algorithms, then tie those together into a monstrous interconnected system.
“The Cognitive Electronic Warfare ecosystem encompasses all the AI/ML utilized by systems and processes to enable varying levels of autonomy across the various EW missions, with [Air Force Research Lab] supporting the warfighter and ops community missions including—rapid—reprogramming on the ground to closed-loop self-protect jamming in the fight,” officials said in the notice. “In the laboratory or squadron, AI/ML can assist with data analysis or mission data generation to increase the volume of data processed and the confidence in the data to be used operationally. This will allow for next sortie updates to mission data while generating reports for further analysis.”
The notice of contract action includes a brief description of the main tasks, each associated with a different giant monster.
Officials saved the King of Monsters for the king of tasks: program management.
Under the Godzilla task, contractors will manage the full scope of the project, including schedule, cost and “risk for the overall contract and for each individual research project and development activity.”
While program management is always an important task, it is even more critical for Project Kaiju, as a central mission for the contract will be integrating all the various tools being developed.
“No R&D conducted under this program will be done in isolation, but rather in full consideration of how the new technologies can progress toward full integration with large, complex systems, ready to transition to support of the warfighter,” the document states.
The remaining eight Kaiju-named projects will focus on specific technologies and battlefield outcomes:
Big Data for Cognitive Electronic Warfare Research: Conduct a study that investigates which key community developed tools should be integrated into a common and modular framework to generate “Big Data.”
Software-Defined Radio Research: SDR code library requires in-depth investigation of target system hardware for the purpose of understanding its operation for the purpose of creating the best possible SDR emulation of the target system. Procurement of target systems, development of data links to interface with SDRs and other equipment to command and control systems, disassembly—to include destructive testing—of target systems, lab, field and flight testing, and procurement of candidate SDR hardware/software.
Multi-Spectrum Threat Defeat: Refine existing Multi-Spectrum environments to add advanced capabilities—including model accuracy—and spans across Electronic Support and Electronic Attack.
RAPTURE Laboratory: Design, fabricate, test and document special purpose hardware to meet research and development test requirements for size, weight and power (SWAP) constrained program requirements. Perform lab and field testing of custom designed hardware—includes soldering surface mount printed circuit boards, modifying PCBs, assembling custom cables, computer aided design of custom enclosures and assembly of the final product.
Electronic Attack Demo: Build a reconfigurable EA processing framework for assessment of EA capabilities—emitter tracking, technique selection, technique generation.
Real-Time Algorithm Development: Utilize government furnished hardware architecture description to determine the viability of government furnished non-real-time machine learning algorithms for real-time applications.
Radio Frequency Electronic Warfare Demonstrator (REWD) for Next Sortie Mission Data Reprogramming: Develop, mature and evaluate advanced EW algorithmic concepts to detect, sort, identify, disambiguate and track complex emitters in complex environments. This includes leveraging algorithms developed in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Adaptive Radar Countermeasures, AFRL’s Electronic Support Critical Experiment and the Office of Naval Research’s Reactive Electronic Attack Measures. This effort will also include integrating multi-sourced processing chains, closed loop software component control and tuning, component performance comparison, analysis and visualization products to aid human/machine teaming and trust.
Advanced Threat Defeat: Develop novel and cognitive electronic warfare capabilities to generate multi-layered EA techniques resulting in long range kill webs. Leverage distributed sensing, machine learning and AI and align with Advanced Battle Management System concepts for autonomous vehicles to enable Joint All Domain Command and Control resulting in coordinated joint fires and convergence of EW effects.
Air Force officials expect to make two awards: a $135 million “main contract” covering all nine research areas and a smaller $15 million “niche contract” that will focus on the Mothra, King Kong, Baragon and Colossus projects.
The ultimate contract will span five years, through fiscal 2026.
Contracting officials will be holding an industry day on a to-be-determined date, likely in late October.