US DARPA awards Calspan contract for Air Combat Evolution

by Pat Host

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Calspan a four-year, USD14.1 million contract to develop full-scale air combat experimentation infrastructure for its Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme, according to an 8 July company statement.

Calspan’s contract is for Technical Area 4 (TA4), which covers full-scale experimentation infrastructure. Under this contract, Calspan will modify up to four Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros trainers with Calspan’s proprietary autonomous fly-by-wire flight control system technology. This will allow implementation and demonstration of advanced human machine interfaces (HMI) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

A L-39 in US Air Force colours in a 2003 photo. Under a contract recently awarded by DARPA for Ace Combat Evolution, Calspan will modify up to four L-39s to implement and demonstrate advanced human machine interfaces and artificial intelligence algorithms. (US Air Force)

A L-39 in US Air Force colours in a 2003 photo. Under a contract recently awarded by DARPA for Air Combat Evolution, Calspan will modify up to four L-39s to implement and demonstrate advanced human machine interfaces and artificial intelligence algorithms. (US Air Force)

Flight tests and demonstrations will be conducted from the Calspan Flight Research Facility at the Niagara Falls, New York, international airport and flown in the Misty Military Operating Area over nearby Lake Ontario.

DARPA seeks to automate air-to-air combat as modern warfare evolves to incorporate more human-machine teaming. The agency expects this to enable reaction times at machine speeds and free pilots to concentrate on the larger air battle. ACE aims to increase warfighter trust in autonomous combat technology by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its initial challenge scenario.

The ACE programme has been segmented into four technical areas that feed into one another and will scale through each phase. This will start with modeling and simulation demonstrations, moving into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and ending on an operationally-representative, full-scale aircraft. This is according to Soar Technologies (SoarTech), which was awarded one TA2 award-building trust for local behaviours.

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/us-darpa-awards-calspan-contract-for-ace-combat-evolution

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Calspan a four-year, USD14.1 mi...

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