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Industry weighs multidomain options for DARPA ACE technology

ACE plans to increase warfighter trust in autonomous combat technology by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its initial challenge scenario. (DARPA)

Industry partners of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) effort to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into air combat are looking to apply those nascent technologies into other warfare domains.

Senior officials at Dynetics are exploring development options for multidomain applications of the air-centric AI technologies developed under the agency's Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme, said Tim Keeter, the company's programme manager for the DARPA ACE effort.

“The nice thing about DARPA [research and development] is nothing is set in stone. You move along, and you have these happy accidents and then you discover that something else is maybe more important to pursue and you take little turns”, towards developing those capabilities, unforeseen in the initial tranche of work, he told Janes .

Specifically, programme engineers at Dynetics are planning to leverage existing research and development (R&D) work for phase three of ACE Technical Area 3 (TA3) programme, also known as Alpha Mosaic.

The overall ACE programme is designed to increase trust in AI-enabled combat technologies within the human-machine construct, focusing specifically on autonomous AI enablers in air-to-air combat engagements.

Phase one for TA3 focused on R&D and prototyping work in a lab-based, simulated environment. Those phase one results then progressed to phase two, where those lab-proven technologies were evaluated in a flight environment using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Phase three focused on realistic, manned-flight environment involving complex human-machine collaboration.

Agency officials anticipate conducting live flight combat engagements, or dogfights, utilising prototype variants of AI applications developed under Alpha Mosaic that will start in 2023 and run

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