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Protovision pits NCA gladiators in ‘virtual' Colosseum

The US Department of the Air Force's Golden Horde Vanguard programme has commenced a new competitive phase in which advanced networked, collaborative, and autonomous (NCA) platforms and weapons will compete as ‘gladiators' in a virtual environment.

Known as Operation Protovision, the competition has been launched by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to enable a variety of competitors to showcase technologies in a so-called Golden Horde Colosseum.

Established in December 2020, the Golden Horde Vanguard programme is focused on exploring weapons concepts in realistic operational scenarios, and assessing weapon survivability and effects across large, contested areas – even in conditions of degraded connectivity. First flight demonstrations, using NCA technology embodied in existing air-to-surface weapons, were followed by complex demonstrations in the first half of 2021.

During these demonstrations, Golden Horde weapons established and utilised a secure communication network to synchronise impacts on targets, fly in formation to negate counter-air threats, react to a new target update from a ground station, and strike the established prioritised targets. However, in March 2021, the AFRL announced that further flight-test demonstrations had been cancelled, and that the Golden Horde Vanguard programme would instead re-orientate to focus on rapid innovation and test within a simulation environment.

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