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Tactical edge
Automated decision aids for pilots and battle managers

As commercial technologies become more advanced and widely available, adversaries are rapidly developing capabilities that put armed forces at risk. To counter these threats, the US military is developing systems-of-systems concepts in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact over robust satellite and tactical communications links.

These approaches offer flexible and powerful options to the warfighter, but the complexity introduced by the increase in the number of employment alternatives creates a battle management challenge. Current battle management systems often lack the benefit of automated aids to help comprehend and adapt to dynamic situations.

Further complicating matters, in future conflicts forces may face degradation or denial of critical communications capabilities essential for coordination and shared situation understanding. With both the complexity of coordinating innovative systems of systems, and the sophistication of adversary capabilities expected to grow, automated decision aids become vital.

DARPA’s Distributed Battle Management (DBM) program aims to address these challenges. The program aims to develop control algorithms and demonstrate robust decision-aid software for battle management at the tactical edge.

“We’re looking for innovative algorithms from the planning and control theory communities that go beyond current algorithms, many of which assume assured communications in the tactical environment,” said Craig Lawrence, DARPA program manager. “Advanced human-machine interaction technologies for cockpits and battle manager stations are also an area where we’re looking for novel approaches to enable greater comprehension and quick decision making in an increasingly contested and complex battlespace.”

The program envisions two phases. Phase 1 focuses on technology development-planning, control, and situation understanding algorithms, and design of appropriate human-machine interfaces-and system engineering.

Phase 2 plans for a team to build an integrated DBM capability to manage air-to-air and air-to-ground combat in a contested environment and to demonstrate that capability in large-scale simulation and live fly events.