AFRL seeks cognitive electronic warfare research

Among several new trends being pushed pumped out of the Defense Department's research offices under the guise of the Third Offset strategy — an initiative that seeks to leverage manned-unmanned teaming to counteract adversarial capabilities — is the concept of cognitive electronic warfare. Cognitive EW seeks to leverage artificial intelligence to adapt to rapidly changing electromagnetic surroundings in the field.

The Air Force Research Lab INSTEAD OF PASSIVE, COULD YOU SAY "RELEASED AN RFI?" has recently released a request for information in navigation warfare research assistance from the contracting community that includes electronic attack, electronic protection and electronic support techniques for cognitive EW applications, among other similar research areas to bolster operations in environments in which communications and navigation could be degraded or disrupted.

Aircraft, upon deploying for a particular mission, have a library of jamming profiles that can be called on to counter an adversary’s attempt to jam its radar. However, with the proliferation and increasing proficiency of certain adversaries in this space, such as Russia, relative to the U.S., there is a growing sense of inadequacy. "We need a way today to deal with the changes that are happening on the ground," Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency dDirector, Arati Prabhakar, said at the Atlantic Council in May.

The problem? Aircraft are "getting pinged by radar signals that we’ve never encountered before and it’s just one reflection of how rapidly technology is changing in the world," she saidelaborated. "When that happens today, it can be weeks to months to literally years before they’re able to get the kind of protection they need against that new radio signal."

Machine-learning cognitive EW solutions, Prabhakar described, can "scan the radio spectrum in real time to determine what the adversary's radar is doing and then right there on the spot create a jamming profile that will protect those aircraft in real time, in the battlespace even when the world around them is changing."

DARPA is already working on some similar programs to solve this complex problem. The Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare, or BLADE, program aims to develop an adaptive, in-the-field systems approach to electronic countermeasures through machine learning to reflect the nature of the growing threat. "These programs are applying machine learning-computer algorithms that can learn from and make predictions from data — to react in real time and jam signals, including new signals that have not yet been cataloged," Prabhakar told Congress in February. Prabhakar said her office is working to transition these technologies to the F-35 and the Next Generation Jammer, which will be mounted on the EA-18G, the Navy's premier airborne electronic attack platform.  The Next Generation Jammer will replace the 44-year old ALQ-99, currently the only Navy and Joint airborne Tactical Jamming System pod.

The Air Force Research Lab said it wants potential contractor support to conduct research in a "Nnavwar Ttestbed," that will simulate these degraded environments. At this current stage, AFRL desires to measure progress towards objectives during periodic reviews of contractor cost, schedule and technical performance through reports and monitoring of effort, they said.

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