The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Space Command held the second test “on ramp” of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Aug. 31-Sept. 3, and Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said after the test that some of the capabilities tested, such as cloud computing, are ready for the field.
The test featured 70 industry teams, 65 government teams from all six military services, 35 military platforms, 30 geographic locations and four national test ranges, as the Air Force moves to conduct war “at internet speeds” in Roper’s words, through features, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) (Defense Daily, Aug. 25).
“Our military is finally entering the digital age!” Roper said via Twitter on Sept. 4. “For the 1st time, we created cloud-enabled, AI-generated, LTE-transmitted effects in seconds–not hours–during a massive military demo.”
Roper has said that one day AI-enabled drones may be the first wave employed by the military to gain situational awareness and avoid casualties and that the Air Force will need “software-defined systems, cloud, containerized software” to move data from the cloud to the edge.
During the Aug. 31-Sept. 3 exercise, “operators used ABMS to detect and defeat efforts to disrupt U.S. operations in space in addition to countering attacks against the U.S. homeland, including shooting down a cruise missile ‘surrogate’ with a hypervelocity weapon,” the Air Force said.
The U.S. Air Force planned to integrate Project Maven into the test (Defense Daily, Aug. 12), but the Air Force did not provide an evaluation of that integration or Project Maven’s performance in the service’s summation of the exercise on Sept. 4.
Cloud One/Platform One were to be a hosting environment for Project Maven to transform it from a developmental system into a warfighting system for the onramp.
Kicked off in 2017 with the oversight of the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Project Maven has looked to develop an AI tool to process data from full-motion video collected by unmanned aircraft and decrease the workload of intelligence analysts.
The Air Force has requested $3.3 billion for ABMS over five years, including $302.3 million in fiscal 2021.
ABMS, which the Air Force describes as the air and space “military Internet of Things,” is part of Joint All-Domain Command-and Control (JADC2), an effort to build a cross-service digital architecture for multi-domain operations–in effect, a military Internet of Things with machine-to-machine interfaces.
The Aug. 31-Sept. 3 exercise “compelled commanders and operators to trust data analytics and artificial intelligence to understand the battle,” per Roper. “Valuing data as an essential warfighting resource, one no less vital than jet fuel or satellites, is the key to next-gen warfare.”
The ABMS “on ramp” tests are to be held every four months to highlight how new technologies perform, including Cloud One, Platform One, and software defined radios, and move the promising ones toward fielding within weeks through the employment of agile software. That would mark a marked change from the legacy, years-long acquisition cycles of the Cold War.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown said in a statement that the service “cannot afford to slow our momentum on ABMS.”
“Our warfighters and combatant commands must fight at internet speeds to win,” he said.