The Department of Defense’s upcoming fiscal year 2019 budget request will include “modest” investments to improve man-machine teaming, such as the interaction between a fighter jet and its pilot, a senior military official said Jan. 30.

“We haven’t cracked the nut on man-machine teaming yet,” said Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I don’t believe anybody has. The closest we’ve gotten is the extremely high level of information we push to aviators in cockpits.” 

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USAF Gen. Paul Selva (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USAF Gen. Paul Selva
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But DoD envisions that with increased automation, man-machine teaming could process even more data from various sensors and allow pilots to fire at long ranges with high confidence.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if you could shoot somebody in the face at 200 kilometers and they don’t even know you’re there?” Selva suggested to the Defense Writers Group.

DoD plans to unveil its budget request on Feb. 12.

Turning to another technology topic, Selva said the United States has lost its advantage in hypersonics, as China and Russia have “moved out pretty smartly” to develop their own capabilities. But he noted that DoD continues to pursue advances in hypersonics.

“We haven’t lost the hypersonics fight,” he insisted.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, the Army, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Navy are among the U.S. entities involved in hypersonics research.

Orbital ATK [OA] announced Jan. 23 that it has entered into a contract with DARPA’s Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program to develop hypersonic engine technologies that could be incorporated into a new aircraft propulsion system. Aerojet Rocketdyne [AJRD] indicated in October that it is also working on the AFRE program.

Selva is not the first U.S. official to sound the alarm about hypersonics. In August 2016, Navy Vice Adm. Jim Syring, then director of the Missile Defense Agency, said his agency would eventually need to field new space-based sensors to track hypersonic glide vehicles being developed by potential adversaries (Defense Daily, Aug. 17, 2016).