AFRL Demonstrates First Collaborative Weapon Technologies

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Source:  U.S. Air Force,
Source: U.S. Air Force,

January 20, 2021 | Originally published by U.S. Air Force on January 7, 2021

The Air Force Golden Horde Vanguard program completed the first Air Force flight demonstration of collaborative weapons on December 15 using technology developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Scientific Applications & Research Associates.

A team from the Air Force Test Center flew an F-16 Fighting Falcon and released two collaborative small-diameter bombs (CSDBs), which are bombs that have been modified with a collaborative autonomy payload. The CSDBs quickly established communication with each other, and their seekers detected a GPS jammer.

During the mission, the weapons referred to predefined rules of engagement, a set of constraints preloaded by a mission planner, and determined that the jammer was not the highest priority target. The weapons then collaborated to identify the two highest priority targets. However, due to an improper weapon software load, the collaboration guidance commands were not sent to the weapon navigation system. Without the updated target locations, the weapons impacted a failsafe target location.

“The Golden Horde demonstration with the small-diameter bomb flights is an important step on the path to networked collaborative weapon systems. Completion of this first mission sets the stage for further development and transition to the Warfighter,” said Chris Ristich, AFRL Transformational Capabilities Office Director.

This initial demonstration represents a critical first step for the Golden Horde program, an initiative focused on advancing networked, collaborative, and autonomous, or NCA, weapon capabilities through live and virtual testing. These new technology areas provide the Air Force with a revolutionary way to engage adversary targets.

NCA weapons observe and react to a dynamic battlespace in real time, thereby increasing mission effectiveness within the enemy’s decision loop. When deployed in mass, NCA weapons effectively share information and collaborate to overwhelm adversary defenses.

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