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US Air Force puts Godzilla in charge of autonomous warfare effort with Project Kaiju

Pulls Mothra, Mecha Rodan, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, and even King Kong along for the $150m ride

The United States Airforce (USAF) has unveiled Project Kaiju, a $150m (£108m) effort to build "cognitive electronic warfare" systems capable of operating entirely autonomously – to be run under Godzilla's watchful eye.

Named for the entertainment genre, Japanese for "strange beast", Project Kaiju is not - sadly - an effort to breed giant monsters to defend US interests. Rather, it's the name given to a project which seeks to give the USAF better electronic warfare capabilities – including the ability to run autonomously, without human interaction.

"US aircraft are increasingly required to operate in hostile environments heavily defended by integrated air-defence systems (IADS)," Project Kaiju's coordinators explained in the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) unveiling the project. "The next evolution of advanced IADS is likely to employ radars, surface-to-air (SAM), and air-to-air (AAM) threats that utilise multi-spectrum technology.

"That is, US aircraft will be expected to counter IADS equipped with missiles guided by sensors that operate with various levels of coordination between the EO/IR and RF regimes for detection, navigation, and/or tracking processes, ie, multi-spectrum threats."

The solution, at least according to those looking to dole out the contracts on the project, is to throw some artificial intelligence and machine learning at the problem.

"In order for a system to operate in a peer or near-peer conflict a degree of cognition, system integration, artificial intelligence, and machine learning (AI/ML) are required to generate and/or maintain a competitive advantage due to the sheer volume of data, speed of activity, and complexity of threat capabilities," the BAA continued.

"The Cognitive Electronic Warfare (EW) ecosystem encompasses all the AI/ML utilised by systems and processes to enable varying levels of autonomy across the various EW missions, with AFRL supporting the warfighter and ops community missions including (rapid) reprogramming on the ground to closed-loop self-protect jamming in the fight."

The project, which focuses on the protection of in-flight "high-value airborne assets (HVAA)," is split into nine sub-projects – all rather pleasingly named for famous kaiju – under the oversight of programme manager Godzilla. The first is Gamera, a study into "key community developed tools" that could be used within a common, modular framework to generate the big data the USAF requires.

King Ghidorah's remit is on software-defined radio (SDR), in particular the investigation of target hardware and the development of interfaces between SDR hardware and command and control systems – plus, in classic monster-movie fashion, a little "destructive testing" to boot.

Mecha Rodan has been given the responsibility of refining existing multi-spectrum modelling and simulation environments to add "advanced capabilities" in both electronic support and electronic attack fields, while Kumonga is to set up the "RAPTURE Laboratory" for design, fabrication, and test of any special-purpose hardware that comes out of the project as a whole.

Mothra, meanwhile, will oversee an electronic attack demonstration vehicle – including the development of a reconfigurable processing framework for assessment of electronic attack capabilities. King Kong, the big ape, will be responsible for adapting non-real-time machine learning algorithms for real-time use on a "government furnished hardware architecture description," and Baragon will develop electronic warfare systems capable of detecting, sorting, identifying, disambiguating, and tracking complex emitters in complex environments.

Colossus, finally, will be in charge of the development of the somewhat more aggressive "Advanced Threat Defeat" system, including the development of "novel and cognitive electronic warfare capabilities to generate multi-layered EA [Electronic Attack] techniques resulting in long-range kill webs" – including feeding data into autonomous vehicles.

Project Kaiju's aims go beyond these, however, to the realm of completely autonomous attack and defence systems. "As AI/ML advances it will be able to process and utilise larger amounts of data in real-time," the BAA predicted, "opening the potential for autonomous EW on an asset."

"Essential for rapid insertion and assessment of AI/ML technology are the adoption of open standards, agile DevOps/algorithm development, and process validation tools environments. This AI/ML foundation will be critical to allowing AI/ML to migrate into fielded systems and eventually onto assets for closed loop operations."

Project Kaiju, which is expected to open to proposals early next year, is being run with a $150m budget – of which $135m is earmarked for the project as a whole while a second contract, at $15m, is offered for those taking on the Godzilla project management role plus one or more of the Mothra, King Kong, Baragon, or Colossus sub-projects.

Anyone wanting to follow the project's progress may be be disappointed, however. The USAF has confirmed that the effort, which is being given 60 months for the technical work and three months for final reporting, will be classified at the Top Secret/SCI level.

More information is available on SAM.GOV. The USAF had not responded to a request for more details by the time of publication. ®

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