Palantir wins US Army contract for battlefield AI

US spy-tech firm at center of UK health data systems applies its technology to altogether different ends

Palantir has won a US Army contract worth $178.4 million to house a battlefield intelligence system inside a big truck.

In what purports to be the Army's first AI-defined vehicle, Palantir will provide systems for the TITAN "ground station," which is designed to access space, high altitude, aerial, and terrestrial sensors to "provide actionable targeting information for enhanced mission command and long range precision fires", according to a Palantir statement.

TITAN stands for Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, which might sound harmless enough. Who was ever killed by a node?

The TITAN solution is built to "maximize usability for soldiers, incorporating tangible feedback and insights from soldier touchpoints at every step of the development and configuration process," the statement said.

The aim of the TITAN project is to bring together military software and hardware providers in a new way. These include "traditional and non-traditional partners" of the US armed forces, such as Northrop Grumman, Anduril Industries, L3Harris Technologies, Pacific Defense, SNC, Strategic Technology Consulting, and World Wide Technology, as well as Palantir.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Alex Karp, Palantir’s motor-mouth CEO, said TITAN was the logical extension of Maven, a controversial project for using machine learning and engineering to tell people and objects apart in drone footage in which Palantir is a partner and from which Google famously pulled out after employees protested.

Karp said TITAN was a partnership between "people who've built software products that have been used on the battlefield and used commercially."

"That simple insight which you see in the battlefield in Ukraine, which you see in Israel is something that is hard for institutions to internalize. [For] the Pentagon this step is one of the most historic steps ever because what it basically says is, 'We're going to fight for real, we're going to put the best on the battlefield and the best is not just one company.' It's a team of people led by the most prominent software provider in defense in the world: Palantir," he said.

In December last year, the news site of non-profit Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association International described TITAN as Army's first intelligence ground station enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

General Ed Barker, the Army's program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, told the publication Titan would create a scalable, and expeditionary intelligence ground station to provide fused sensor data that "enables long-range precision fires."

Palantir's connections with the US and other military has raised concerns in the UK, as the company is the winning bidder for the NHS Federated Data Platform, the controversial project which the government hopes will help recover the care backlog stemming from the pandemic. ®

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