Palantir bags $480M from Pentagon to inject battlefield AI into the entire military

Uncle Sam wants Maven Smart System to be in use across DoD by 2029

Palantir is unlikely to put critics at ease with its latest US government contract: A $480 million award from the Pentagon's Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) to get the data-gobbling biz's Maven AI warfighting code in the hands of the entire DoD. 

Details on the contract, awarded yesterday for a Maven Smart System (MSS) prototype, are sparse, with the Department of Defense only saying that it wants Palantir - the project's only bidder - to have the work done by 2029.

According to Palantir, the deal is for far more than just more MSS prototypes - up to $480 million will be awarded over five years "to make licenses available across the Department of Defense."

Maven is arguably the Pentagon's highest profile artificial intelligence project, and involves the use of AI models and algorithms to identify battlefield targets from available information and surveillance visuals, such as drone video footage. Work on the project began in 2017, and it's been deployed for real-world use since late last year after Hamas attacked Israel, the US military said

Outspoken Palantir CEO Alex Karp earlier said the Peter-Thiel-built-biz has led the Maven project since Google pulled out amid employee protest. 

The Kentucky National Guard's 138th Field Artillery Brigade has been fielding the MSS while deployed in Qatar, the Kentucky National Guard said in a February write-up. According to the KY Guard, MSS uses "AI-generated algorithms and memory learning capabilities to scan and identify enemy systems" and distinguish them from other objects in drone footage of an operational area. 

"Maven fuses data from various Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) systems to identify areas of interest," the Kentucky National Guard said. Maven isn't making targeting decisions, the Kentucky Guard added, noting that intelligence analysts are still in the loop to make a final targeting determination. 

Those early uses of MSS appear to have been successful, at least as far as the CDAO is concerned. Palantir said its latest contract is beginning with a $153 million order for MSS rollout at "certain combatant commands and the joint staff," with plans to continue deploying it beyond.

“These awards represent a vital step in warfighter adoption of AI, moving cutting-edge technology from experiment to enterprise production,” said Palantir's head of defense growth Shannon Clark.

Palantir said its AI software will be integrated with other battlespace awareness platforms as the contract continues. It has also been awarded $33 million to "securely onboard third-party vendor and government capabilities into the government owned, Palantir operated data environment," Palantir said.

This latest contract isn't the only Maven-related work Palantir is doing for the DoD right now, either - it was also awarded a $178 million contract earlier this year for an Army vehicle called the TITAN "ground station."

Palantir describes TITAN as an AI-defined vehicle able to "provide actionable targeting information for enhanced mission command and long range precision fires." Karp, meanwhile, described TITAN as an extension of Maven, which makes sense given TITAN's described capabilities and what we know of Maven's purpose. 

Still, the previous contract isn't connected to the award to expand integration of Maven into DoD systems.

TITAN is "a good example of the type of battlefield awareness that would feed information into the broader ... capabilities that Palantir and MSS support," a Palantir spokesperson told us, while noting that TITAN and this latest award were unrelated. ®

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