DARPA’s Vision of Future Air Warfare

Future air war-fighters need to consider balancing the costs and capabilities of new weapons technology, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency said in a Mar. 30 release.  “Effective as they are, U.S. military systems today are often too expensive to procure in the quantities needed,” DARPA said, “and may take so long to develop that the electronic components they contain are obsolete by the time they become operational.”

Many have criticized the U.S. military’s new weapons systems, such as the the F-35, for being too expensive. But DARPA has a plan ensure that whatever future weapons cost the U.S. to produce and use, the damage they inflict will cost an adversary much more.  They call this plan the System of Systems (SoS) Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program. DARPA says that,

SoSITE aims to demonstrate that an SoS approach to maintaining air superiority: will be militarily effective; can adapt apace with the emergence of new technologies; and will impose on any adversary seeking to counter these systems a financial cost greater than it costs the United States to field.

An SoS approach entails creating an “open-systems architecture,” which will standardize systems and tools so that they can be easily changed and upgraded.  “The potential benefit of separating payloads from platforms using open system architectures can be understood using the example of smartphone technology and apps,” John Shaw, SoSITE’s program manager explained. “The ecosystem for smartphones invites new and better apps by shifting significant portions of the development burden onto well-defined development tool kits; these allow app developers to create new capabilities and get them quickly into an app store for consumers to use. You don’t need to buy a new smartphone every time an app comes out with a new capability.”

DARPA has awarded contracts to multiple companies to help develop the SoS architecture.

If that all sounds terribly confusing, check out this DARPA concept video that explains the process. Note the swarm of low-cost cruise missiles at the 2:50 mark.

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