Editor’s Note: DARPA is addressing the issue of emerging radar technology with something they refer to as “cognitive electronic warfare.” Short version? Artificial Intelligence. It’s about recognizing the character traits and patterns of a specific radar and creating what is, in essence, a personality profile of that particular set. Armed with that data, jammers can then address those specific threats on the fly, and create a solution to that problem. How does it work? The ten-thousand-pound brains and creative genius of DARPA can explain.

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on a new generation of electronic warfare systems that are based on artificial intelligence (A.I.). If the program were to prove a success, the new A.I.-driven systems would provide the United States military a way to counter evermore-capable Russian and Chinese radars.

“One of our programs at DARPA is taking a whole new approach to this problem, this is an effort we refer to as cognitive electronic warfare,” DARPA director, Dr. Arati Prabhakar, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on February 24. “We’re using artificial intelligence to learn in real-time what the adversaries’ radar is doing and then on-the-fly create a new jamming profile. That whole process of sensing, learning and adapting is going on continually.”

DARPA: Electronic Warfare Solutions Based On AI?
An F-22 Raptor marked for the 192nd Fighter Wing taxies back to the line after a morning airshow demonstration at JBLE (photo by Jonathan Derden)

Current generation aircraft—including the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35—have a pre-programmed databank of enemy radar signals and jamming profiles stored in a threat library. But if those warplanes encounter a signal that has not previously been encountered, the system registers the threat as unknown—which means the aircraft is vulnerable to that threat.

“Today, when out aircraft go out on their missions, they’re loaded up with a set of jamming profiles—these are specific frequencies and waveforms that they can transmit in order to jam and disrupt an adversaries’ radar to protect themselves,” Prabhakar said. “Sometimes when they go out today, they encounter a new kind of frequency or different waveform—one that they’re not programmed for, that’s not in their library, and in a time of conflict, that would leave them exposed.”

Dave Majumdar’s original article can be viewed in its entirety right here.

(Featured photo of the RC-135 Rivet Joint courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)