The U.S. Air Force Looks to Leverage AI

Air Force seeks small business proposals for AI-integrated simulators


We are in the midst of a digital era, where technology is advancing faster than ever before and artificial intelligence is no longer a futuristic concept. Today, AI has a place in every aspect of our lives, from healthcare to education to military training.

At the AI World Government Conference in D.C. June 26, Capt. Michael Kanaan, the service’s co-chair for AI, spoke about how the Air Force has been on a journey to leverage AI for nearly 3 years.

“We had to find a way to get us to a place where we could talk about AI in a pragmatic, principled, meaningful way,” Kanaan said, according to C4ISRNet.

One avenue through which the service is exploring the technology is simulation. Earlier this month, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Simulator Program Office announced it will host a contest for small businesses to apply AI for the purpose of improving simulators, reported Defense News.

The Air Force released a list of proposal focus areas, including: cloud-based simulators; AI aided instruction in simulator; visual acuity and fidelity of objects at long ranges within the simulator environment; interoperability among networked simulators; simulator interoperability considering releasability of capabilities; and more.

“We are not asking small business to go out and invent something new,” Margaret Merkle, program manager in the Simulators Division, said via the Air Force news release. “We are asking if they have technology that we can leverage for the Air Force. Ultimately the idea is to connect with industry which will help us move into the latest technological space faster.”

The proposal process will take place in two phases. Small businesses have until July 1 to submit their proposals for Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) awards. Following will be a two-week evaluation period and one-week contracting sprint.

Companies selected during Phase I will have the opportunity to submit proposals in the September/October timeframe for a Phase II award that will build upon what was learned and demonstrated during their Phase 1 efforts. Select companies will also be invited to present Dec. 4 at a Simulators Pitch Day in Orlando, Fla.

Artificial intelligence can be used “within a learning management system to suggest techniques, tactics or procedures, which need to be practiced more for proficiency,” Maj. Patrick Kawonczyk, who will lead the Dec. 4 event, told Defense News. He added that AI could benefit the Air Force by improving data analysis, predictive analysis for maintenance, and more.

Following the Pitch Day, regardless of whether they are awarded contracts, companies will also have the opportunity to present their proposals at a media event to broader audience of defense industry executives, venture capitalists, and other service acquisition executives, reported Air Force Technology.

Headline Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio

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