EDITOR’S BUNKER BRIEFING (24 August 2020) No.23

Andrew Drwiega, Editor-in-Chief, Armada International / Asian Military Review.

Dear Readers,

Artificial Intelligence – the desire to replicate human intelligence in machines. A subject that has many aspects to it, benefits as well as potential dangers. The question most people have at the back of their own minds is ‘will we always be able to control AI?’

Simplistically, the near future, and particularly of value to the military, AI offers the potential to get inside the adversaries OODA loop. OODA standing for observe–orient–decide–act. If your technology, still with human intelligence at its core (hopefully), can help to make the right choices not only in 1-on-1 combat (see below), but across the whole conflict spectrum, perhaps that would make the very idea of going to war redundant. OK, so who is thinking of the film: Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb! Doomsday machine anyone?



A United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Alphadogfight competition pitched a series of F-16 dogfights between an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm and one of the US Air Force’s top F-16 fighter pilots in a virtual dogfight simulation. The apparently one sided contest saw the AI algorithm win 5-0.

However, as Col. Daniel Javorsek programme manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office pointed out, “there are a lot of caveats and disclaimers.” The nature of the simulator for the pilot, the factor that the AI could fly with ‘perfect information’ were factors that contributed to the imbalance of the outcome.

The AI algorithm was developed by Heron Systems, beating seven other competitors to reach the final fly-off agains a human pilot. Other competitors comprised: Aurora Flight Sciences, EpiSys Science, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Lockheed Martin, Perspecta Labs, PhysicsAI and SoarTech.

The AlphaDogfight Trials were designed to contribute to DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution programme. The finals of the Alphadogfight competition took place over three days, 18-20 August. The top four teams were involved in an elimination tournament on Day 3 with the victor, Heron Systems, going on to take on the human pilot.

“In the bigger air combat evolution programme…we will take this one-verses-one engagement and move it into the real world,” said Col Javorsek. “We want to explore this collaboration of man with machine [which is] so much more powerful that either one of those alone.”

“There is a long way to go. This was a far cry from going out in an F-16 and flying BFM [Basic Fighter Manoeuvres], but we have made a giant leap in bringing AI together with the communities together,” said Lt Col Justin ‘Glock’ Mock, who co-hosted the livestream event broadcast by DARPA, John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and ARCNet.


We need an alternative to Chinese-made small drones and Blue sUAS is a first step in achieving that objective,” said Mike Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), part of the Department of Defense (DOD) that is responsible for accelerating commercial technology for defence purposes.

The five US-manufactured drone manufacturers selected to provide trusted, secure small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) platforms are Altavian, Parrot, Skydio, Teal, and Vantage Robotics.

DUI worked with the US Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) programme to help develop an inexpensive, rucksack-portable, vertical take-off and landing small unmanned aircraft that provides small units with a rapidly-deployed situational sUAS. All have been widely available in the commercial world since the 2010s.

According to the DoD: “Coined Blue sUAS, this spinoff effort builds upon the Army’s initial success and offers sUAS that mirror the air vehicle and software architecture of SRR, but provides alternative ground controller and radio configurations to accommodate a variety of users across the federal government.”

“Blue sUAS represents a tremendous first step toward building a robust and trusted UAS domestic industrial base that ensures sustained delivery of highly-capable, secure UAS to the warfighters that depend on it,” said Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering.

Products from the five companies will be made available for purchase government-wide on the GSA schedule by September 2020.

“We need an alternative to Chinese-made small drones and Blue sUAS is a first step in achieving that objective.” said Mike Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit. “Working across DOD and the US government aggregates the business opportunity for these five vendors and enhances the long-term viability of this capability for the U.S. and our allies.”


Satellite imagery has revealed the entrance to a Chinese underground submarine base.
The imagery, posted by Radio Free Asia, reportedly shows a Shang-class submarine approaching the entrance of the underground base.

The Shang-class submarine belonging to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has its bow pointing towards what appears to be the entrance to the underground berth at Yulin Naval Base, on the southern Chinese island province of Hainan, on the South China Sea.

According to a report by CNN on 21 August, the image was taken by American imaging company Planet Labs and “shows what appears to be a Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarine entering a tunnel to an underground berth.”


Highlighting a selection of $100 million+ government awarded contracts awarded between 17-21 August.

21 August
(Largest contract award of the day). TSI was awarded a $48 million contract for approximately 3,500 M41A1 protection assessment test systems conformance testing certifications, technical documentation and logistics support equipment. US Army Contracting Command is the contracting activity.

20 August

Allied Pacific Builders; Environet; Fortis Networks; Hako Plumbing; Heartwood Pacific; and Weldin Construction are being awarded a combined IDIQ construction contract worth $245 million for construction projects located primarily within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii area of operations (AO). NAVFAC Hawaii is the contracting activity.

19 August
(Largest contract award of the day). General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems received a modification of $48 million to an IDIQ contract for the production of Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1. This modification raises the contract ceiling to $613 million. US Special Operations Command is the contracting activity.

18 August
Ology Bioservices was awarded a $106 million contract to reserve production capacity of approximately 186,840,000 doses to satisfy an urgent need for domestic aseptic fill and finish manufacturing of critical vaccines and therapeutics in support of the Operation Warp Speed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. US Army Contracting Command is the contracting activity.

17 August
L3Harris Technologies has been awarded a $55 million IDIQ contract for innovative research and development and to provide the Integrated Demonstrations and Applications Laboratory simulation and testbed capabilities required to rapidly develop, integrate, mature, insert and transition technologies/systems to meet critical/urgent warfighter mission requirements. Air Force Research Lab is the contracting activity.


No new event cancellations or rescheduling this week.

Keep safe and healthy everyone.

Andrew Drwiega

Armada International / Asian Military Review