Information Warfare: November 11, 2004


After more than seven years of development, the U.S. Army is ready to install Rotorcraft Pilot's Associate ATD (RPA) software and hardware in AH-64 helicopter gunships. The AH-64 has a crew of two, a pilot and a weapons officer. The RPA system constantly evaluates the helicopters situation, by monitoring the radar, electronic warfare and other systems. When there is a threat, or the crew is about to engage a target, the RPA will suggest how to proceed. RPA does this by doing a lot of calculating chores quickly (as only a computer can do), but also applying Artificial Intelligence routines to a library of tactics and maneuvers that the helicopter could best use in different situations. The RPA is something like the mission planning software that the air force uses to, well, plan missions, and work out calculations on fuel and hazards (enemy fire or radars). The RPA, however, does all this in real time. One of the problems in getting the RPA to work effectively (it was first demonstrated in 1999) was to develop the interface. The RPA had to provide useful advice, in a form the crew could instantly understand, and do it in a timely manner. Apparently RPA is ready for prime time. The RPA is part of the Block III Upgrade that some AH-64s will be getting in the next five years.


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