“On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Or a giant monster.
Project Kaiju is a new program by the Air Force to automate some functions of electronic warfare and defense. As aircraft and their avionics become more sophisticated, so do the defenses against them. Kaiju, a Japanese word meaning “strange beast,” and also signifying a popular genre of films and series, is the Air Force’s way of unleashing Godzilla against unsuspecting enemy air defenses.
Project Kaiju and Electronic Warfare
Most military aircraft have some form of electronic counter-measures system. These may include frequency jamming systems, chaff and flare pods, or even stealth coatings that can make an F-22 look like a marble on the radar. In basic terms, ECM systems work by taking an electromagnetic signal and manipulating it in some way. The signal may be from ground radar setups, enemy aircraft systems, or satellite guidance and targeting systems. Electronic countermeasure systems are operated by aircrew members to protect friendly forces, attack enemy electronics, or gather and analyze intelligence.
Project Kaiju is the Air Force’s attempt at automating at least some of these functions. Because of emerging technologies, the art of electronic countermeasures has grown more involved. There are so many new and novel technologies in play that a human can become overwhelmed in trying to track them and respond to them. Kaiju aims to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning “to […] maintain a competitive advantage” over peer or near-peer adversaries. Besides the program’s name, the Air Force has dubbed many aspects of the program as fictional Japanese monsters.
On September 9, the Air Force released a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) outlining the goals of Program Kaiju. A BAA is the first step in new research and development projects, similar to a request for proposal. Rather than identifying a need then determining the requirements for that need, sometimes a problem is identified instead. The government announces it has a particular problem, outlines the parameters, then requests contractors to come up with viable solutions.
The BAA released by Air Force Research Laboratories reads like Japanese fan-fic, listing nine mythical monsters, many ironically associated with nuclear warfare:
Gamera – gathers “Big Data” intelligence;
King Ghidora – conducts software-designed radio research and emulates systems through software rather than hardware;
Mecha Rodan – uses computer modeling and simulation to design new capabilities;
Kumonga – redesigns existing systems to meet weight and size requirements for constrained systems;
Mothra – demonstrates electronic attack processing to assess enemy EA capabilities;
King Kong – uses existing government hardware to determine viability of integration into real-time technologies;
Baragon – develops systems to track and manage multiple electronic threats in real-time;
Colossus – develops techniques to layer electronic attack capabilities, creating a web of EA under control of a single Joint All Domain Command structure;
Godzilla – performs the overarching program management of Project Kaiju.
Fictional Monsters, Real Threats
Project Kaiju is how the Air Force plans to counter the emerging electronic threats from adversaries such as China and Russia. Traditionally, larger AF assets like tankers, cargo, and surveillance aircraft fly high above, or obliquely to, the battlefield. This keeps them safe from most ground-based threats because they’re too far away. With new technology emerging, our adversaries’ ability to target these craft is getting better all the time.
While Kaiju is currently working with existing technologies, the aim of the program is to use AI and machine learning to identify and develop new technologies. In a way, the end game is a technology that learns and adapts to real-time information. When the need to identify and respond to threats is taken away from a human operator, this frees up the operator to focus on other tasks. As the machines learn more, the ways they can respond increase as well.
According to the BAA, the program is expected to have $150 million in funding, be broken into two contracts, and last five years. As a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, contractors will be paid a negotiated fee, fixed at the outset.
There will be an Industry Day scheduled for late October for Air Force Research Laboratories to provide more in-depth information to potential contractors. The Air Force is not accepting proposals yet, but expects to put out requests in January 2022.
The Kaiju program is classified as Top Secret, so don’t expect to see much in the way of details until well after the program is underway, and maybe not even then.