Military Embedded Systems

Software solution for battlefield airspace planning tested by DARPA, services


February 24, 2023

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

ASTARTE is enabling safe, simultaneous operation of manned and unmanned aircraft, missiles, and artillery fire in the contested airspace above an Army division. DARPA artist's concept.

ARLINGTON, Va. A pilot program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called Air Space Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution (ASTARTE) recently demonstrated its automated flightpath-planning software that the agency reports successfully deconflicted friendly missiles, artillery fire, and manned and unmanned aircraft while avoiding enemy fires in a simulated battle in contested airspace.

In a demonstration held during late 2022 at the U.S. Army’s Mission Command Battle Lab at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, DARPA reports that the ASTARTE software seamlessly integrated with the Army’s Integrated Mission Planning and Airspace Control Tools (IMPACT) software suite, identified the interfaces enabling the ASTARTE flightpath planner to receive flightpath requests with associated constraints from IMPACT -- including timing, altitude range, and start/end points -- and returned complete deconflicted flight paths back to the IMPACT software. IMPACT is managed by the Aviation Mission Systems and Architecture Project Office in the Program Executive Office for Aviation.

Paul Zablocky, ASTARTE program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, said of the demo: “The demonstration showed that complex route alternatives could be created in seconds, leveraging available permissive airspace to avoid airspace where conflicts would potentially occur. There are many reasons this integration helps the warfighter. Coordinating and consolidating services at the user level greatly reduces procedural burden, which speeds the enterprise. ASTARTE also increases accuracy by automating tasks and reducing inherent human error. Most importantly, the ASTARTE and IMPACT integration forms a foundation of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled services that will interact with other service component AI tools such as the Air Force’s Kessel Run All Domain Operations Suite (KRADOS) for planning and the All Domain Common Platform (ADCP) for operations.”

The ASTARTE Program was launched in 2021 as a joint venture between DARPA, the Army, and the U.S. Air Force to enable efficient and effective airspace operations and deconfliction in areas of high congestion and anti-access/area denial, known as A2/AD. ASTARTE's stated goal is to gain an accurate, real-time common operational picture of the airspace over a deployed Army division, better enabling long-range fire missions and manned/unmanned aircraft operations to take place at the same time in the same airspace.

The ASTARTE program will begin Phase 3 live testing during summer of 2023. 

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