USAF Seeks Custom Game Environment to Test New Ideas

By Brandi Vincent

October 3, 2019

To better keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements in its warfighting capabilities, the Air Force wants its own online game environment where military personnel can test out new concepts and evaluate their potential at much faster speeds than they’re currently operating. 

The branch’s Warfighting Integration Capability, or AFWIC, will host an open AFWERX challenge in three phases over the next two months to engage directly with industry and academia stakeholders and identify solutions that could directly meet its unique needs.  

The future of the United States Air Force is dependent on investing in solutions that enable the warfighter to meet the threats of the future,” Air Force officials said in a special notice solicitation announcing the challenge. “A current problem to be resolved is the long timeline for the down-selection process of future concepts because they cannot keep pace with the exponential increase in technological developments aimed at providing our warfighters with a winning edge.” 

To address the need, AFWIC will host an interactive challenge to produce an online game development environment that includes a game engine and custom, evolving toolkits for insiders to use to test concepts around a wide range of capabilities. The concepts include (but are not limited to) munitions, sensing technologies and air platforms. The service wants the environment to: 

Related: US Wargames to Try Out Concepts for Fighting China, Russia

Related: US Air Force Wants Wargames that Simulate Lasers, Electromagnetic Weapons

Related: The Teams Who Test US Cyber Defenses Aren’t Being Tough Enough: Pentagon Report

The hope is that the interactive solution will support troops in assessing new concepts on a much shorter timeline—a matter of “weeks,” as the solicitation puts it—with more speed and fidelity. 

Gaming scenarios built around these concepts will be distributed to warfighters to provide human-in-the-loop data in an online wargaming environment,” officials said. 

The Air Force is connecting with its startup-like AFWERX program to host an engagement event on the future of war-gaming in mid-October to connect directly with individuals, startups, small businesses and large enterprises. They aim to identify and assess possible solutions and also collaborate on future partnerships. According to the solicitation, “this event will provide an opportunity to engage directly with the USAF and be involved in helping shape the future of USAF software acquisition.”

From there, AFWIC will invite specific attendees and interested vendors to participate in a competitive solicitation. And in mid-November, the Air Force will host an in-person demonstration showcase to evaluate “tailored technical" approaches that could bring about its ideal solution.

The branch will not pay company costs associated with the three phases over the course of the challenge, but insiders said they are open to conversations around game commercialization as a result of the work. 

The innovative solutions uncovered in this challenge will provide a game development environment for AFWIC to help down-select concepts and shape the Air Force of the future,” officials said. 

By Brandi Vincent // Brandi Vincent reports on the federal government's use of and policies for emerging technologies—including but not limited to supercomputing, artificial intelligence, biometrics, and the internet of things. Before joining Nextgov, Brandi helped create news for millennials at Snapchat and mixed media at NBC News. She grew up in south Louisiana and received a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland.

October 3, 2019