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France focuses on AI for combat aviation
Rafale pilots. © Richard NICOLAS-NELSON/Armée de l'air/Armées

France focuses on AI for combat aviation

Dassault Aviation and Thales are working on upstream studies into future applications for artificial intelligence (AI) in the combat aviation sector.

Dassault Aviation and Thales are working on upstream studies into future applications for artificial intelligence (AI) in the combat aviation sector. The two companies received a contract from the French defence procurement agency, DGA, in January to work on “Man-Machine Teaming” (MMT). Dassault Aviation has been designated lead company, with Thales acting as co-contractor.

French minister of the armed forces Florence Parly was recently briefed on ongoing activities at an official programme launch ceremony at Dassault Aviation headquarters in Saint-Cloud, on the outskirts of Paris.

In particular, Parly was shown presentations on the “cognitive air system” concept, which is based on more autonomous functions onboard aircraft and on a Man/Machine relationship in which the human element is constantly maintained in the decision loop.

Parly also met representatives of about a hundred French start-ups, SMEs, laboratories and research centres specialised in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and new Man/Machine interfaces. This ecosystem will be involved in the studies, in partnership with Dassault Aviation and Thales, to develop cutting-edge algorithms and propose disruptive solutions.
MMT goals include:

- define future cockpits and independent systems;

- improve innovative technologies in Man/Machine teaming within the cognitive air system, particularly decision-making autonomy and machine learning;

- enhance concepts and technologies in the field of smart / learning sensors.

The French minister took advantage of the occasion to present the Artificial Intelligence and Innovation Roadmap, of which the MMT study is a part. The roadmap includes an "Innovation Defence Lab" — a new defence innovation hub open to startups, which will be inaugurated this year — to monitor new developments in this sector.

Potential AI applications already identified by the ministry include automatic image recognition, electronic warfare, collaborative combat, navigation autonomous robots, cybersecurity, predictive maintenance, decision and command support, etc.

Parly also announced the creation of a Defence Innovation Agency within the Ministry of the Armed Forces. This agency will be open to the civil economy, to start-ups, turned towards Europe and will allow the development of innovative defence projects.

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