DARPA’s PROTEUS program plays the art of war


The nature of the war continues to evolve throughout the 21st century, and conflict zones have shifted from jungles and deserts to coastal cities. Not to mention the rapidly growing commercial availability of the latest technologies, including drones and wireless communications. To help the Marines best prepare for these increased complexities and challenges, the Department of Defense has tasked DARPA with developing a digital tool for training and operations planning. The result is Test prototype of resistant operations for experimental urban scenarios (PROTEUS) system, a real-time strategy simulator for urban-coastal warfare.

When the PROTEUS program first began in 2017, “there was a lot of momentum in DARPA within what we call an area of ​​focus on sustainability, and that included urban warfare,” Dr. Tim Grayson, director of the Office for Sustainability, told Engadget. DARPA’s strategic technology. how best to support and “sustain” U.S. combat forces in a variety of combat situations until they complete their mission.


The head of the PROTEUS program (who has since left DARPA), Dr John S Paschkewitz, “came to the realization that the urban environment is indeed complex, both from a maneuvering perspective,” Grayson said, “but also into a future where there is all this commercial technology that will include communications and spectrum, maybe even robotics and things like that. ”

Even without the threat of armed drones and autonomous killing bombs, modern zones of urban conflict pose a number of challenges, including limited visibility and a dense, ubiquitous civilian population. “There is such a wide range of missions going on in urban areas,” Grayson said. “A lot of things are almost like peacekeeping, stabilization operations. How are we … going to help the locals and protect them. “He also notes that the military is often called upon to help both in emergencies in the country and in natural disasters, which raise the same questions, albeit with almost no shooting.

“So if someone like the Marines or some other military maintenance unit had to go conduct operations in a complex urban environment,” he continued, “it would be a limited footprint. So, [Paschkewitz] started looking at what we call ‘what to put in a backpack problem’. “

“Urban struggle is about achieving precise effects and adjusting faster than opponents in an uncertain, increasingly complex environment,” Paschkewitz said in the June issue of DARPA. “In order for US forces to maintain a distinct advantage in combat scenarios in urban coastal areas, we need agile, flexible task organizations capable of creating surprises and reaping the benefits by combining effects in operational areas.”

PROTEUS itself is a software program designed to work on a tablet or hardened PDA and allows anyone from a detachment leader to a company commander to monitor and adjust “the composition of battlefield elements – including dismantled forces, vehicles, drones”, manned aircraft and other available funds ”, according to edition. “Through PROTEUS, we seek to strengthen the initiative and decision-making capacity of NCOs and junior officers at platoon and detachment level, as well as field officers who command expeditionary landing teams, for example, by giving them new tools to compile custom force packages not just before missions.” but also during the mission as it unfolds. ”

But PROTEUS is not only for monitoring and redeploying forces, but also serves as a real-time strategy training system that helps NCOs and officers test and analyze a variety of capabilities and tactics. “One of the beauties [PROTEUS] is flexible enough to program with anything you want, ”Grayson said. It allows warriors to “explore their ideas, concepts of their own structure, their tactics. They are completely free to use it only as open experimentation, mission exercise or even a training tool. ”

But because of its design flexibility, the system’s physical engine is closely aligned with real-world behavior and tolerances of existing military equipment, as well as commercial drones, mobile, satellite and Wi-Fi communications, sensors, and even weapon systems. “The simulation environment is sophisticated, but it doesn’t allow them to do things that aren’t physically feasible,” Grayson explained.

The system also includes a dynamic composition mechanism called COMPOSER that not only automates the loading of team equipment, but can also view the commander’s plan and provide feedback on multiple aspects, including “electromagnetic signature risk, assignment of communication means to specific units, and automatic configuration tactical equipment. ” networks, ”DARPA said in a press release.



“Without EMSO and the logistics wizard, it’s difficult to effectively coordinate and execute multi-domain operations,” Paschkewitz said. “Marines can easily coordinate direct and indirect fires, but coordinating those with spectrum operations while providing logistical support without staff is a challenge. These tools allow the Marines to focus on the art of war, and automation manages the science of war. ”

Currently, the system is set up for standard Red vs Blue fights between opposing human forces, although Grayzon does not expect PROTEUS to be upgraded to the point that people will be able to compete against the CPU, and even less likely to see CPU vs CPU – given our current computing and processing capabilities. He notes that it is Constructive battles of machine learning with opposing tactics The (COMBAT) program, which is still ongoing at DARPA, is working to develop a “model of Red Army Brigade behavior that challenges and adapts to the Blue Forces in simulation experiments.”

“Building the commander’s insight and judgment is driven by the fact that there is a living adversary,” Paschkewitz said in June. “We built ULTRA [the sandbox module that serves as the basis for the larger system] around that concept from day one. This is not artificial intelligence against artificial intelligence, or man against artificial intelligence, but there is always a Marine against ADFOR (opposing forces), it is another Marine, typically, who forces the commander to adjust tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and introduce innovations in mission speed. ”

“PROTEUS allows commanders to immerse themselves in a future conflict in which they can develop capabilities against a real opponent,” said Ryan Reeder, director of modeling and simulation, MCWL Experiment Division, – it is stated in the announcement. “Commanders can hone their battlefield skills and also train subordinates on recruitment techniques, providing a cohesive unit capable of performing in a more efficient manner.

Technically, the inclusion of DARPA in the PROTEUS program was completed after it was transferred to the Anti-Navy Laboratory, where it is now used to train ADFOR and develop new TTPs and CONOPS. “I guess they’ll mostly use it for their own purposes, instead of continuing to develop it,” Grayson said. “The Warfare Lab is less focused on technology and more on our future strengths, concepts, and what our new tactics are.”

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