Air Force Research Lab Focuses on Better Missiles and AI Drone Swarms

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) manages a budget of $7.5 billion to discover, manufacture, and integrate warfighting capabilities and technologies for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. DARPA had a budget of $4.1 billion in 2023. AFRL is close to double the budget of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

AFRL RESEARCH AREA 13 – Artificial Intelligence/Autonomy
The objective of this work is to design, develop, and demonstrate a machine learning capability that will facilitate a swarm of Networked Collaborative and Autonomous weapon systems. Technology must demonstrate the ability to reconcile prescribed targets within a dynamic battlespace.

The Department of the Air Force’s (DAF) research and development (R&D) budget for 2023 was $49.2 billion, or 25% of the total DAF budget. This budget is divided between $33.4 billion for the Air Force and $15.8 million for the Space Force. The US military spends about $95 billion annually on research and development (R&D). In 2024, the total US government budget proposal includes about $209.7 billion for R&D. The US as whole (fed government, state government, and commercial) is spending about $700 billion on R&D.

The AFRL published their top 13 research areas.a> It is almost all focused on making better missiles. The last of 13 is AI/Autonomy and digging into the specifics that is all about AI for drone swarms.

Research Area 1 – Modeling, Simulation, & Analysis (MS&A)

Research Area 2 – Innovative Aircraft Integration Technologies

Research Area 3 – Find Fix Target Track (F2T2) & Datalink Technologies

Research Area 4 – Engagement Management System Technologies

Research Area 5 – High Velocity Fuzing

Research Area 6 – Missile Electronics

Research Area 7 – Missile Guidance and Control Technologies

Research Area 8 – Advanced Warhead Technologies

Research Area 9 – Advanced Missile Propulsion Technologies

Research Area 10 – Control Actuation Systems

Research Area 11 – Missile Carriage and Release Technologies

Research Area 12 – Missile Test and Evaluation Technologies

Research Area 13 – Artificial Intelligence / Autonomy