WASHINGTON — the Top official in the Pentagon, Michael Griffin went a few weeks ago with Air Force scientists at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to discuss the future of quantum computing in the U.S. army. Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, has mentioned quantum computers, and related applications under the Pentagon must do R&D investments.
Quantum computing is an area where the Pentagon to ensure that it playing catchup while China continues to be a leap forward. The technology has been developed for many civilian applications and the military sees it as potentially game-changing for information and space warfare.
The air force of the united states in particular is focused on what is known as quantum information science. [The Most Destructive Weapons Space Concepts Ever]
“We see this as a very disruptive technology,” said Michael Hayduk, chief of the informatics and communication department of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Artificial-intelligence-algorithms, secure encryption for communications satellites and precise navigation that the GPS signals are some of the most coveted opportunities that would be aided by quantum computing.
Hayduk said last week during a meeting of the Defence board, a Board of technical managers and scientists who advise the federal minister of defence. The DIB met at the Pentagon, Silicon Valley location, the Defense Experimental Unit.
Quantum computers are the latest generation of supercomputers — powerful machines with a new approach for the processing of information. Quantum information science is the application of the laws of quantum mechanics to computer science, Hayduk explained. Unlike traditional computers which are made of pieces of zero or one, quantum computers bits can have both values at the same time, giving them an unprecedented computing power.
“The air force is taking this very seriously, and we have invested for a while,” Hayduk said.
The Pentagon is particularly intrigued by the possibilities of quantum computing for the development of secure communications and inertial navigation for GPS-denied and contested environments. “It is an important area we are very interested in,” said Hayduk.
Some of these technologies will take years to materialize, ” he said. “The timing and feel we see prototype capabilities in five years time.” Communication systems and networks, and will take even longer.
Quantum clocks, be considered as a viable alternative for the GPS in the scenarios that require a perfect synchronization between multiple weapon systems and aircraft, for example, said Hayduk. “We are looking for GPS-like precision in denied environments,” he said. “It often takes a number of updates to the GPS the whole day to synchronize platforms. We want to be able to get past that so if we are in a non-permissible environment, we can still remain in sync.”
Global race is underway
Meanwhile, the Pentagon continues to look at what other countries are doing. China is “very serious” about this, ” he said. It is projected to invest $10 billion to $15 billion in the next five years in quantum computing. China has already developed quantum satellites that can’t be hacked.
“They have demonstrated excellent technology,” said Hayduk. In the U.S., “we have important pieces in place. But we are looking for more than imitating what China is doing in the ground -, satellite-communication. We look at the whole ecosystem: earth, air, space, and form a real network.”
Other countries are in the game. The United Kingdom is planning a $400 million program for quantum-based sensing and timing. A similar project by the European Union is estimated at a value of $1 billion over 10 years. Canada, Australia and Israel are also major programs.
What these countries’ quantum computing efforts have in common is that they are “the whole government of’ national programs, said Hayduk, “that is very different than what the USA now.”
The Air Force Research Laboratory is expected to play a “major role in the development of software and algorithms to drive applications,” he added.
The congress has proposed an $800 million funding line in the Pentagon budget for the next five years for quantum projects. Hayduk said: money is important, but DoD must also have the human capital. “Quantum physicists are in high demand. We need to develop quantum engineers, people who can apply.” Another point of concern is the lack of a national supply chain (most suppliers today are outside the U.S.) and laboratories focused on quantum physics.
How quantum technology can be applied to the artificial intelligence is a part of a wider debate about the military use of AI. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]
Defense executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, the former ceo of Google, the parent company of the Alphabet, is pushing the Pentagon that they have the technology. This is despite the distrust in the tech industry about the military’s intentions for the use of AI, which Google asked for a cooperation with the air force to develop machine learning algorithms.
The Pentagon this month announced the setting up of a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, led by the DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.
On the DIB meeting, Schmidt said that the new AI center is the “beginning of a very, very large program that will affect everyone in a good way.” In the light of the recent controversy about the ethics of the use of AI in military operations, the Pentagon has asked the board of directors to help delop “AI principles” for the defense.
The technology is seen as essential to help analyse data and provide leaders with accurate information in real-time. Defense and intelligence officials for years have complained that the commanders in the field are handicapped by a lack of timely data and reliable communication systems.
This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to treating all aspects of space.