Innovation | in-no-va-tion | noun

  • 1: a new idea, method, or device

    2: the introduction of something new

Target | tär-get| noun, often attributive

  • 1: a person, object, or place selected as the aim an attack

innovation targets


The Armament Directorate seeks innovative technologies that support Digital Engineering, Reach, Affordable Mass, Autonomous Collaboration, Non-Kinetic Effects, and Sensing and Communications – our Innovation Targets. Cost reducing technologies are critical, so inventories are successfully built and maintained.

“The increased rate of tactical change we anticipate in a high-end fight dictates an increased acquisition and fielding tempo.”

Dr. Paul Ret, Ph.D.
U.S. Air Force, Armament Directorate Chief, Disruptive Futures Division

The key to delivering capabilities at the speed of relevance for our future force is the use of integrated digital ecosystems to design, test, and modernize systems.
The elements of this integrated digital ecosystem—the “digital trinity” of open systems architecture, agile software, and digital engineering—are spelled out by Dr. Will Roper, former Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in There is No Spoon: the New Digital Acquisition Reality.

This is a paradigm shift for Air Force acquisition. By leveraging these tools, weapons will benefit from rapid prototyping and flexibility to incorporate advanced technologies and upgrades.
The Armament Directorate is looking to partner with innovative industry partners that embody these concepts as we accelerate the future of weapons development.


Own, share, and furnish the tech stack. Open architecture lays out the guidelines for the data, models and software, or the technology stack that make up a program’s digital lifecycle. Architecture components should be open for future system modernization and sustainment competition. Open architecture consolidates common resources, decreases risk, reuses software, enhances maintenance abilities, reduces costs, and increases tactical options.


Warp from tech stack to edge effortlessly. Deployment of software technologies to the edge, an operational system in near real-time speed is the goal. Technology stack layers must be fully containerized to simplify integration challenges across industry partners, sharing code across platforms - it should be available enterprise-wide, based on an enterprise reference architecture, with all tools necessary for program success.


eCreate before you Aviate. Digital acquisition is not the “status quo” but rather, “the status next.” In the digital world, there is an opportunity to design, build, and test countless models before building it in the physical world. It is where future wars will be won or lost. Full digital threading is foundational to the ‘trinity’ for industry partners, lowering costs and time for production through digital designs with real-world problems applied, maximizing optimization and automation, and lowering risk through modeling first.


Emerging technologies across the six Innovation Targets must address commonality. The Armament Directorate will develop and share these concepts to meet recurrent challenges, swapping subsystems and microservices across the munitions portfolio.

Air delivered armaments share similar “architectural domains” such as guidance, navigation, and control systems, warheads, propulsion systems, seekers, etc.  We require highly modular and software defined capabilities, with the ability to reuse software and hardware architectures across services and mission areas and insist on a challenge-based acquisitions approach to maximize competition for system subcomponents.

Of interest are common, small form factor, hardware architectures that fit within a 5” tube, use of commercial heterogeneous System on Chip (SoC), System on Module (SoM) or System in Package (SiP) to reduce Size/Weight/Power/Cost and unclassified Weapons Open System Architecture (WOSA) implementation models leveraging the Systems Modeling Language (SysML).

Modularity and commonality must also address efficient design by leveraging advanced artificial intelligence (AI) methods like generative design to eliminate parasitic weapon weight, increasing battery efficiency (Wh/kg) and solid rocket motor efficiency (Isp).

The Directorate seeks the ability to evolve toward a common software centric development organization.  As our weapons become modular and software defined, it is critical that we adopt and develop methods for agile embedded software design and acquisition. 

the goal of commonality

Ultimately, the goal is to enable the adoption and establishment of modular software architectures and frameworks, executing best practices to expedite system upgrades, repurposing these architectures and frameworks; therefore, encouraging collaboration across services and mission areas. 

digital engineering

The Armament Directorate is investigating concepts to employ emerging technologies faster.  Implementation of digital engineering across the weapons enterprise will grow and accelerate the transition of advanced technologies.  We seek digital solutions to utilize Weapons Open System Architecture (WOSA) at its maximum extent. 

Use of the Systems Modeling Language (SysML) is a critical enabler of WOSA and the catalyst for modular weapons.  Process and network modeling ensure an early understanding of tactical, operational, and strategic weapons system implications. 

The Directorate is exploring the use of the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM) tool for all integrated flight simulations, lethality validity models, autonomy implementations and collaborative weapons system effects.

Other specific digital engineering areas of focus include:

  • Model-Based Systems Engineering

  • Databases

  • Data mining/optimization tools

  • Armament unique modeling and simulation

  • Multi-security level solutions


First look. First kill. The Armament Directorate is searching for concepts with increased standoff range and reach outside of threat range.  These concepts must allow Blue aircraft to effectively prosecute targets in the air and on the ground. Intended targets include fighters, soft stationary ground targets, hardened targets, moving ground targets, and maritime targets.

Increased standoff ranges will provide aircraft and flight crews increased safety against IADs or air-to-air attack.

Weapon classes of interest include:

  • Cruise missiles

  • High loft missiles

  • Air-to-air missiles

  • Hypersonic weapons

  • Air-launched, “truck” vehicles

Industry partners should examine extended range solutions that do not exceed the procurement cost of current weapons to permit inventories to be created and maintained within current budgets, projected budgets, and anticipated budgets.

Specific technologies under analysis include:

  • Propulsion technologies

    • Ramjets/scramjets
    • Gas turbine engines
    • Rockets
  • Disposable or re-usable “boost” vehicles

  • New lightweight and/or high temperature materials for use in armament propulsion systems

  • Warhead technologies and design concepts

  • Communications and datalink technologies/concepts

autonomous collaboration

The Armament Directorate is pursuing ideas that permit Blue Forces to command various collaborative weapons to employ coordinated tactics to ensure success. A fluid battlespace requires automated, adaptive weapons systems, and cooperative tactics. The Directorate must deliver massed weapon waves that adapt to that battlespace, maximizing outcomes in situations that would likely overwhelm human decision-makers.

Anticipated benefits include providing more assured target prosecution in a complex battlespace and nearly infinite tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) modification and application toward creating new and world unique capabilities.

Weapon classes of interest include:

  • Ranged air-to-ground weapons

  • Decoys

Specific technologies under analysis include:

  • Artificial intelligence algorithms with “dialable” human influence

    • Target identification schema
    • Target prioritization algorithm
  • Collaborative weapons playbook scripts

  • Datalink technologies and theories

  • Miniaturized, reliable electronics

  • Electronic warfare concepts and capabilities

non-kinetic effects

The Armament Directorate seeks concepts with non-kinetic effects that are either interchangeable with kinetic weapons or connected to them. These concepts should increase Blue Forces’ magazine depth and present new armament delivered capabilities to the battlefield.

Many non-kinetic weapons are electric power derived and afford the potential of multiple “shots” per weapon engagement versus a traditional kinetic weapon. Other non-kinetic effects provide different effects than kinetic weapons that may be as effective in the battle space as a kinetic weapon with lower cost and /or in a smaller package.

Weapon classes of interest that could potentially employ such effects include:

  • Cruise missiles

  • Loft missiles

  • Air-to-Air missiles

  • Hypersonic weapons

  • Air-launched, “truck” vehicles

Several potential targets and applicable technologies exist to support this lane; unfortunately, security considerations drive the discussion of many to levels unable to be addressed herein.

Specific technologies under analysis for air armaments include:

  • Lasers

  • EM/RF sources

  • Cyber packages and delivery technologies

  • Disposable or re-usable “dispenser” vehicles

  • High-density power sources

Sensing and communications

The Armament Directorate is pursuing concepts focused on enabling Blue Forces to utilize weapons as major contributors to multi-domain command and control [MDC2] space. Weapons employed in mass provide the opportunity for use as communication nodes and/or sensors.

As communication nodes, weapons could be used to pass along targeting information (piggybacked) forward over large distances or used to report back sensor information from extreme incursions.

As sensors, seeker input could provide better battlespace intelligence regarding other classifiable targets along the weapon’s path as well as be used to confirm target destruction.

In mass, diverse sensor data from different weapons integrated together provide Blue Forces with additional layers of intelligence as the battlespace unfolds.

Weapon classes of interest for this engagement lane include:

  • Cruise missiles

  • Loft missiles

  • Air-to-Air missiles

  • Hypersonic weapons

  • Air-launched, “truck” vehicles

Specific technologies under analysis include:

  • Low-cost, multi spectral seekers

  • Datalinks technologies/concepts

  • Data transmission and evaluation software/algorithms

  • Air deliverable ground communications/sensing packages

affordable mass

The Armament Directorate is probing concepts that permit Blue Forces to leverage large numbers of relatively low-cost weapons systems simultaneously.

Anticipated benefits include:

  • 1) Driving costs on the adversary,

  • 2) Depleting adversary defensive weapons inventories,

  • 3) Clearing the way (during reloading or empty magazine periods) for premier Blue systems to pass.

These innovative technologies could have the following:

  • Low-cost materials and manufacturing processes

  • Low-cost propulsion systems

  • Modular open-system payload architectures

  • Disposable or re-usable dispenser vehicles

  • Miniaturized, reliable electronics to include flight controls, mission computers, seekers, etc.

  • Electronic warfare concepts and armament-based transmission capabilities

An example of a specific capability would be an expedited and affordable gas-turbine engine prototype enabled by advanced manufacturing.

Targets of interest include:

  • Red Force Air Defense Aircraft

  • Soft stationary ground targets (fixed and mobile)

  • Moving ground targets

  • Maritime targets

Surrogate Test Vehicle Weapon Government Reference Architecture (GRA) Instantiation

The Armament Directorate is investigating applying the Weapon GRA to an inventory weapon as a surrogate implementation. This ensures the GRA is robust enough to model current weapons and allow changes; therefore, improving the GRA in an agile manner. A specific area of interest is model-based systems engineering.

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