The German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has selected the HIS consortium consisting of Helsing and Schönhofer Sales and Engineering GmbH (SSE), a Rohde & Schwarz company, as well as IBM Deutschland GmbH, to provide the artificial intelligence (AI) development infrastructure for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). On August 7, 2023, BAAINBw signed the contract for provision of the software platform (AI backbone) with immediate effect.
FCAS is a multinational joint initiative between Germany, France, and Spain to develop a next-generation combat air system. Part of FCAS is the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS), which will develop a sixth-generation fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. National initiatives in Germany will run in parallel to FCAS. Now that the HIS consortium has been awarded the contract, these initiatives can proceed through the NGWS National Research and Technology (R&T) project.
“AI plays a key role in conflicts with peer competitor adversaries,” says Stephanie Lingemann, Program Director at Helsing. “The AI backbone is the first step toward giving the air force cross-functional capabilities with AI; the FCAS program is making progress, but this sort of infrastructure is crucial for every platform.”
“SSE draws on many years of excellent cooperation with the German armed forces on innovation topics, and we look forward to driving the development of AI technologies in Germany,” says Dr Martin Schönhofer, CEO of SSE. As a trailblazer for national research and technology projects for NGWS and FCAS, the HIS consortium offers the right platform for agile AI development.”
In addition, Sandra Pfetzing-Huber, Associate Partner, Defence & Intelligence, IBM Consulting, explains: “In order to develop and operate AI applications, a powerful and scalable IT infrastructure is required that is also secure. The Secure Cloud (VS-Cloud) from IBM and its partners Secunet and RedHat offers the scalability, flexibility, reliability and security to quickly and easily develop, operate and secure AI applications.”
The AI backbone from the HIS consortium will allow high-performance AI to be developed for military applications, including complex industry collaboration, and deployment to the German armed forces. Each of the consortium partners has a specific strength to contribute. Helsing is a leader in defence AI products, as well as development and deployment of edge AI for military platforms. As a long-standing partner of the Bundeswehr, SSE uses its deep expertise in real-time situational awareness, analytics, AI and management of complex data and data formats. IBM complements the team with its many years of expertise in the military sector and provides cloud technologies for the use of artificial intelligence in security-related areas.