It may not have the most terrifying name on the list but the United States Air Force’s Angry Kitten Combat Pod is definitely something not to be ignored. Designed to simulate enemy threats, Angry Kitten has been so successful in its exercise operations, the USAF is now considering if they can evolve the technology to both jam and electronically attack adversaries. As a matter of fact, the service believes further development of this protocol could “dramatically shape” the future of electronic warfare.
While the announcement is recent, the technology is actually about ten yeas old. It was originally built by engineers at Georgia Tech Research Institutes as an EW system with easy-to-update software and the ability to adapt to new threats through machine learning. In addition, the protoype had been designed to outfit existing aggressor aircraft that could pose as enemy fighter jets during training exercises, with the pod simulating electronic attacks.
The simulations were so effective, however, that Air Combat Command quickly recommended that no fewer than four systems be converted for combat. These would have the potential for use by US fighter pilots to electronically jam enemy sensors.
Next, the Air Force conducted operational assessments of the upgraded pods during 30 sorties spaced across two weeks, with the penultimate test in China Lake, CA. During that fortnight, mission data files software received updates every night based on the potential threats of the day prior, explains Keith Kirk, who manages an Air Force experiment campaign whose aims to develop app-enabled Electronic Warfare systems.
He explains that the software was updated within a few hours of each exercise, based on the performance they observed against various threats. Each update improved specific aspects of the operation, which were then verified during flight tests the next day.
This project is known as the App-Enabled Rapidly Reprogrammable Electronoic warfare/electromagnetic Systems experiment campaign or AERRES.
Kirk further asserts, “We are making great progress toward software-enabled electronic warfare systems that allow us to quickly update our effects based on the changes in the radio frequency environment and the type of effects that we want to make happen.”