BAE Systems’ semi-autonomous software helps pilots determine the best course of action to take when coordinating teams of manned and unmanned vehicles in communications denied environments.


When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) required a semi-autonomous software solution to enable complex teamwork between manned and unmanned platforms in communications-deprived environments, they turned to BAE Systems’ Distributed Battle Management (DBM) solution. Now, after a number of successful milestones, the DBM baseline program has ended, yet it continues to serve as the basis for disruptive new technology developed by the BAE Systems FAST Labs™ organization.

No communications? No problem: Today, combat mission management is a manual, coordinated effort by operators and pilots using a combination of manned and unmanned vehicles, sensors, and electronic warfare systems that all rely on high-availability networks such as satellite communications and tactical data links. When those networks are interrupted, it leaves warfighters with the inability to effectively communicate and avoid threats during their missions.

“The overall goal of DBM was to be a force multiplier and provide the warfighter with a tactical advantage, allowing them to stay out of harm’s way by having unmanned platforms engage threats and complete the mission,” said Chris Eisenbies, director of the Autonomy, Control, and Estimation product line at BAE Systems. “As combatant commanders look to us for solutions to tackle the evolving threats presented by our adversaries, the innovative approaches our FAST Labs programs leverage from each other saves valuable time and money. The DBM program is the motivational spark toward new research and development.”

High-flying success: Designed to address the complex challenge of managing both manned and unmanned teams in contested cross-domain environments, DBM enables constellation command and control through distributed situational awareness, and planning and control software-based decision aids.

Through the 36-month program, the technology successfully achieved and surpassed a number of tests, including an early flight test. Most recently, the program successfully demonstrated its decision aids at three virtual test events and one live flight test event at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

The final demonstration event, held in April 2019, allowed us to prove a system integrated air-to-ground strike with two advanced blue fighter pilots planning with up to 14 unmanned vehicles while engaging multiple smart red air threats. The final demonstration provided evidence of a future of unmanned vehicles taking on more complex operations with greater autonomy.

DBM legacy: Even after the program has concluded, its goals and vision endure through the DARPA System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program by incorporating DBM technologies into new architectures.

The SoSITE program utilizes pieces of technology from the baseline DBM components to continue to advance manned and unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concepts to new missions and domains — expanding our multi-domain offerings.

  • For example, Information Broker (IB), a situational awareness technology element within the DBM solution, was developed to help manage the problem of sharing information across the team in a contested environment. Recently, IB was leveraged on other Department of Defense Services research programs, expanding its capability toward development on fielded systems where communications bandwidth is a challenge.
  • In addition, the weapon-sensor-target matching (WSTM) and air-to-air routing technologies developed within the planning and control component has become an invaluable asset to FAST Labs’ new and legacy technologies. The routing, WSTM, and IB software algorithms are proving flexible enough to be extended to new domains and applied to well-established products.  

“We are really proud of what this program was able to accomplish — providing the necessary stepping stones into the future of the FAST Labs organization’s MUM-T solutions,” added Eisenbies.

The work conducted under the DBM program will continue to protect our warfighters for years to come.

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Nicole Gable
Nicole Gable
Media Relations
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