DARPA explores development of HPEC for virtual training environments

ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has created the Digital RF Battlespace Emulator (DBRE) program, which is aimed at developing of high-capacity computing with extremely low latency to power virtual test beds for complex RF systems.

DARPA officials describe the program as one that seeks to create a new breed of high-performance computing (HPC) – what they call “Real Time HPC” or RT-HPC – that will effectively balance computational throughput with extreme low latency capable of generating the high-fidelity emulation of RF environments. According to the agency, DRBE will demonstrate the use of RT-HPC by creating the world’s first large-scale virtual RF test range, which will endeavor to deliver the scale, fidelity, and complexity needed to match how complex sensor systems are used today, therefore providing a valuable development and testing environment for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The DRBE program will focus on two primary research areas: One area will explore design and development of novel computing architectures and domain-specific hardware accelerators that can meet the real-time computational requirements of RT-HPC; while the second will focus on the development of tools, specifications and interfaces, and other system requirements to support the integration of the RT-HPC system and the creation of the virtual RF test range. Such components will facilitate a number of aims, including helping to design and control the various test scenarios that could be run within the range, enabling the DRBE’s RT-HPC to interface with external systems for testing, and facilitating the resource allocation needed to support multiple experiments.

“Virtual environments could significantly aid the military by creating the ability to test and train advanced radio frequency (RF) technologies 24/7/365 with high-fidelity models of complex sensor systems, like radar and communications,” said Paul Tilghman, program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO). “However, existing computing technologies are unable to accurately model the scale, waveform interactions or bandwidth demands required to replicate real-world RF environments.

"While DRBE’s primary research goal is to develop real time HPC that can be used to replicate the interactions of numerous RF systems in a closed environment, this is not the only application for this new class of computing. RT-HPC could have implications for a number of military and commercial capabilities beyond virtual environments – from time-sensitive, big-data exploitation to scientific research and discovery,” he continued.

This DARPA program is part of the second phase of DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) – a five-year, upwards of $1.5 billion investment in the future of domestic, U.S. government, and defense electronics systems.