DARPA ACCESS Program – Accelerated Computation for Efficient Scientific Simulation

The Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research proposals in technologies for the acceleration of scientific simulations of physical systems characterized by coupled partial differential equations (PDEs). The Accelerated Computation for Efficient Scientific Simulation (ACCESS) Program seeks innovative ideas for computational architectures that will achieve the equivalent of petaflops performance in a benchtop form-factor and be capable of what traditional architectures would define as “strong” scaling for predictive scientific simulations of interest. DARPA expects achieving these goals will require the parallel development of non-traditional component technologies exploiting novel hybrid analog/digital techniques, algorithms, instruction sets, controllers, and the integration and optimization of these components within prototype systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

Many problems in plasma physics and fluid systems are governed by long-range forces, local interactions, and non-linear phenomena that span many dimensions and timescales and require multiple coupled non-linear PDEs to be adequately modeled. Extreme examples include high energy density z-pinch1,2 and tokamak3,4 plasma systems that require fully kinetic models to resolve the desired physics over time and spatial scales spanning orders of magnitude. The ultimate goal of the ACCESS program is to demonstrate new specialized benchtop technology that can solve large problems in these kinds of complex physical systems on the hour timescale, compared to normal computational methods that require full cluster-scale supercomputing resources on the weeks-to-months timescale. The demonstration of such novel prototypes may provide foundational technologies for specialized scientific computing systems beyond Moore’s law and could transform how scientific simulations are used for both design and discovery of complex physical systems.

Program Scope

The design and development of the desired prototypes are envisioned to leverage advances in optics, MEMS, additive manufacturing, and other emerging technologies to develop new nontraditional analog and digital computational means and to overcome some of the current known limitations of these means, such as precision and stability. Of particular interest are hybrid analog/digital architectures that replace numerical methods and memory-intensive computational parallelization with nonlinear and/or intrinsically parallel physical processes to perform computations. Other novel approaches are also of interest to DARPA if they can achieve the desired capability. Specifically excluded are black-box solvers which require prohibitively large sets of training data and fail to generalize well to outside parameter regimes.
It is expected that there will be a tradeoff between the generalizability of the computational means and the acceleration expected versus classical computers. For example, an approach that computes using direct physical analogy to the system of interest may be unsuitable for any other application. On the other hand, a digital co-processor that accelerates the calculation of exponential functions will have wide applicability for scientific computation but may not meaningfully accelerate communications-limited simulations. Proposals should explain these sensitivities in detail within the context of the chosen benchmarking problems and their physical systems.
To assess the technical potential for these approaches to achieve equivalent “petaflops-onbenchtop” performance, the ACCESS program is focused on enabling technologies for the demonstration of end-to-end simulations of proposer-defined benchmarking problems within plasma and fluid physical systems. Proposers must choose a physical system to model and apply their technical approach to at least one benchmarking problem. Candidate benchmarking problems in these physical systems are discussed further below and in detail in Appendix 1. ACCESS program results could lead to follow-on efforts culminating in an integrated end-to-end prototype system.

DARPA Funding “Squad X” Experimentation

DARPA is looking to build a Call Of Duty like system for in-the-field soldiers to stay connected with eachother and their equipment while monitoring and tracing targets in real time.

The objective of the Squad X Experimentation program is to develop and deliver new technologies that enable next generation combined arms for the dismounted squad. This will be accomplished through research, development, integration, and experimentation to develop novel solutions that advance the capabilities of the squad.

Soldiers and military vehicles connected via Squad X system for in field communication
DARPA Squad X Artist’s Concept

The Squad X Experimentation program is an advanced technology system development program designed to create a paradigm shift in squad operations through man-machine teaming, increased intelligence and precision effects. By integrating physical domain operations with electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace operations and performing extensive experimentation, Squad X Experimentation will enable next generation combined arms at the dismounted squad level.

Squad structure and mission tasks have remained largely static since the inception of the rifle squad during World War II, but the world has changed substantially. Thus, the squad is the formation with the greatest potential for impact and innovation, while having the lowest barrier to entry for system prototyping and experimentation. The lessons learned and technology developed in the Squad X Experimentation program will be extensible to other maneuver formations.
The role of the rifle squad leader in the Army and Marine Corps is one of the most challenging duty assignments in the U.S. Armed Forces. Squads and their leaders operate in complex environments with significant physical, cognitive, and material limitations and burdens. Dismounted squads will operate in an increasingly connected and global society that requires precise operations in all domains. Adversaries can readily exploit the physical, electromagnetic spectrum, and cyberspace domains for movement, communications, and concealment, especially in their own terrain.

Future threats will continue to employ increasingly lethal, single-domain capabilities and eventually employ multi-domain capabilities. The current design of Army and Marine Corps rifle squads, however, is for linear, deterministic, and single domain operations. Squads are not able to conduct operations in multiple domains, such as the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace, without significant support from outside the squad, which often comes from static locations. The additional support is not easily integrated into the squad’s operations, often negatively impacts their operations by increasing the squad’s physical and cognitive burdens, and is not designed to support maneuver operations.

By creating novel combined arms at the squad level, Squad X will overmatch its adversaries through the synchronization of fire and maneuver in the physical, electromagnetic spectrum, and cyberspace domains. Figure 1 shows the high-level vision for Squad X. The system will combine humans and unmanned assets, ubiquitous communications and information, and advanced capabilities in all domains to maximize squad performance in increasingly complex operational environments.

DARPA is awarding up to 44.5 Million USD in the beginning stages of this system design.