US Air Force turns to quantum computing for military logistics

US Air Force turns to quantum computing for military logistics

The United States Air Force is set to be the nation’s first military arm to explore quantum computing after granting Quantum Research Sciences (QRS) a contract to develop software for the department.

The contract awarded to QRS is for designing quantum computing software to handle military logistics for the Air Force. The agreement, worth $2.5 million, is expected to run for three years and could usher in an era of quantum computing for the entire U.S. Armed Forces.

The U.S. Air Force traditionally relies on classical binary computers to handle its supply chain, a relic from the 80s. While considered a decent alternative, classical binary computers fall short in handling supply chain logistics in the modern era, given the myriad aircraft parts and a growing number of military bases.

“Not having adequate inventory puts stress on industrial and supplier sourcing processes while excess inventory has costs associated with storage, security, maintenance, theft, and design obsolescence,” said Curtis Mears with the Air Force 418th Supply Chain Management Squadron.

Aware of the shortcomings of its traditional system, the U.S. Air Force is ditching the D200A legacy supply chain management system for the Enterprise Supply Chain Analysis, Planning, and Execution program. To achieve this pivot, the Air Force has its sights on quantum computing, which is capable of making accurate forecasts to improve operations for the supply chain.

QRS says its anticipated software can make supply chain projections with 28% more accuracy than traditional models. The software company has considerable experience under its belt, participating in the Air Force’s Small Business Technology contracts with relative success, earning it a full commercial contract.

“Quantum computers are not just super-fast computers – they’re optimized for specific problem sets,” said Heather Penney, research fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “This optimization problem, especially with multi-variables, is one of those types of problems that quantum computers are uniquely suited for.”

Apart from the supply chain, the Air Force is keen on exploring other quantum computing use cases over five years, armed with a $500 million budget.

A bright future for quantum computing

A slew of innovations has seen quantum computing move from solely an academic discipline to real-world and enterprise use cases. Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers unveiled a quantum computing roadmap, eyeing 10,000 physical qubits by 2026, described as the “next frontier in quantum innovation.”

IBM’s (NASDAQ: IBM) roadmap targets an inflection point in 2029, achieving 2,000 qubits and one million gates by 2033.

Alongside quantum computing, enterprises are exploring blockchain technology (DLT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the efficiency of processes.

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