Leonardo Combat Air AI Challenge

30 March 2023

Leonardo UK is inviting UK-based Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), start-ups and academia to participate in the Combat Air AI Challenge to harness disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), for the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP): the mission to build the next generation combat air platform for the UK, Italy and Japan by 2035.

The deadline for responses was midnight on 28 April 2023. We are no longer accepting proposals.

The Combat Air AI Challenge is a joint endeavour with ministry of Defence (MOD) Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and is closely related to Leonardo UK’s work within GCAP, which is to develop and deploy Integrated Sensing And Non-Kinetic Effects (ISANKE) and Integrated Communication Systems (ICS). The ISANKE super-system is a complex network of capabilities that sits across the combat air domain and, whilst co-ordinating numerous sensors, assimilates information into a common situational awareness picture as part of an integrated offering.

ISANKE will unlock the potential of sixth generation tactical sensing by transitioning individual airborne sensors towards a fully integrated sensing, fusion and self-protection capability. ICS will enable ISANKE to operate as an adaptive mesh network across formations of crewed and un-crewed aircraft. Collectively, ISANKE and ICS will have the capability to dynamically self-optimise how sensing and effecting are best performed across the formation in a given tactical situation. Ultimately, the ISANKE and ICS capability will help the aircrew to survive and operate more effectively in the complex and highly contested battlespace of tomorrow.

The Combat Air AI Challenge consists of two streams:

  • Stream 1 looks to utilise Deep Reinforcement Learning to inform sensor resource management across the ISANKE super-system by modelling behaviour of the Blue Force platform whilst exposed to a range of operational conditions.

  • Stream 2 intends to explore potential deployment of deep integrated sensor fusion across the ISANKE super-system using Machine Learning.

Each stream will consist of a pilot project with nominated participants, lasting approximately six months in duration and requiring completion by December 2023. We anticipate that the successful completion of pilot projects will potentially lead to wider collaboration(s) in the GCAP ISANKE problem space.

The Combat Air AI Challenge intends to act as a high profile, fast-paced, open innovation incubator to test out disruptive ideas and potential longer-term collaboration opportunities in the GCAP domain. In partnership with Dstl, as part of Team Tempest, £250,000 in total has been provisioned to support nominated participants develop their solution.

By drawing on the state-of-the-art knowledge-base of start-ups, SMEs and academia, we hope to unlock the impact of AI within GCAP. This will also help build a UK eco-system of skilled professionals, as well as organisations adept at operating within this problem space.

You can find the problem statements for Stream 1 & 2, and more details on how to respond, in the tabs below.

Ensuring the Future of UK Aerospace

Learn more about the active role Leonardo is playing in defining the future capability that will help ensure that the UK remains a world-leader in the combat air sector.


Leonardo is working with UK MOD, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and MBDA to develop the UK's next generation air combat system as part of the Global Combat Air Programme

Generation Tempest

As part of Generation Tempest, the RAF and its industry partners are committed to promoting the future opportunities available to young people by embracing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.