Trilateral AUKUS alliance kicks off prize competition focused on electromagnetic spectrum capabilities

AUKUS is starting its prize challenge to identify electromagnetic spectrum technologies for offensive and defensive purposes, with winners slated to be chosen in July.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L), US President Joe Biden (C) and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) hold a press conference after a trilateral meeting during the AUKUS summit on March 13, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The Defense Innovation Unit launched a first-of-its-kind prize challenge focused on providing electromagnetic spectrum technologies to give U.S. forces and key international partners an edge over adversaries.

The competition is intended to support the Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS) military alliance, which was established in September of 2021 to bolster trilateral information sharing and technology development and better integrate the nations’ industrial bases.

The first major pillar of AUKUS is aimed at enabling Australia to aquire nuclear-powered submarines, while Pillar 2 is geared toward enhancing joint capabilities with emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and autonomy, advanced cyber, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, quantum tech, undersea warfare and electronic warfare.

The new prize competition is part of Pillar 2. Specifically, the prize challenge will try to identify techniques to give allied nations a strategic edge in targeting and protection against adversarial electromagnetic attack capabilities.


The spectrum was a key focus area during the Cold War, but the U.S. military largely divested its capabilities after the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, in recent years it has reemerged as an issue of strategic importance for American and allied forces. Adversaries recognize the Pentagon and its partners’ dependence on the spectrum for communications and navigation — to include precision strike, GPS and data.

Nations have developed sophisticated systems to jam, spoof and confuse those systems, which could create significant problems on the battlefields of the future. Military forces can be discovered based upon their electromagnetic signature and either jammed or fired upon with munitions.

According to a Department of Defense release issued Tuesday, an AUKUS “problem statement” calls for technologies to help the allies use EMS capabilities for offensive and defensive purposes. Harnessing these tools could provide asymmetric advantages not only for AUKUS nations, but other partners as well, the Pentagon noted.

The prize challenge will run as three synchronized competitions by the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator in Australia, Defence and Security Accelerator in the U.K. and Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) in the U.S., according to the Pentagon. Subject matter experts plan to evaluate applications and select winners from companies in each nation in July.

“There is enormous potential in collaborating with our allies and partners, and our AUKUS electromagnetic warfare (EW) Challenge is an example of this,” Doug Beck, director of DIU, said in a statement. “A strong international community of defense innovation entities can help nurture and harness these new capabilities.”


DIU is looking for electromagnetic spectrum capabilities that can help find, fix, track, target and engage adversaries and assess attacks. That includes:

  • Identification of targets using the EMS.
  • Location of targets via the EMS.
  • Monitoring of target movement using the EMS.
  • Selection and application of EMS assets and enabled weapon systems.
  • Application of EMS assets and enabled weapons.
  • Evaluation of attack effects using the EMS.

The DOD release did not disclose the dollar value of the prizes that will be awarded.

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