The Rome Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will be involved in a new alliance with IBM to pioneer quantum information technology for the Department of Defense, the Air Force announced Friday.
AFRL has formally joined the IBM Q network, “the first-ever partnership of its kind in the Department of Defense,” according to an announcement by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, headquarters for the overall AFRL.
The AFRL Quantum Hub will be one of the initial technologies positioned in the Open Innovation Environment at the AFRL Information Directorate in Rome, the announcement said.
The Griffiss park facility is commonly referred to as Rome Lab.
“AFRL is pleased to partner with IBM to become a hub in the Q Network as IBM is a world leader in the development of quantum computing hardware,” said Dr. Michael Hayduk, Deputy Director of the AFRL Information Directorate/Rome Lab. He added the partnership “further establishes the Mohawk Valley region...as an emerging ecosystem for the development of quantum information science technology.”
The agreement enables leading Defense Department researchers to have access time on the IBM quantum computer, said Col. Timothy Lawrence, Director of the AFRL Information Directorate/Rome Lab.
He noted the National Defense Strategy and Air Force Science and Technology Strategy for 2030 emphasis on strategic competitors like China, who are aggressively pursuing quantum computing for military advantage.
“We are conducting development and testing of many of the new high-performance computing architectures, including neuromorphic computing, so we want to be certain we’re also positioning ourselves to lead quantum idea generation and capability development for the Air Force,” Lawrence said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist at AFRL to understand that getting behind in quantum could lead to serious concerns, so that’s not a position we are willing to accept.”
The partnership will allow AFRL to work alongside IBM researchers and other select collaborators to investigate relevant Air Force problems on hardware that may yield a “quantum advantage” over conventional computing, the announcement said. Early applications include optimization problems, speed-up of machine learning algorithms and quantum chemistry simulation.
The State University of New York is an academic partner. SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said “we are proud that Air Force Research Laboratory has chosen to partner with SUNY’s talented researchers and students to provide entry into the IBM Q Network, one of the leaders in this space. This educational partnership will enable more students, faculty, and staff to gain access to a hands-on experience and provide opportunities in the emerging study of quantum science and engineering.”
Dr. Paul Alsing, principal physicist and an AFRL fellow, observed “it is sometimes said that explaining quantum computing to someone is like trying to teach them to swim in a pool without water. The IBM quantum computer is that body of water that will allow AFRL-IBM Hub researchers to swim about and explore pathfinder problems that will demonstrate a quantum advantage over conventional computers, and realize the promise of quantum computation that to date has only been theorized.”