DARPA asks Raytheon BBN and USC researchers to test limits of quantum computing for military applications

March 4, 2022
Raytheon BBN and USC will investigate application-specific and hardware-agnostic benchmarks to test for the best applications of quantum computers.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking two research organizations to find new ways of measuring the long-term utility of next-generation quantum computing technology for military applications.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced contracts in February to Raytheon BBN in Cambridge, Mass., and to the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles for the Quantum Benchmarking program.

DARPA is asking Raytheon BBN and USC to determine if industry could design application-specific and hardware-agnostic benchmarks to test the utility of and best applications for quantum computers, as well as estimate the hardware resources necessary for quantum computing operations.

Raytheon BBN won a $2.9 million contract on 24 Feb. 2022, and USC won a $4.1 million contract on 23 Feb. 2022 for the DARPA Quantum Benchmarking program.

Related: Researchers approach industry for test metrics to measure the utility and efficiency of quantum computing

Future generations of quantum computing are expected to solve computing problems of unprecedented size and complexity, or those that today's most powerful computers are unable to solve. Quantum computing represents a new computing paradigm that capitalizes on the quantum mechanical phenomena of superposition and entanglement to create states that scale exponentially with number of quantum bits.

Experts believe that quantum computers within the next few decades will revolutionize scientific and technical fields like machine learning, quantum chemistry, materials discovery, molecular simulation, many-body physics, classification, nonlinear dynamics, supply chain optimization, drug discovery, battery catalysis, genomic analysis, fluid dynamics, and protein structure prediction.

For some of these examples, quantum computers are expected to be useful simulators. In others, quantum computers will be expected to handle combinatorial complexity that is intractable for conventional computers.

What today's computer scientists don't know, however, is what size, quality, and configuration of quantum computer would enable kinds of advances that military systems integrators will need in the future.

Related: Wanted: quantum computing with size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) small enough for military missions

Still to be answered are questions like what applications could benefit most from quantum computing, and at what kind of scaling; how can systems integrators understand the new core computational capability of quantum computing; and what kind of metrics and testing procedures do scientists need for quantifying progress towards quantum computing capabilities.

That's where the DARPA Quantum Benchmarking project comes in. The project seeks to distil benchmarks for quantum utility to be useful for specific applications at specific scales -- especially using the kinds of metrics that suitable for driving research and development.

The Quantum Benchmarking contractors will create new benchmarks that quantitatively measure progress towards specific computational challenges. In parallel, the program seeks estimate the computer hardware necessary to measure benchmark performance. The project's benchmarks will be hardware-agnostic for problems where quantum approaches most likely will be needed.

The Quantum Benchmarking contractors will quantify the long-term utility of quantum computers by solving some hard problems from a list of application in a variety of military domains, and grouping these application by common enabling capabilities.

Related: The future of artificial intelligence and quantum computing

Raytheon BBN and USC also will develop test procedures for quantifying progress in research; create scalable multi-dimensional benchmarks; and develop tools for estimating necessary quantum hardware resources for hard-to-achieve military capabilities.

The two organizations will analyze applications that require large-scale, universal, fault-tolerant quantum computers; estimates of the classical and quantum resources necessary to execute quantum algorithms on large-scale; applications of fault tolerance and error correction; and nontraditional quantum computing paradigms.

Raytheon BBN and USC researchers will focus on two technical areas: hardware-agnostic approaches, and hardware-specific approaches.

For more information contact Raytheon BBN online at www.raytheonintelligenceandspace.com/what-we-do/bbn, USC at https://research.usc.edu, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil/program/quantum-benchmarking.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!