DARPA has awarded contracts to Raytheon BBN and to the University of Southern California (USC) for its Quantum Benchmarking program. The program will seek new methods of measuring the long-term utility of – and best applications for – next-generation quantum computing technology for military applications.
The Quantum Benchmarking program is expected to create new benchmarks that quantitatively measure progress towards specific computational challenges. The program will also attempt to define the computer hardware necessary to measure benchmark performance.
In early 2021, The Defense Science Board (DSB) – an independent department of Defense (DOD) board of scientific advisors – concluded that three applications of quantum technology hold the most promise for DOD: quantum sensing, quantum computers, and quantum communications. Quantum computers use specialized pieces to run algorithms and answer extremely complex mathematical and computer problems at extremely high speeds. These computers have many benefits for warfare applications, including better target identification for autonomous weapons – potentially to the point of making military weapons fully autonomous with no need for any human interaction. Quantum computers are also effective at running simulations which could be used to demonstrate military deployment, possible strategies, and other scenarios to develop better warfare strategies.
Raytheon BBN and USC will focus on two technical areas: hardware-agnostic approaches, and hardware-specific approaches. In creating these benchmarks, the two organizations are charged with: developing test procedures for quantifying progress in research; creating scalable multi-dimensional benchmarks; developing tools for estimating necessary quantum hardware resources for hard-to-achieve military capabilities; analyzing applications that require large-scale, universal, fault-tolerant quantum computers; and estimating the necessary levels of the classical and quantum resources in order to execute quantum algorithms on large-scale.