Air Force Launches New NIPRGPT Generative AI Tool

The Department of the Air Force and Air Force Research Laboratory have launched “NIPRGPT” to give Airmen a new secure experimental software development environment to understand future practical Air and Space Force use cases and applications of generative AI. (Image: Terovesalainen)

The U.S. Air Force has launched its own experimental new generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool in an effort to give Airmen and Space Force Guardians the ability to potentially create their own defense-focused version of ChatGPT — among other applications — in the future.

According to a June 10 announcement, the new tool is called "NIPRGPT," and it serves as an "experimental bridge" for the Air Force and Space Force to leverage generative AI on the Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPR). NIPRGPT is part of AFRL's Dark Saber software development platform that the Air Force has been using to train Airmen to rapidly develop and deploy new applications in a secure environment.

In an April 2023 blog post , IBM Research summarized generative AI as a set of deep-learning models that are capable of collecting and analyzing massive sets of raw data that then generate statistically probable outputs when prompted. "At a high level, generative models encode a simplified representation of their training data and draw from it to create a new work that’s similar, but not identical, to the original data."

“Technology is learned by doing,” Chandra Donelson, the Air Force's Acting Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer, said in a statement. “As our warfighters, who are closest to the problems, are learning the technology, we are leveraging their insights to inform future policy, acquisition and investment decisions."

AFRL further describes NIPRGPT as an AI chatbot that allows Air and Space Force personnel to have human-like conversations to complete various tasks. These tasks include basic Department of Defense (DoD) correspondence, "background papers and code, all within a secure computing environment," according to AFRL.

The Air Force views NIPRGPT as facilitating real-world testing of generative AI's practical applications and challenges in military environments.

“Our recent GenAI Roundtables with industry and academia have shown us this is an actively growing field,” said Venice Goodwine, DAF Chief Information Officer. “Now is the time to give our Airmen and Guardians the flexibility to develop the necessary skills in parallel. There are multiple modernization efforts going on right now across the federal government and within the DAF to get tools in the hands of the workforce. This tool is another one of those efforts.”

NIPRGPT is one of the latest efforts by the Defense Department to leverage the transformative power of generative AI that was first made widely available to the world by OpenAI with ChatGPT. In August, for example, Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks established Task Force Lima  to lead the adoption of generative AI tools such as large language models across DoD agencies. The Chief Digital & Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) is leading the new task force.

During a press conference  in November, Hicks noted that DoD has already found "over 180 instances where such generative AI tools could add value for us, with oversight — like helping to debug and develop software faster, speeding analysis of battle-damage assessments, and verifiably summarizing text from both open-source and classified datasets."

With NIPRGPT, AFRL is limiting the number of users involved in the experiment, and expects to eventually place those seeking generative AI research opportunities to be placed on a waiting list.

"NIPRGPT is a critical bridge to ensure we get the best tools we have into our team's hands while larger commercial tools are navigating our intense security parameters and other processes,” said Alexis Bonnell, AFRL Chief Information Officer. “Changing how we interact with unstructured knowledge is not instant perfection; we each must learn to use the tools, query, and get the best results. NIPRGPT will allow Airmen and Guardians to explore and build skills and familiarity as more powerful tools become available."