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Chinook CH-47, Military_Material, July 26, 2017 (Source:

OP²EX.ia, an Artificial Intelligence Project to Accelerate Mission Preparation

17 June 2021

The OP²EX.ia project is a “Tool for Mission Preparation and Preview of the Indoor Environment with Artificial Intelligence” (Outil de Préparation de mission et de Prévisualisation de l’Environnement eXtérieur grâce à l’Intelligence Artificielle). This tool aims to support the mission preparation process. When preparing for a land-based military operation, it may be necessary to analyse high-resolution satellite images and terrain topology. Extracting the relevant information may require the intervention of a lot of people. It is a time-consuming and tedious task, particularly because of the multiplication of actors, the density of the information, the means of obtaining this information, and the complexity of the mission. Time is also crucial as some missions may request flexibility and reactivity from special forces and commando groups.

The OP²EX.ia project aims to entrust these tasks of mission preparation and previewing the external environment to artificial intelligence. When properly developed and trained, the extraction and analysis of information will not only be faster but will also be able to propose more relevant solutions. (Forces Operations, 2021).

The OP²EX.ia project depends on the Aliénor technical innovation cluster. The latter is working on other projects such as the VTOL convertible rechargeable drones, fire-fighting assistance drones and the COBOT project for aeronautical turbomachinery overhaul operations.

Aliénor was created by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) in the field of defence innovation. The DGA was created in 1961 by General Charles de Gaulle and is currently part of the French Ministry of Defence. The DGA’s mission is to prepare the French army’s future defence systems, to equip it, to promote European cooperation and to promote exports of the French defence industry. (Ministère des Armées, 2021).

The underlying purpose of the cluster is to develop and guide innovations to bring out new technological solutions in the field of aerospace defence. Specifically, the objectives of the cluster are to “detect, orientate and experiment with innovations carried out by regional players to bring out new technological solutions for aerospace defence”. (Ministère des Armées, 2021) It has to identify the innovation needs based on requirements defined by the armed forces, orientate innovation proposals concerning their potential usefulness for military defence systems, and accompany the project until it reaches its maturity. The development of artificial intelligence for field analysis and mission preparation, therefore, meets the objectives of the Aliénor cluster. (Maouani, 2019)

Thus, the OP²EX.ia project was born out of the complexity of ground missions. They require the intervention of a range of actors from different specialities and coordination within this diversity. Mission preparations long require intensive labour. It is often necessary to involve a team of analysts to decipher satellite images and their analysis of the terrain to extract the relevant topographical information. It is in the context of speeding up and improving the efficiency of the Task Force that the artificial intelligent assistant has made its entry. (Aerospace Valley, 2021)

As an example of the pressing need for this project, let us imagine a mission where a refuelling point has to be created on a “makeshift runway” for a tactical transport aircraft and a Chinook helicopter carrying commandos. Chinook helicopters are highly flexible and can operate in all types of environments. They are mainly used for trooping, evacuation missions and bringing supplies. Indeed, these helicopters can transport up to 55 troops or carry 10 tons of cargo. They are massive helicopters and it is accordingly essential to know how to prepare and analyse the terrain topologies before bringing such a craft into the field. (Royal Air Force, 2021). Thus, it is essential to identify areas where an aircraft and helicopter can land and where it is possible to set up a refuelling point for this type of mission. Besides, it is also necessary to coordinate the areas of action, both on the ground and in the air, and to identify all the possible routes (i.e. their practicability) to reach the area in question. Additionally, it is necessary to find out if there are any fenced areas, waterways, enemy checkpoints, etc. along the route. The vast amount of information necessary to prepare such a mission illustrates the usefulness of OP²EX.ia as a tool for preparing a mission and previewing the external environment using artificial intelligence. OP²EX.ia would additionally allow analysts and experts to improve the quality of their tactical analysis. (Aerospace Valley, 2021)

Three functions of the OP²EX.ia can therefore be identified. Firstly, it will be the task of the AI to determine the ideal locations where helicopters and aircrafts will be able to land. Secondly, the system should facilitate the infiltration of the commandos and their coordination by 3D scanning their different possible routes to the action zone. Finally, OP²EX.ia will have to identify potential dangers and obstacles that could occur on their itinerary. This includes the presence of a checkpoint held by the adversary or the detection, identification and counting of vehicles, personnel, and weapons present in the action zone. (Forces Operations, 2021). OP²EX.ia should perform these tasks using several types of images (satellite images, digital models, etc.). Here, time is a key factor and it is expected that the AI will be able to process at least one km² of area in less than 20 minutes. (Raimond, 2021)

The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, explained that the role of artificial intelligence in this project was to facilitate the processing of satellite data. Indeed, she said that this data processing was a compelling necessity. It thus followed from AI to structure, analyse, correlate, and extract relevant information to optimise the performance of the armed forces and improve the planning of future missions. The Ministry of the Armed Forces considers that France is rapidly developing a trustworthy artificial intelligence for defence. By 2025, more than € 500 million will have been allocated to this project. Currently, nearly 70 specialists are working on the subject, and they should almost triple by 2023. (Forces Operations, 2021).

Written by Anaïs QUINTART, Legal Researcher at Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre


Aerospace Valley. (2021), “Fiche besoin opérationnel Aliénor 4 OP²EX.ia”. [online], Available at:, [Accessed: May 27, 2021].

Forces Operations. (2021), “OP²EX.ia un projet d’intelligence artificielle pour accélérer la préparation de mission”. [online] Available at :, [Accessed: 26 May, 2021].

Maouani J. (2019), “La DGA inaugure Aliénor, cluster d’innovation technique de défense dans le domaine aérospatial”,, Ed. Fitamant Technologies. [online] Available at:,, [Accessed: June 14, 2021].

Ministère des Armées. (2021), “Deuxième appel à la manifestation d’intérêt par le pôle innovation technique Aliénor”. [online], Available at :, [Accessed: May 26, 2021].

Ministère des Armées. (2021), “Présentation de la direction générale de l’armement”. [online], Available at :, [Accessed: June 14, 2021].

Raimond J. (2021), “OP²EX.ia un outil pour l’accélération de la préparation de mission” Revue n°164, Espritsurcouf : Géopolitique, Economie, Défense et Sécurité. [online] Available at :, [Accessed: May 27, 2021].

Royal Air Force. (2021) “About the Chinook”, United Kingdom. [online] Available at:, [Accessed: June 14, 2021].