The Hanscom AFB and MassChallenge Program

The Hanscom AFB & MassChallenge Program

Program Overview

The Hanscom Air Force Base and MassChallenge Program empowers founders from dual-use startups and Hanscom AFB personnel to address challenges identified by the U.S. Air Force. This accelerator delivers defense innovation at speed, streamlining education and collaboration to maintain our nation’s competitive edge and to drive solutions used to win in the field.


Phase I of the program starts with Challenge Statement Development, recruiting civilian and military personnel from Hanscom AFB to provide them with the education and networking to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and confidence to solve massive challenges.


Phase II continues with Small Business Acceleration, identifying eligible, high-impact startups along with the support of the greater MassChallenge community to solve the challenges faced by the U.S. Air Force and deliver the access and resources needed to scale their respective businesses.


Phase III concludes the program with Technology Transition, introducing the novel solutions developed by both participating dual-use startups and Hanscom AFB personnel U.S. Air Force leadership to develop a path toward collaboration and success.

Eligibility Requirements

Civilian and military personnel participating in Phase I Challenge Statement Development are identified by the Hanscom Innovation Team. If you or your program office are interested in participating, please contact the team at

Entrepreneurs and their small businesses interested in Phase II Small Business Acceleration should meet the following requirements:

  • Founded in the last five years
  • Exist as a standalone, non-subsidiary, US-based small business
  • Maintains patents or patents pending
  • Raised less than $25 million in funding
  • Earned less than $10 million in annual revenue
  • Receipt of a Phase I Department of the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant in the last two solicitation cycles with an aim to pursue a Phase II SBIR
  • Interest in pursuing a Direct to Phase II SBIR

Government agencies, industry organizations, investment groups, and academic institutions interested in supporting Phase III Technology Transition and networking with both participating dual-use startups and Hanscom AFB are welcome to contact MassChallenge.

Challenge Areas

The Air Force seeks cyber resiliency and survivability innovations that accelerate and/or facilitate deploying capabilities that have these characteristics:

  • Prevent, mitigate, recover from, and adapt to adverse cyber-events that could impact mission-related functions
  • Advance the state of deployed capabilities such that the time and/or cost burden on adversaries to overcome the proposed solution exceeds the time and/or cost of the DoD to integrate, deploy, maintain, and sustain the solution
  • Easily assess in mission-relevant-time if platforms are mission capable regardless if attacks are initiated via ground support equipment, maintenance equipment, or during missions
  • Have accurate metrics that validate solutions chosen or advocated perform as expected
  • Work on Air Force fixed and rotary wing aircraft, satellites, missile weapons systems plus their supporting civil and military networks, maintenance, supply chain, and logistics systems.

We have a strong interest in continuously improving our agile software development, security and operations.


Relevant technologies include:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) coding assistants
  • Intelligent performance monitoring and anomaly detection of the DevOps workflow
  • Automated testing and security accreditation

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) are an increasingly important part of the operations. Our interests in this area are in understanding the potential applications and how to employ AI/ML in a secure and effective manner.


Relevant technologies include:

  • Applying recent advances in AI to improving modeling, simulation, and training
  • Decentralized command and control of autonomous systems and collaborative autonomy
  • Secure identity management and role-based access controls, esp. decentralized/blockchain-based approaches.
  • AI/ML for improved sensor operations, especially cognitive radar

Many of the PEOs programs involve the process of collecting data from around the globe, processing data into information, generating plans based on that information, then executing those plans, followed by collecting more data.


Relevant technologies include:

  • Unattended low-cost (attritable) sensors for the detection of aircraft and/or tracking and targeting of aircraft and other moving targets
  • Mobile platforms (Unmanned Ground System (UGS), Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Submersible Vehicle (USV), High-Altitude Balloon (HAB)) for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Warfare (EW), and comms support
  • Power storage and generation for remote and mobile systems
  • Novel sensors, such as acoustic sensors from ground-level to the stratosphere
  • Sensors aloft or afloat to provide air domain awareness over open water

Our programs run on a range of networks and computational infrastructure, from large commercial data centers to edge nodes in remote locations and embedded computers on unmanned platforms.


Relevant technologies include:

  • High performance, low Space, Weight, and Power (SWaP) computing
  • Data and network security solutions and cross-domain solutions that are compatible with Department of Defense (DoD) regulations
  • Secure, jam-resistant, resilient bandwidth efficient communications

There is an increasingly important challenge to be able to secure air bases, especially temporary airbases in remote locations, from a range of threats, including UAVs.


Relevant technologies include:

  • Sensors for base security and for short range air defense, especially against small UAS
  • Mobile systems (Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)) for responding to alerts
  • Software for integrating these systems into existing command and control
  • Ability to leverage counter small Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-sUAS) and Air Base Air Defense (ABAD) sensors for air traffic control operations

Safe and effective air operations, especially at temporary remote airfields, is growing in importance.


Relevant technologies include:

  • Resilient comms in denied, degraded, jammed environments with aircraft, Command and Control (C2) agencies, with ability to operate during adversity including inside host nations.
  • Portable, lightweight power solutions for man-portable navaids (Tactical Air Navigation System (TACANS) and remote weather sensors in extreme environments.
  • Portable Air Traffic Control C2 solutions

Technology Overview

Ensuring reliable communication between aircraft, ground control stations, command centers, and other elements of the air force infrastructure.


Situational Description

Autonomous communications platform that can help ensure interoperability across users of various tactical data links. Ideal solutions are low cost, easy to deploy, expendable, secure if lost, and smaller form factor than traditional manned platforms.

Technology Overview

The pace of technological innovation and threat emergence related to cryptographic security is continuing to increase. Novel Communication Security (COMSEC) technologies and proposed products in which National Security Agency (NSA) is interested may be useful to AF specific challenges.


Situational Description

Seeking to leverage National Security Agency (NSA) evaluated approaches/solutions that will promote Open System Architecture (Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA), Configurable Open System Architecture (COSA) opportunities. The desire is to mature and operationalize these potential solutions into NSA certified High Assurance Devices (HAD) that comply with AF Cryptographic Modernization mission needs aligned with Open Systems Architectures.

Technology Overview

Historically NSA certified High Assurance Devices (HAD) solutions were very long-lived systems and integration was infrequent. This is changing. The total number of HADs is much larger, they have much shorter tech refresh cycles, there are frequent SW updates, and open solutions support many diverse platforms. Because of this integration is becoming a challenge and a larger percentage of the overall lifecycle cost and schedule. Establishing low friction methods for rapidly integrating new NSA approved cryptographic capability and address emerging threats is a high priority.


Situational Description

Seeking to identify methods, tools and challenges to accelerating and streamlining the integration of subsystems into platforms and weapon systems. We want to understand the needs of system integrators and how the High Assurance Devices (HAD) developed at AFLCMC/HNC can be more easily integrated into their systems, including considerations such as physical, electrical, and logical interfaces, Risk Management Framework (RMF) accreditation, and airworthiness. The desire is to identify and adapt approaches to accelerate integration that could be applicable specifically for HADs.

Technology Overview

Offensive cyber systems serve roles like cyber warfare and intelligence gathering while securely deploying and controlling tools, monitoring effectiveness, and updating capabilities in response to adversary tactics.


Situational Description

The Air Force is aticvely pursuing advanced AI-powered offensive cybersecurity solutions that meet military standards, offer user-friendly interfaces, and effectively address the urgent and me-sensitive nature of cyber technology advancements.

Technology Overview

Improving alerting for network traffic through research pertaining to the use of neural networks to prioritize analysis and alerting at the tactical edge.


Situational Description

As defensive cyber systems deploy network sensors to the tactical edge, the ability to conduct analysis on binary network traffic at the collection point and send alerts to a Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) and/or metadata to a cloud repository is increasingly important to reduce the strain on network infrastructure devices.

Technology Overview

Employing AI/ML for automated software testing between development and production to reduce analysis me and increase the fidelity of automated testing.


Situational Description

With the increased emphasis on DevSecOps and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), the Air Force seeks innovative research on how AI/ML can be used to improve iterations of automated pipeline testing. High volumes of pipelines for System of Systems (SoS) architectures require the maximum use of automated testing.

Technology Overview

Establishing and maintaining the technological networks necessary for sharing information, coordinating actions, and supporting decision-making within the Air Force.


Situational Description

AI/ML for automating individual tasks within a network without manual intervention. Overall automation of network orchestration – managing high-level sequences of inter-dependent tasks across multiple systems, enabling secure and agile delivery of services to users.

To support a broader range of novel technologies, US Air Force Labs is accepting small businesses innovating to solve challenges identified throughout the U.S. Air Force. Examples of these technologies include Advanced Materials & Manufacturing; Alternative Fuels; Digital Twins, Modeling, and Simulation; Directed Energy, Electromagnetics, and Lasers, High Performance Batteries; Human Performance; Hypersonics and Energy Opmization; and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Areas of Focus

The Hanscom AFB and MassChallenge Partnership seeks to:


  • Identify challenges faced by Hanscom AFB, accelerate high-impact small businesses with technologies to solve those challenges, and transition those small businesses toward government partnership
  • Accelerate high-impact small businesses with technologies relevant to other U.S. Air Force Program Executive Offices (PEOs) and engage those PEOs to transition those small businesses toward government partnership

Program Benefits

  • Invitation to connect dual-use startups at the bleeding edge with Hanscom AFB innovation champions to solve the challenges faced by the U.S. Air Force
  • Education from MassChallenge, its mentors, subject matter experts, and the Hanscom Innovation Team
  • Access to industry leaders, investors, research institutions, and the U.S. Department of Defense to support technology transition
  • Networking with fellow program participants and graduates to brainstorm solutions and build camaraderie

Sponsoring Partners

The Hanscom AFB & MassChallenge Partnership is sponsored by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, & Networks (C3I&N) Directorate and Digital Directorate, as well as the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS).

Supporting Partners

The following partners support the Hanscom AFB & MassChallenge Partnership through subject matter expertise, mentorship, curriculum development, and networking.

2023 Small Business Graduates

Support of the Hanscom AFB & MassChallenge Partnership and participation in the partnership programming does not constitute Air Force endorsement of these organizations.