Much has been written about how Artificial Intelligence has begun to permeate our everyday lives and its infiltration into all spheres of business. However, one aspect of the rise of AI that has not received as much attention is its impact on national defence, and how Artificial Intelligence is likely to completely transform all aspects of future warfare, both tactical and strategic.
AI – Biggest technological revolution
Technological developments have always been major determinants in warfare and throughout history the needs of warfare have been a principal driving factor behind the development of new technological innovations. Recent examples include the development of radars, rocketry, and nuclear fission during WW2, the space race as part of the cold war, and the largely Pentagon-financed creation of the internet. Artificial Intelligence is the biggest technological revolution of the 21st Century and it is likely to have an outsized impact on warfare, similar to its impact on the civilian sphere.
AI-based autonomous weapons systems
Several AI-based autonomous weapons systems are already in active development, and a few are already in deployment. The US Department of Defence is developing an autonomous drone system called Perdix that has many autonomous units f lying in formation to achieve a surveillance or combat goal. These drone swarms have no central guidance, but they operate by communicating with each other and they have the ability to regroup and recover after suffering a casualty. Another weapon system, developed and
reportedly even deployed by the UK Royal Air Force, is the autonomous missile system called Brimstone, that can launch an attack on predetermined target types within a 'kill box'.
Russia has developed semi-autonomous tanks that may eventually develop into a fully autonomous ground combat system, and also, autonomous robots for ground combat. The recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan saw extensive use of autonomous drones as aerial support for tank battles, and the experience is likely to decisively change the nature of all future ground warfare. Other possible uses include the optimisation of logistics, search, and combat, autonomous search and destroy missions in difficult terrains, and the improvement of training and decision making.
Along with these tactical uses, AI has two major strategic implications. First, it will have a major impact on strategic nuclear deterrence. By substantially increasing the possible accuracy of missile attacks, AI has made it possible to fully destroy an enemy’s nuclear arsenal with a first strike. This will preclude a counterstrike, thereby undermining the fundamental principle of nuclear deterrence. Second, AI is very useful in the sphere of strategic simulation and gaming.
By substantially increasing the possible accuracy of missile attacks, AI has made it possible to fully destroy an enemy’s nuclear arsenal with a first strike
Ever since the early days of the cold war, all major powers have relied on the simulation and gaming of scenarios for their strategic calculations. Currently, these simulations are carried out by teams of human agents. AI will make it possible to vastly increase both the number of scenarios that can be considered, and the level of detail used in their simulation. As game-playing AI such as AlphaGo and Pluribus have demonstrated, it may not be long before AI can outperform and even supplant human analysts in this domain, and lead to the formulation and consideration of scenarios and strategies that are literally unthinkable now.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has remarked, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [AI} will become the ruler of the world”. All major world powers USA and its allies, Russia, and China have taken this lesson to heart and have committed substantial resources to the development of AI and its use in warfare.