The war in Ukraine shows the potential and limits of AI

In July, two nations oversaw two significant developments as they turned to artificial intelligence (AI) for an edge in their defense strategies.

In the UK, the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory has announced the creation of a Defense Center for AI Research as part of the country’s new defense programme.

In India, meanwhile, the government has tied the announcement of the first-ever AI in Defense Symposium to celebrations marking the 75e India’s Independence Day.

There is no mystery as to the timing of these announcements. The Russian-Ukrainian war underscored the comparative advantage that AI innovations can provide on the battlefield. Where once the debate over AI in defense was about ethics, that seems to have been replaced as the AI ​​arms race escalates.

Linking AI to geospatial data can give small armies – like Ukraine’s – a better chance to compete with larger forces, delivering faster and better intelligence, speed and accuracy to weapon systems .

All nations have watched this closely, but perhaps none more so than India.

Indian armed forces have already engaged in skirmishes with China on the northern borders, and China is seen as the country’s main strategic threat.

The Chinese armed forces are investing heavily in AI capabilities, in part to compensate for the underinvestment in NCO capabilities. This opened a new arms race with its southern neighbor.

Stunned by AI

An Indian military expert, Pravin Sawhney, has just published a book – The Last War: How AI Will Shape India’s Final Showdown with China – in which he predicts that India stands to lose any war within 10 days, mainly because of Chinese AI. capacities.

As the Indian military prepares for a long war, Sawhney says, the Chinese military would amaze India with its use of AI, emerging technologies, multi-domain operations and human-robot collaboration.

Indian planners seem to have already taken notice because at the symposium India’s defense minister launched 75 AI-powered defense products, some of which are already deployed.

“The Chinese military would amaze India with its use of AI, emerging technologies, multi-domain operations and human-robot collaboration”

The Indian Army has set up quantum computing labs, the real-time application of AI in border areas, robotic surveillance platforms, 5G communications and augmented reality supported systems.

In the air, the Indian Air Force inaugurated its Center of Excellence for AI, with plans to integrate AI and Industry 4.0 into new combat applications.

The UK approach is similar. The new research center is tasked with exploring areas such as the application of AI to war games, human-centered AI and “short-term learning”, or the ability to train learning machines without large amounts of data.

The UK is nothing if not ambitious, and the Ministry of Defense has published the ambition that in terms of AI it will be “the most effective, reliable and influential defense organization for its size” in the world.

AI co-pilot

The United States is also monitoring events in Ukraine very closely, and some of its most advanced artillery systems are now in use by the Ukrainian military.

It is understood, however, that AI could have its limitations in the short term.

At one time, the F35 fighter, which started operating in 2015, was expected to be the last of the manned fighter jets. But now the idea is that human pilots will fly with AI-powered co-pilots.

“Twenty years ago everyone thought drones would replace fighter jets, and that didn’t happen,” Richard Aboulafia, chief executive of AeroDynamic Advisory, said in an interview with a publication. American defence.

Now the idea is that the AI ​​co-pilot in the cockpit will replace the human co-pilot and the AI ​​will be used to analyze data from sensors on the plane, drones, land and missiles in the air.

Pilots could launch drones close to enemy positions, with the device’s AI making the final decisions on when to fire.

In July, an American company Shield AI was included in the first round of projects selected to receive funding under a program called “Accelerate the Procurement and Fielding of Innovative Technologies” or APFIT. Shield’s project involves purchasing unmanned aircraft systems, and the company’s mission is to “build the best AI pilot in the world.”

The Pentagon has reportedly planned a fighter jet capable of flying on its own even in combat, but this is believed to be a long way off despite the progress made.

“I don’t think we can do that for a couple of decades,” Gareth Jones, aviation editor at the military intelligence publication Jaynes, said recently.

“We won’t be there, and we won’t be there for about 30 years.”

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australian and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and editor of NextGenConnectivity. He remains fascinated by how companies are reinventing themselves through digital technology to solve existing problems and change their entire business models. You can reach him at [email protected].

Photo credit: iStockphoto/.shock

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