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Army Looking at AI-Controlled Weapons to Counter Enemy Fire

Jan 11, 2019
by Matthew Cox
The head of U.S. Army acquisitions recently said that allowing artificial intelligence to control some weapons systems may be the only way to defeat enemy weapons.

U.S. military has embraced AI, arguing that America cannot compete against potential adversaries such as Russia and China without the futuristic technology.

Concern over placing machines in charge of deadly weapons has prompted military officials to adopt a conservative approach to AI, one that involves a human in the decision-making process for the use of deadly force.

But Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology (ASAALT), said it may not be wise to put too many restrictions on AI teamed with weapons systems.

"People worry about whether an AI system is controlling the weapon, and there are some constraints on what we are allowed to do with AI," he said at a Jan. 10 Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C.

There are a number of public organizations that have gotten together and said, "We don't want to have AI tied to weapons,"Jette explained.

The problem with this policy is that it may hinder the Army's ability to use AI to increase reaction time in weapon systems, he said.

"Time is a weapon," Jette said. "If I can't get AI involved with being able to properly manage weapons systems and firing sequences then, in the long run, I lose the time deal.

"Let's say you fire a bunch of artillery at me, and I can shoot those rounds down, and you require a man in the loop for every one of the shots," he said. "There are not enough men to put in the loop to get them done fast enough."

Jette's office is working with the newly formed Army Futures Command (AFC) to find a clearer path forward for AI on the battlefield.

AFC, which is responsible for developing Army requirements for artificial intelligence, has established a center for AI at Carnegie Mellon University, said Jette, who added that ASAALT will establish a "managerial approach" to AI for the service.

"So how do we put not just the AI hardware and architecture and software in the background? How do I do proper policy so we [ensure] weapons don't get to fire when they want and weapons don't get to fire with no constraints, but instead we properly architect a good command-and-control system that allows us to be responsive and benefit from the AI and the speed of some of our systems?" Jette said.

"We are trying to structure an AI architecture that will become enduring and will facilitate our ability to allocate resources and conduct research and implantation of AI capabilities throughout the force," he said.

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Photo caption: U.S. military has embraced AI, arguing that America cannot compete against potential adversaries without the futuristic technology. (U.S. Dept of Defense/Peggy Frierson)


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