Royal Navy will get autonomous machines – for donkey work humans can’t be disturbed • The Register
DSEI 2021 The British armed forces will use robots in future warfare – but primarily for the “boring, dangerous and dirty” parts of military life, senior officers have said.
At the Defense and Security Equipment International in London, two senior officers in charge of digitization and automation said the near future would be more Wall-E than Terminator – but fully automated war machines are no longer just science fiction.
Brigadier John Read, deputy director of maritime capabilities for the Royal Navy, said in a speech the military “needs to automate” in order to “take advantage of advances in robotics, AI and learning Automatique”.
Rather than immediately deploying automated killing machines to the battlefields of the 2020s, the Royal Navy officer said the British naval use of robotics and autonomy would be intended to perform “specific tasks which can be boring, dangerous or dirty, and much better suited to machines than people. “
The brigadier’s boss, Rear Admiral James Parkin, also referred to the “accelerating technological proliferation” of Britain’s enemies (referring to General Patrick Sanders’ speech identifying China and Russia) and quoted an oft-heard trope from the cybersecurity world as he put it. “We must have the capacity to create an overwhelming burden of cost and complexity on our adversaries” in the expected future of cold war type of armed clashes with hostile countries.
Lest anyone have the idea that spongy humans will continue to do all of the UK’s fighting in the wars of the 2020s and 1930s, however, Brigadier Read said the Defense Ministry was looking to build Fully R / C or Autonomous Military Vehicles: “It doesn’t matter if it’s automated or autonomous, crewed or unmanned, or somewhere in between. And at some point in the future our platforms will be designed as unmanned. “
Automation is nothing new, however. Admiral Parkin pointed out that radar and sonar sensors on current warships and submarines (and airplanes) have been “automated in several ways for decades,” noting that digital signal processing equipment has been used to process and refine raw inputs since the mid-20th century. .
“We are still quite confident [that] the weapon … will have a person in the loop. But I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point, certainly not in my lifetime, where we’re comfortable with automating the decision-making function, ”the middle-aged admiral continued, referring to the current Ministry of Defense. policy that humans always make the decision to pull the trigger.
Britain’s ambitions for autonomous war machines stretch back years, with research on automation being highlighted by anti-robot activists against war machines in 2018. DSEI continued this today. enthusiasm for R&D, with booths from all armed forces as well as the Ministry of Defense. boast of advances in automated technology to support soldiers, sailors and airmen on the front lines.
The ministry is also spending more and more money on R&D, explicitly targeting new rounds of research funding outside its usual audience of MoD suppliers.
Fully automated war machines are “already a thing”, as young people say: earlier this year the United Nations released a report claiming that Turkish-made quadcopters had been used to attack militants in Libya. The temptation of countries without moral scruples to formally adopt this method of attack will be strong: the technology exists, is easily accessible and the average teenager knows how to pilot (and if necessary program) a drone.
For now, at least, it looks like the UK won’t go down that route. ®