Once the subject matter for fiction and films such as Star Trek and Terminator, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been linked with warfare for decades. The replacement of humans with technology that can find, sift, and process copious amounts of sensitive information at lightning speed without any of the human frailties that require recuperation, is a proven game-changer for capability.
For forces looking to navigate multi-domain warfare, AI may provide the key to unlock intra- and interoperability demands.
The UK’s Defence Artificial Intelligence Strategy describes AI as ‘a family of general-purpose technologies, any of which may enable machines to perform tasks normally requiring human or biological intelligence, especially when the machines learn from data how to do those tasks.’
Put simply, it is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. Examples include natural language processing, speech recognition, and computer vision.
- The volume of data drawn from all five domains can be time-consuming to sift and analyse, but not for AI.
The threat of peer and near-peer warfare has resurfaced in the modern operating environment. These types of major warfare scenarios where the gaps in capabilities are slim, result in a race by nations to develop or procure technology that could provide an advantage. And technology that can adapt, learn, and update while also providing crucial decision-support material, faster than any human brain, is currently one of the most sought after of all.
It is not only individual nations developing strategies for defence that place AI front and centre, but also partnerships such as NATO.
Its AI Strategy states that; “AI is changing the global defence and security environment. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen our technological edge but will also escalate the speed of the threats we face. This foundational technology will likely affect the full spectrum of activities undertaken by the Alliance in support of its three core tasks; collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security.”
Speed of action
In facing a near-peer or peer threat, it is speed of action that will prove the advantage. As no plan survives contact with the enemy, reactions and counter-attacks must be fast for gains to be made. Intelligence is the factor that informs those decisions, with a range of data needing to be firstly verified, sifted, and assessed.
This process can all be handled by AI, and at a tempo no human could match. AI technology that uses a cloud infrastructure ensures that tactical units are provided with ready access to the data, speeding up the OODA loop and ensuring a swift, informed response.
The necessity to meet threats across all five domains of warfare means that huge volumes of data can be gathered – not only from military infrastructure but also from civilian authorities and open source information. While it provides a holistic emerging picture, the management of that information is arduous and time-consuming. Humans are also fallible, particularly when fatigued.
In comparison, AI does not tire and can learn and develop a new algorithm almost instantaneously, spotting trends or anomalies and drawing comparisons to provide fast, crucial decision support. In its ability to emulate human abilities such as assessing information, it can be a force multiplier for commanders.
AI can greatly enhance the planning ability across all echelons of command. Commanders at an operational headquarters have access to a much wider range of data than was previously available. This could include data sets from previous operations, predicted enemy tactics or likely routes – all of which would have previously taken time to develop.
For units operating at reach, the access to this type of information means that they can concentrate on the mission in hand rather than managing a system. If used as part of an integrated system to incorporate data from the tactical units as well, the potential for planning is vast.
Artificial Intelligence creates operational advantage
AI is incorporated across the SitaWare suite with tools designed to provide an operational advantage. These include decision-support tools, such as route planning and analysis, and the ability to analyse multi-source intelligence reports through the application of natural language understanding.