Automation for the Armed Forces — Why is it Needed More Than Ever?
Manual operations in the combat and managing affairs of warfare operations have become outdated with the emergence of cutting-edge technologies like AI, ML, robotics, IoT, and other cyber advancements. War is more complex today than ever, leading to a pressing need for a high level of automation for the armed forces that can thwart any potential attack, help protect the nation, and most importantly save human lives.
The world has witnessed innumerable wars from time immemorial. Over such time, the ancient methods of warfare involving one-to-one infantry hand-fights changed to cavalry and motorized trucks and tanks. The world has advanced even further, and tools for combat, as in any other field, are much more sophisticated. Today, technology has improved so that the countries at war can launch attacks without venturing into the battlefield. Moreover, with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), robotics, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) improving by leaps and bounds, countries might soon not even need armed forces to fight a war.
(Image Source: Pixabay.com)
With state-of-the-art technologies pervading throughout the military on a large scale, things are far more complex today, and manually managing the affairs of the armed forces is outdated. Therefore, the world is at a point where automation of the armed forces has become essential.
The Current State of Defense And Intelligence Technology
Though war is not the solution for anything, nations have to be in a constant state of defense preparedness because one can never rule out the possibilities of rogue nations carrying out attacks. Moreover, a lack of defense preparedness can make countries vulnerable to massive critical infrastructural damage and loss of human lives. Here are some vital data that underlines the current state of defense and intelligence technology.
● Though the United States is often considered the most powerful nation in almost every category, the NSCAI has delivered an uncomfortable message that it is unprepared to compete or defend in the AI era.
● The share of AI in the military market was around US$ 6.3B in 2020 and is projected to exceed US$ 11.6B by 2025.
● The total US defense spending grew by 5.3% to touch US$ 732B, whereas China and India’s defense spending grew by 5.1% and 6.8% in 2019, respectively, compared to 2018.
● Despite Ukraine not having a massive military presence like Russia, it has been holding the fort for pretty long, thanks to its ‘controversial’ AI technology in the ongoing war.
● According to a Statista report, worldwide spending on military robotics is estimated to reach US$ 16.5B by 2025, a phenomenal rise from US$ 11.2B in 2020 (as given in the graph below).
Global spending on military robotics from 2000 to 2025
(Image Source: Statista.com)
How Can Automation Help The Armed Forces in Today’s Digital World?
Automation in defense services plays a critical role because it eliminates the human element considerably. Besides, automation makes handling affairs easy for the armed forces in times of conflict. Here are some examples of how automation helps the armed forces.
● Robotics and AI-ML
Robots can help carry heavy equipment, operate in dangerous situations, protect human life, and rescue wounded soldiers in combat zones. AI enables the armed forces to make rapid decisions in all conditions, including information-sparse and dynamic, information-dense environments.
● Shields Human Life in Life-Threatening Situations and Hazardous Locations
Robots have an illustrious history of shielding human life in combat situations. A prime example is a robotic exoskeleton for defense applications that enhances the soldiers’ agility and endurance levels.
● Detective and Preventive Maintenance
Automation in the armed forces enables detective and preventive maintenance techniques to help the defense forces anticipate where a blow can originate and take the necessary remedial steps to suppress the move before it flares up to unmanageable levels.
● Supply Chain Management During Peace and Wartime
Effective logistics information systems enable the armed forces to prioritize and allocate resources using sensor-based analytics, enhancing the military supply chain capacity and other logistics functions. It also helps the armed forces carry out prompt rescue missions during natural calamities.
● Identifies Dead Soldiers Quickly
AI can help the defense IT teams identify the deceased soldiers easily. A recent example of this is Ukraine using this technology to identify the dead, uncover Russian assailants, and combat misinformation. The massive database can help recognize the dead bodies without matching the fingerprints, even if their faces are disfigured.
● Reunites Refugees Separated From Their Families
Ukraine uses facial recognition technology to reunite refugees separated from their families in the ongoing war against Russia. It also helps the government debunk fake social media posts that present a wrong picture of the actual situation.
Key Reasons Automation is Needed More Than Ever in the Armed Forces
Military robots have become more capable because of the advancements in automation. Besides, military activities like intelligence gathering, navigation, and weapons delivery require automated tools and technologies to be done efficiently. Here are some more points that emphasize the requirement of automation in the defense forces more than ever.
● Protecting CI, CII, and CUI for National Security
Today, automation is present in every industry, making critical data widely available. However, this massive database falling into the wrong hands can have dangerous consequences for the nation and adversely affect its sovereignty. Hence, governments are committed to protecting critical infrastructure (CI), critical information infrastructure (CII), and controlled unclassified information (CUI). Automated technology can make a difference because it can help identify defense contractors capable of ensuring the highest levels of data privacy before allowing them to bid for defense contracts.
● Rogue Nation-States and Adversaries
Even though advanced technologies have a price, rogue nations can be willing to pay almost anything to acquire them to make themselves militarily capable of gaining the upper hand over their adversaries. Under such circumstances, peace-loving nations cannot take things for granted. Therefore, they require automated technologies to equip themselves with state-of-the-art intelligence capabilities to deter attacks from such rogue nations.
● The Increasing Sophistication of Cyberattacks
The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is the perfect example of a hybrid war, with both countries launching cyberattacks against each other, besides traditional warfare. Reports indicate that Russia launched more than 237 cyber operations against Ukraine before the invasion, nearly 40 of which targeted government organizations aiming at crippling Ukraine’s infrastructure.
● Increasing Attack Surface and Security Risks
Since World War II, technology has improved a long way, when one country had to enter another to destroy cities. Today, technologies enable them to inflict thousands of times more damage by orchestrating attacks sitting in a safer environment far away. This example highlights the security risks faced by nations because of the increasing attack surface. Therefore, automating armed forces is essential for all countries to identify, respond, combat, and deter such misadventures in the future.
● Intelligence Gathering, Navigation, and Weapons Delivery
Automation in the armed forces is not limited to launching robotic attacks and using AI technology to inflict damage. It also encompasses other aspects like intelligence gathering and navigation. Automated technology must provide timely, relevant, accurate, and synchronized intelligence and high-level electronic warfare support to army commanders- tactical, operational, and strategic. A good example is how the US intelligence tracked Osama Bin Laden and eliminated him in a covert operation. According to an IBM study, most of the leaders in the defense industry see the immense potential value of various artificial intelligence-enabled solutions in the field of ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance).
(Image Source: IBM)
● Providing Military and Information Superiority
AI empowers the armed forces with new capabilities like AI, ML, robotics, and IoT and enhances existing ones. For example, it gives weak states access to long-range precision strike capability. Similarly, it provides information superiority by improving abilities to collect, assimilate, and analyze data.
The days of armies raising and crossing swords on the battlefield are long gone. Today, automated technology makes it possible for a nation to finish off its adversaries with a single button press. While governments have pledged not to use automated technology to destroy weaker nations, a rogue attack cannot be ruled out. Therefore, the need for countries is to revamp their armed forces and develop their defense sector by introducing automated technologies to protect themselves better from unpredictable rogue nations.
The above article is a matter of opinion and from my perspective only. The article is not an offering of advice nor does it constitute a strong suggestion or recommendation that automation is required for the armed forces. The article is a matter of opinion and my views of why automation would be much needed for armed forces today. Please consult with a Cybersecurity or Automation Specialist for advice or thoughts on my article. For a list of companies I have evaluated for Automation, please reach out to me. Please follow me on medium: https://medium.com/@jonathanwilcheck
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1. Schmidt, E. et al. (2022). Final Report. National security commission on artificial intelligence.
2. Markets and Markets. (2021, March). Artificial Intelligence in Military Market by Offering (Software, Hardware, Services), Technology (Machine Learning, Computer vision), Application, Installation Type, Platform, Region — Global Forecast to 2025.
3. Fortune Business Insights. Defense IT spending market size, share & COVID-19 impact analysis.
4. Placek, M. (2021, February 5). Global spending on military robotics 2000–2025. Statista.
5. Dangwal, A. (2022, April 7). Ukraine uses ‘controversial’ artificial intelligence tech in its war against Russia as Kiev looks to win the ‘digital war.’ (2022, April 7). The EurAsian Times.
6. Allen, G. & Chan, T. Artificial intelligence and national security. Belfer Center. https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/artificial-intelligence-and-national-security
7. Morgan, F. et al. (2020). Military applications of artificial intelligence: Ethical concerns in an uncertain world. RAND.
8. Thomas, M. (2022, April 14). 7 dangerous risks of artificial intelligence. https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence/risks-of-artificial-intelligence
Written by Peter Jonathan Wilcheck
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