british military

Autonomous military AI tested ‘responsibly’ by Ministry of Defence

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Trials of autonomous AI used in military settings have been held by the Aukus alliance with the aim that the technologies will eventually be used “responsibly” in the field.

The Aukus alliance is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US (Aukus) which includes cooperation on advanced cyber mechanisms, AI and quantum technologies among other technologies.

Their latest work saw AI-enabled assets being used in a “collaborative swarm” to detect and track military targets in real time. Accelerating the development of these technologies will have a massive impact on military capability, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

In February, more than 60 countries including the US and China signed an agreement endorsing the responsible use of AI in the military. Human rights advocates expressed concern that it was not legally binding and failed to address concerns like AI-guided drones, or the risk that an AI could escalate a military conflict.

The latest Aukus trial achieved “world firsts”, including the live retraining of models in flight and the interchange of AI models between the three nations.

The MoD anticipates that the introduction of more autonomy and AI will “transform” the defence operations.

UK deputy chief of defence staff, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan, said: “This trial demonstrates the military advantage of Aukus advanced capabilities, as we work in coalition to identify, track and counter potential adversaries from a greater distance and with greater speed.

“Service personnel, scientists and engineers from our three nations combined to develop and share critical information to enhance commanders’ decision making.

“Accelerating technological advances will deliver the operational advantages necessary to defeat current and future threats across the battlespace. We are committed to collaborating with partners to ensure that we achieve this while also promoting the responsible development and deployment of AI.”

More than 70 military and civilian defence personnel and industry contractors were involved in the exercise in April 2023. The trial used a variety of air and ground vehicles to test AI capabilities in target identification.

The Aukus partnership was first announced in 2021 as Australia sought to respond to China’s actions in the Pacific.

Ties between the countries were reinforced as the UK published its updated integrated review of foreign and security policy, which highlights China’s “more aggressive stance”.

US senior adviser to the secretary of defence for Aukus, Abe Denmark, said: “We recognise the immense importance of this collaboration in strengthening our collective national security of our nations.

“The development and deployment of advanced artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to transform the way we approach defence and security challenges.

“This capability demonstration is truly a shared effort and is thus a critical step in our collective initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats.

“By pooling our expertise and resources through our Aukus partnerships, we can ensure that our militaries are equipped with the latest and most effective tools to defend our nations and uphold the principles of freedom and democracy around the world.”

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