Thursday, January 27, 2022, 07:55 (GMT+7)
Some issues on artificial intelligence warfare

Future war (if it happens) with strong developments of artificial intelligent weapons, equipment and robots will see dramatic changes in the forms, rules and methods of warfighting compared to the “traditional” warfare. This is a new and important issue that needs due attention and research.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science, programmed by humans with the goal of helping computers to automate intelligent behaviors and have human-like intelligence. Currently, AI has become familiar and a strategic spearhead technology in all areas of social life. In particular, in the military, it is being increasingly developed and applied in practice. Besides creating intelligent weapons, AI also plays an important role in complex war processes, such as: situational assessment, information processing, command and control, decision support, enhanced automatic combat system, etc. This will have a comprehensive impact on all aspects of operations and possibly fundamentally change the rules and methods of warfighting in the future. Main features of AI in military include:

1. AI weapons will become the mainstay of combat. As shown in recent wars (Gulf war, Kosovo war, and Afghanistan war), AI weapons, equipment, and robots have been used more frequently and gradually asserted their important role on battlefields. Following this trend, many countries have begun to develop various types of robots used in different environments, such as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned underwater vehicle (AUV), spy satellites, etc. The most basic feature of these AI-equipped robots is that they have human-like “brain”, enabling them to “think and judge at certain levels” and automatically perform many tasks in complex environment. Besides the tasks of reconnaissance and search, they can also be used for attacking targets or acting as decoys, in diversions, jamming or terrorist attacks. In the near future, with the development of nano-technology, AI robots or military weapons will be built in a very small size, hence achieving high level of secrecy, and can be “installed” in the enemy's important organs to steal intelligence information. When necessary, these devices can be exploded remotely. On the other hand, because of small size, portability and operability of nano-weapon, just a drone or a cruise missile can bring tens of thousands of nano-robots to the enemy's side or sky, (equivalent to the deployment of one corps with extremely strong combat power) to make a surprise attack; therefore, the level of intimidation and destruction is extremely great.

2. AI-based combat can become the main warfighting method. Along with improvements in technology and actual use in combat, AI combat methods have been constantly researched and developed, notably the concepts of “swarm” tactics and “distributed damage” by the US military. This combat method is characterised by the use of a large number of drones with different functions which are formed into combat groups for diversion, electronic jamming, cyber attacks, assaulting, etc. Basing on the mission requirements, battlefield circumstances and target characteristics, these combat groups intelligently assign tasks for each swarm of drones and then conduct “total” or “distributed” attacks in different directions, thus making the opponent unable to counter. The reality of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia shows that “swarm” tactic was effectively leveraged by Azerbaijan. Accordingly, Azerbaijan converted 11 old aircraft into drones as bait flying into the airspace of Nagony - Karabakh, causing Armenian air defence forces to open fire, revealing their location and quickly being destroyed by other drone swarms. Military experts hold that, although AI-based combat is still under research, this method is very potential and may become the dominant warfighting method in the future.

3. Using AI for decision making in command and control of operations. In the face of rapid changing information on battlefield with a large amount of operational information closely related, it will be increasingly difficult, even impossible, for humans to analyse. Therefore, traditional methods and tactics of decision making in command and control are becoming outdated in informationised warfare. Meanwhile, AI data processing technology is superior in searching, storing, calculating and exploiting huge data sources, especially data from satellite images and radar signals. AI can quickly transform huge amounts of data into military information, enabling officers and soldiers to make fast and sensible decisions, react more quickly, and act more efficiently. For this preeminence, AI has been researched and widely applied in military information management systems, network command, and decision support, etc. by many major countries. It is said that, the US has researched and developed an AI robot called “Strategist”, through a computer system, continuously collecting and analysing intelligence information obtained from satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, and radar to analyse, synthesise, and select optimal solutions for commanders to consult and make their decisions.

Thus, with the development of military science and technology, especially the achievements of the fourth industrial revolution, the application of AI in military field is both an opportunity and a challenge for the world in general, and Vietnam in particular. Currently, military powers, such as the US, Russia, and China all consider AI a strategic key technology to be applied in military field, thereby quickly researching and manufacturing AI weapons to prevail in the arms races. In the near future, AI can be widely applied in military. At that time, the features and effectiveness of AI weapons and materiel will greatly change both methods and forms of combat. That has been forecasted by military scholars worldwide. Some even predict the AI-caused third world war, especially when automated robotic weapons are widely available with high levels of autonomy. They can increase the risk of war or major incidents accidentally, leading to a danger to society. What is more dangerous, due to its autonomy, AI can signal a false alarm, making nations trigger war in order to gain an advantage, even though they don’t intend to do so.

Well aware of the situation and with the view that this is a historic moment and the spirit of “now or never”, on 26th January 2021, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 127/2021/QĐ-TTg on “Promulgating national strategy on research, development and application of artificial intelligence to 2030” with the goal that by 2030, Vietnam will become a centre for innovation, development of solutions, and applications of artificial intelligence of ASEAN region and the world.

From practical studies and future war forecasts, it can be concluded that, besides human being as the decisive factor, AI can become an important factor in wars. Therefore, we need to be well prepared in all aspects, both physically and mentally right from peacetime, to be ready to win all wars, including the ones using AI weapons and equipment. To do so, it is necessary to focus on the following measures:

Firstly, continue to thoroughly grasp and soon effectively implement the Prime Minister's Decision No. 127/2021/QĐ-TTg dated 26th January 2021, focusing on the three pillars to promote the development of artificial intelligence, namely education and training, science and technology, and information and communications.

Secondly, invest in high-quality human resources in order to improve the ability to research and apply AI to upgrade and manufacture weapons and military equipment with the application of the achievements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially weapons and equipment for early warning and remote defence.

Thirdly, regularly grasp the development and application of AI in weapons, military robots as well as changes in combat method of countries around the world, thereby, study technical and tactical measures to prevent, combat and be ready to effectively deal with the enemy's weapons, vehicles or robots with AI application.

Fourthly, closely manage and preserve military weapons, equipment and robots with AI application to avoid auto-activation causing unpredictable combat situations.

Fifthly, actively promote international cooperation in training, research and application of AI in weapons and military equipment.

Lastly, thoroughly conduct ideological work and raise public awareness of the development of AI in military activities in particular, future wars in general so as to prevent, avoid and win all wars, and firmly defend the Fatherland.

Senior Colonel, Dr. HUYNH MINH CHIEN, Air Defence - Air Force Service

Your Comment (0)