You are here

Vineet Ravindran asked: What is the role of artificial intelligence in modern warfare, and what are its limitations?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Sanur Sharma replies: The dimensions of modern warfare lie within a changing landscape of technology and defence frameworks. The war-fighting capabilities are continually changing with the introduction of new and disruptive technologies that harness the power of data and analytics to make predictions and work automatically. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied throughout every domain of warfare across battlefields, from the strategic level to the operational level, including AI-enabled information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, command and control operations, logistics, cyberspace operations and security, information-related operations (such as deep fakes), semi-autonomous and autonomous systems, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), combat simulations, and training and wargames.

    Some other tactical applications of AI in warfare include minesweeping drone bots that use feature maps to analyse data and identify and deactivate mines, segmentation detection to discriminate enemy battle tanks from friendlies, combat helmets with visors and exoskeleton suits (based on actuator devices and sensor design powered with special devices and AI) to enhance the capabilities of a soldier, combat simulations with VR situations to train soldiers for actual battlefield scenarios, and analysing missile data through satellite grid systems for precision strikes.

    AI capabilities have been developed substantially in the past decade with increased progress in warfare operations. The use of deep learning algorithms like artificial neural networks has helped in the development of AI-powered machines that can make precise warfare decisions and have enabled human-machine teaming in successfully carrying out combat operations together. AI is changing the face of defence technologies by compounding the power of data collected from various military equipment and combat vehicles. The collated data from multiple sensors, devices and equipment is analysed with the help of machine learning algorithms, which enables defence personnel to make decisions. AI can be used in performing numerous tasks in warfare like the detection of mines in critical environments; enabling military robots with intelligentised warfare capabilities (that would allow them to carry out operations independently); enabling unmanned vehicles like drones, a swarm of drones (to take off and land without any human intervention), and high precision combat vehicles (with better decision making) at lower expenses. Moreover, AI will play a critical role in the integration of commands by enabling an interface mechanism between different technical setups and systems on a single platform.

    However, there are vulnerabilities in the AI systems that pose challenges in implementing these defence systems. Data tampering and misrepresentation of data in the training process, data bias and automation bias, lack of generalisability, complexity, responsibility and legal liability are some of the AI integration issues. But the broad applicability of this technology and the power to transform military capabilities with greater autonomy and adaptability make it essential for strategic deterrence.

    Posted on 15 November 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.