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Rahul Saini asked: What advances have been made by China in the field of military application of artificial intelligence and envisaged consequent change in Chinese CONOPS for war prosecution?

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  • Ajey Lele replies: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conscious of the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on war planning as well as war fighting and the global developments in this space. The PLA views AI as a symbiotic relationship between human and machine intelligence, with humans in a decisive role. Taking note of the growing adoption of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, quantum, big data and cloud computing in the military domain for long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy and unmanned weaponry and equipment, China’s 2019 Defense White Paper termed this emerging scenario as ‘intelligent warfare’.

    With military-civil fusion as a key enabler of transfer of advancements in AI among scientific research institutions, universities, enterprises and the military, the PLA aspires to leverage AI to support command and battlefield situational awareness and decision-making systems, training, simulation, and war-gaming, and defence equipment such as airborne, ground and maritime unmanned systems in both combat and reconnaissance roles.

    One of the most active fields of AI research in the PLA is the application of machine learning and deep learning for computer vision/image recognition, which is to be deployed for target recognition in intelligent precision-guided munitions. The PLA is also extending the applications of AI to next-generation cruise missiles. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has started to deploy AI as simulated opponents in aerial combat training for its pilots. It is also reported that the PLA is working on the development of autonomous and lethal autonomous weapons.

    Posted on 25 October 2021

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