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Autonomous Machines To Be Used In British Armed Forces For The First Time

Sun Sep 19 2021

Autonomous machines to be rolled out in among British armed forces… What are the implications?

Robots will become part of future warfare, and British armed forces will be using them… for the ‘dull, dangerous and dirty’ parts of military life.

According to two senior officers in charge of digitisation and automation, who said at London’s Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair that the future is more Wall-E than Terminator – and fully automated war machines are no longer reserved for sci-fi.

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The military must automate itself so it can take advantage of advances in robotics, AI and machine learning

Brigadier John Read - Royal Navy’s Deputy Director of Maritime Capability

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You might be imagining the deployment of a fleet of automated killing machines replacing warfare as we know it, however the Royal Marine officer said British naval use of robotics and autonomy would be for carrying out the ‘specific tasks that may be dull, dangerous or dirty, and far better suited to machines than people.’

Rear Admiral James Parkin referred to the ‘accelerating technological proliferation’ from other forces, and cited, “We must have the ability to create an overwhelming burden of cost and complexity on our adversaries.”

Brigadier John Read also said that the MoD was looking to build fully remote controlled or autonomous military vehicles, saying:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s automated or autonomous, crewed or uncrewed, or somewhere in between. And at a point in the future, our platforms will be designed as uncrewed.”

Automation isn’t a new, breakthrough concept, however. We’ve had radar and sonar sensors on current warships, submarines and aircrafts since the mid-20th century. Digital signal processing equipment has been used to process and refine raw input before, and it’s just going through more research and development.

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We're always fairly confident [that] the weapon... will have a person in the loop. But I don't think we're ever going to get to a stage, certainly not in my lifetime, where we're going to be comfortable with the decision function being automated

Rear Admiral James Parkin

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What Rear Admiral Parkin means here, is that it is MoD policy that humans always make the decision on whether to pull the trigger.

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Sun Sep 19 2021

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