India gears up for AI-driven wars

To prepare the Army, the Navy and the Air Force for next-generation warfare

May 20, 2018 10:26 pm | Updated May 21, 2018 02:51 pm IST - New Delhi

Indian Army jawans look at a Rustom-1 unarmed air vehicle during a Defence Research and Development organisation exhibition in Chennai on July 28, 2017.

Indian Army jawans look at a Rustom-1 unarmed air vehicle during a Defence Research and Development organisation exhibition in Chennai on July 28, 2017.

In an ambitious defence project, the government has started work on incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the operational preparedness of the armed forces in a significant way, which would include equipping them with unmanned tanks, vessels, aerial vehicles and robotic weaponry.

The move, part of a broader policy initiative to prepare the Army, Navy and the Air Force for next-generation warfare, comes amid rising Chinese investments in AI — an area of computer science devoted to creating intelligent machines — for its military.

Task force at work

Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production, said the government had decided to introduce AI in all the three forces as it would be a “big area” considering the requirements of future warfare. He said a high-powered task force headed by Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran was finalising the specifics and framework of the project, which would be implemented in a “partnership model” between the armed forces and the private sector.

“This [AI] is where the future is going to be. We need to prepare ourselves for the next-generation warfare which will be more and more technology-driven, more and more automated and robotised,” he said.

Boosting capabilities

Like many other world powers, India had also started work on the application of AI to boost the capabilities of its armed forces, Mr. Kumar said, adding that unmanned aerial vehicles, naval vessels, tanks and automatic robotic rifles as weapon systems would have an extensive use in future wars.

Military sources said the application of AI in border surveillance could significantly ease the pressure on armed forces personnel guarding the sensitive frontiers with China and Pakistan.

China has been pouring billions of dollars into AI research and machine learning. The U.S., Britain, France and the European Union are also investing significantly in AI. The U.S. has been carrying out successful operations targeting terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan using drones which operate with the help of artificial intelligence.

Mr. Kumar said the recommendations of the task force were likely to come in by June and then the government would take the project forward. The state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would be a major player in the project, he said.

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