'It's time industry, academia joined hands on AI for forces'

BY AYASKANT DAS   |  New Delhi


With China making headway in Artificial Intelligence (AI), defence experts feel that it is high time India started investing in research in the field, notwithstanding the ethical debate surrounding its uses in modern warfare.

China has made huge investments in AI over the past few years while the Indian defence establishment has just woken up to the subject.

For brainstorming on the use of AI-enabled weapons and systems, the South Western Command of the Army has organised a two-day session in Haryana's Hissar later this week.

According to experts, a solid database of models and solutions needs to be compiled before AI is brought into play in warfare.

AI will perform tasks normally requiring intelligence of commanders in a battlefield in a futuristic war scenario.

Defence experts told IANS that India is lagging far behind China as well as global superpower USA in terms of the use of AI to enhance combat lethality of the armed forces.

"The subject is at a primary stage across the globe. In India, we have never bothered about robotics in warfare," said retd Lt Gen HS Panag, former Commander of Army's Central Command.

The ethical debate surrounding the use of AI is over the fact that removing human interface in warfare could lead to major issues. There is no moral agreement on the use of AI in warfare, like the one on chemical and biological test bans, even though the United Nations is also debating upon the subject matter.

This January, the US Navy announced that its unmanned ship Sea Hunter did a successful round trip of around 8,000 km from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, without any crew on board.

In the second week of September, a small fleet of 'drones', controlled remotely by AI, hit two major oil plants in Saudi Arabia, causing destruction of nearly 50 per cent of the country's global supply of crude. Various reports pegged the loss at six million barrels of oil per day in the attack claimed by rebel Houthi group of Yemen.

It has also been reported that Russian weapons manufacturer, Kalashnikov, has developed combat drones and robots that work on the principle of AI to identify targets and take decisions on attacks. The company has announced its plans to unveil entire line of neural network-based products.

Talking to IANS, former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen (retd) D.S. Hooda said the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) should join hands with the academia in India, including the IITs, to work on AI for the armed forces.

"The potential of AI in warfare is enormous and it can revolutionize war-fighting. Decision-making in a battlefield can be faster with the use of smart subsystems that can take decisions on their own. DRDO's efforts in research work on AI are fairly limited and that's where we need to start focusing," said Lt Gen Hooda.IANS