From drones to sonobuoys, AUKUS partners are betting on artificial intelligence

WASHINGTON — The trilateral security partnership of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, often associated with the construction of nuclear-powered submarines, is also beginning to bear fruit in the fields of artificial intelligence and autonomy.

While the first pillar of the AUKUS deal seeks to supply Canberra stealthy submarinesthe second, less talked about pillar aims to drive leaps in all things digital: robotics, intelligence sharing, advanced computing and more.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, actually, over the last year or so, thinking about what AI collaboration looks like with some of our closest allies and partners,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development and Emerging Capabilities Michael Horowitz. January 9 at an event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “Software is not inherently a barrier to working with allies and partners.”

Among the AUKUS Pillar 2 advances made so far are the successful interaction of air and ground vehicles, including Blue Bear Ghost drones, Challenger 2 main battle tanks and a commercially leased FV433 Abbot self-propelled artillery gun, and the development of software that enables the sharing of submarine hunting information in a vast area like the Indo-Pacific.

“All three countries have P-8s. All three countries have sonobuoys,” Horowitz said, referring to Boeing’s maritime patrol aircraft as well as sound sensors that float on the water to collect and transmit data. “So our teams are working together on an algorithm that will allow us to collect data from British and Australian sounders and vice versa, so we can all deploy to our P-8s.”

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The US Department of Defense years ago identified artificial intelligence as a game changer. The technology, officials say, can quickly analyze otherwise overwhelming amounts of information, augment a commander’s decision-making process and help reallocate valuable manpower. The department in 2024 requested $1.8 billion for artificial intelligence while juggling hundreds of related projects, including some linked to major weapons systems.

Artificial intelligence is also a critical part of the concept of combined joint command and control of all sectors of the Ministry of Defense.

The latest iteration of CJADC2 envisions seamless information sharing across land, air, sea, space and cyber, and in coordination with international forces. The US would work closely with the UK and Australia in a fight against Russia or China, requiring clear lines of communication and delegation.

By jointly developing artificial intelligence and its underlying infrastructure, the UK Ministry of Defence he said in May, militaries can understand interoperability now, rather than later, when they’re flying bullets, while keeping costs down.

“Accelerating technological progress will deliver the operational advantages necessary to combat current and future threats across the entire battlefield,” Lt Gen Rob Magowan, the UK’s deputy chief of the defense staff for military capabilities, said in a statement at the time . “We are committed to working with partners to ensure we achieve this, while promoting the responsible development and growth of artificial intelligence.”

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