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Small autonomous boats on water. Courtesy of US Navy

Artificial Intelligence, Drone Swarming and Escalation Risks in Future Warfare

James Johnson
RUSI Journal, 16 April 2020
United States, Defence Policy, Maritime Forces, Technology
Artificial intelligence on the battlefield challenges key assumptions which underpin military planning.

The rapid proliferation of a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented and -enabled autonomous weapon systems (AWS), most notably drones used in swarming tactics, could have a significant impact on deterrence, nuclear security, escalation and strategic stability in future warfare. James Johnson argues that emerging iterations of AWS fused with AI systems will presage a powerful interplay of increased range, accuracy, mass, coordination, intelligence and speed in a future conflict. In turn, the risk of escalatory use-them-or-lose-them situations between nuclear-armed military powers and the attendant dangers posed by the use of unreliable, unverified and unsafe AWS will increase, with potentially catastrophic strategic outcomes.

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