CHINA is aggressively unleashing lethal fully autonomous drones that can carry out targeted military strikes, a think tank has warned.
The killer drones and pilotless aircraft fitted with AK-47 rifles are being exported to Asia, Africa and combat zones in the Middle East.
US national security think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) said in a report that Chinese officials see this AI ‘arms race’ as a threat to global peace.
Gregory C Allen, the author of the report, said China is rushing to integrate ever more sophisticated artificial intelligence into weapons and military equipment.
He pointed out that drones, both large and small, are a particular example of a type of weaponry that is increasingly becoming automated.
In the US, drones are capable of basic autopilot, performing simple tasks like flying in a circle around a target.
But China is being “more aggressive about introducing greater levels of autonomy closer to lethal use of force,” he says.
One example is the Blowfish A2 drone, which China exports internationally and which Mr Allen says is advertised as being capable of “full autonomy all the way up to targeted strikes.”
‘TARGETED PRECISION STRIKES’
The Blowfish A2 “autonomously performs complex combat missions, including fixed-point timing detection and fixed-range reconnaissance, and targeted precision strikes.”
Depending on customer preferences, Chinese military drone manufacturer Ziyan offers to equip Blowfish A2 with either missiles or machine guns.
Mr Allen wrote: “Though many current generation drones are primarily remotely operated, Chinese officials generally expect drones and military robotics to feature ever more extensive AI and autonomous capabilities in the future.
“Chinese weapons manufacturers already are selling armed drones with significant amounts of combat autonomy.”
China is also interested in using AI for military command decision-making.
FUTURE OF WARFARE
According to the report, Zeng Yi, a senior executive at China’s third largest defense company, said AI will be at the core of future warfare.
“Mechanized equipment is just like the hand of the human body. In future intelligent wars, AI systems will be just like the brain of the human body,” Zeng said, according to the report.
He added that “AI may completely change the current command structure, which is dominated by humans” to one that is dominated by an “AI cluster.”
This opinion is consistent with broader thinking in Chinese military circles.
Mr Allen said that until globally-recognised definitions for autonomous robot warfare are drawn up, there’s an increased risk of inadvertent escalation.
In August of last year, experts from dozens of countries met at the UN to discuss how to deal with these kinds of weapon systems.
Some top advocacy groups say governments and military forces should be prevented from developing such systems.