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As Russian leadership attempts to come to terms with technology’s impact on its military power and role in the world, artificial intelligence and autonomy stand out as an area of particular growth and potential for influence. According to a new paper from a US Navy-linked think tank, the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), the United States isn’t the only major military power trying to digitally link all of its weapons and execute operations faster with artificial intelligence. Russia has been making gains in its own version of centralized command and control across land, sea, space, and cyberspace,
Russian military leaders have steadily advanced an AI-linked concept called automated control systems, or ACS, says the paper. The concept bears an uncanny resemblance to the U.S. military’s own vision for AI-fueled, network-centric operations. In 2017, U.S. service chiefs began speaking about digitally linking planes, ships, drones, satellites and troops in a comprehensive data web. The idea was to allow any “shooter” on the battlefield to hit any target. Artificial intelligence would play a key role, analyzing rapidly incoming data streams about targets and the state of U.S. forces and then determining best courses of action for commanders to execute.
The Russian military began testing ACS concepts in 2019, even simulating a (presumably NATO-led) attack on the Crimean Peninsula. Russian forces combined an S-400 anti-aircraft radar and battery with a Pantsir-S missile system to shoot down dozens of enemy cruise missiles, at least in state media accounts. Like the US JADC2, ACS would use AI to find targets and build strike plans. Unlike JADC2, ACS might leave humans out of the loop. “The [Ministry of Defense] thinks that in the future, this system will be equipped with AI in order to independently detect potential targets and distribute missile strikes without human intervention,” the CNA paper said.
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