AUKUS trial advances AI for military operations 

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The UK armed forces and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) recently collaborated with the militaries of Australia and the US as part of the AUKUS partnership in a landmark trial focused on AI and autonomous systems. 

The trial, called Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in Contested Environments (TORVICE), was held in Australia under the AUKUS partnership formed last year between the three countries. It aimed to test robotic vehicles and sensors in situations involving electronic attacks, GPS disruption, and other threats to evaluate the resilience of autonomous systems expected to play a major role in future military operations.

Understanding how to ensure these AI systems can operate reliably in the face of modern electronic warfare and cyber threats will be critical before the technology can be more widely adopted.  

The TORVICE trial featured US and British autonomous vehicles carrying out reconnaissance missions while Australia units simulated battlefield electronic attacks on their systems. Analysis of the performance data will help strengthen protections and safeguards needed to prevent system failures or disruptions.

Guy Powell, Dstl’s technical authority for the trial, said: “The TORVICE trial aims to understand the capabilities of robotic and autonomous systems to operate in contested environments. We need to understand how robust these systems are when subject to attack.

“Robotic and autonomous systems are a transformational capability that we are introducing to armies across all three nations.” 

This builds on the first AUKUS autonomous systems trial held in April 2023 in the UK. It also represents a step forward following the AUKUS defense ministers’ December announcement that Resilient and Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Technologies (RAAIT) would be integrated into the three countries’ military forces beginning in 2024.

Dstl military advisor Lt Col Russ Atherton says that successfully harnessing AI and autonomy promises to “be an absolute game-changer” that reduces the risk to soldiers. The technology could carry out key tasks like sensor operation and logistics over wider areas.

“The ability to deploy different payloads such as sensors and logistics across a larger battlespace will give commanders greater options than currently exist,” explained Lt Atherton.

By collaborating, the AUKUS allies aim to accelerate development in this crucial new area of warfare, improving interoperability between their forces, maximising their expertise, and strengthening deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.

As AUKUS continues to deepen cooperation on cutting-edge military technologies, this collaborative effort will significantly enhance military capabilities while reducing risks for warfighters.

(Image Credit: Dstl)

See also: Experts from 30 nations will contribute to global AI safety report

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