India has been giving due significance to the usage of artificial intelligence in the armed forces, particularly the use of robotics and autonomous systems. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) created a multi-stakeholder task force for Strategic Implementation of Artificial Intelligence and Defence in February 2018 which gave its report in June. Based on the recommendations of the report, it led to the adoption of the creation of the institutional framework for AI policy implementation with guidelines for the country’s defence forces.
Recently, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that 25 defence-specific AI products would be developed by 2024. Although it is a welcome move, the announcement did not provide specific initiatives in this regard. Of course, in the case of India the budget for AI-specific projects is drastically small compared to larger countries like the US and China. Here we look at what other nations are unto in the use of artificial intelligence capabilities in their defence projects.
US Is Leading The Way In AI Budget Spending
The US has been using using AI-based technologies in their defence for a long time. In the United States National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2001, the Congress mandated that “it shall be a goal of the armed forces to achieve the fielding of unmanned, remotely controlled technology such that by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles are unmanned.”
According to one report, the US Defence Department will be setting aside $4 billion toward AI and ML-related R&D activities in fiscal 2020, which is a substantial jump from the 2019 fiscal spending. As part of the defence budget, the military is working on 222 AI R&D activities at a combined $1.6 billion. If you look at the entire US budget for 2020, it provides an enormous $134.1 billion for Federal R&D, including the conduct of R&D and investments in R&D facilities and equipment. The President’s 2020 Budget priorities investments for four key industries, including AI, quantum information sciences, advanced communication networks and advanced manufacturing.
China Comes A Close Second In AI Militarisation
In 2017, the Communist Party of China set 2030 as the deadline for this ambitious AI goal, and, to get there, it laid out a set of targets to reach by 2020. These include making significant contributions to fundamental artificial intelligence research. The initiative unveiled in 2017, known as the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan has given birth to multiple policies and billions of dollars of investment in research and development from ministries, provincial governments and private companies. China is doing well to make a big impact, according to an analysis of the most-cited AI papers indexed on the scholarly search engine Microsoft Academic.
Russia & India Have A Similar Story — Budgetary & Infrastructure Constraints
A long-time antagonist of the US, Russia has been trailing when it comes to deploying artificial intelligence capabilities in the military. Similar to India, Russia has budgetary constraints and a lack of general infrastructure that supports AI research for defence purposes. But, Russia is on its way to close the gap. Of the 388 scientific schools of the Russian Ministry of Defence, 279 are concentrated in military schools.
In 2017, Kalashnikov, the Russian defence manufacturer, announced that it had developed a range of robots that use AI to identify targets and make independent decisions. The same year during a National Knowledge Day address to over a million students in 16,000 Russian schools, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for all humankind… Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”.
Autonomous military systems, combined with the power of AI, present entirely new and frightening possibilities about the way in which future wars will be fought. There are also many ethical debates about removing human oversight and an over-reliance on automated weapon systems. India has been lagging when it comes to AI research and having implementations in the defence side. But, the recent funding of the NITI Aayog for AI research has brought much hope that India would not be left behind in the coming years.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.