Automated aircraft and other autonomous systems are slowly beginning to penetrate the U.S. military arsenal, but killer robots inflicting death without human control are not yet a reality, according to the Pentagon.
Dn a conference organized on Wednesday, March 30 by the Washington PostAssistant Secretary of Defense Robert Work gave a startling glimpse of new weapons that have moved from the realm of science fiction into the realm of near-reality. F-16s that fly by themselves, satellites that dodge missiles, and fleets of unmanned ships and submarines are being developed by the Pentagon and the U.S. defense industry, Work said.
And U.S. Department of Defense strategists are also preparing for a battlefield where the enemy deploys self-contained, firepowered machines, even though these kinds of weapons are not currently part of the arsenal the United States is considering using. « We will not delegate the authority to kill to a machine... " Work, who is leading the Pentagon's technology efforts, said.
But the American position could change if opponents did not have such scruples, he suggested. « We could be up against an adversary who is more inclined than we are to delegate power to machines... He said, "It's a very good way to get a good idea of what's going on in the world. « And as this competition takes shape, we will have to make decisions on how best to deal with it."he added.
Among the autonomous weapons being developed by the Americans is the "Loyal Winger," a semi-autonomous F-16 fighter that would fly unmanned and accompany in its missions the F-35, the fifth-generation stealth fighter that would become the backbone of American combat aviation.
" It's gonna happen. "said Mr. Work. « I expect to see these unmanned wingers first, I expect to see automatic underwater systems everywhere, I expect to see automatic systems on the surface of the sea. ", he listed.
The Pentagon is also considering driverless trucks that would travel in convoys through dangerous areas where artisanal mines proliferate, such as those that killed hundreds of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Companies like Google have already built automatic cars that are currently being tested on American roads. But according to Robert Work, the challenge is harder for the Pentagon because the trucks will have to be capable of off-roading. " When the roads are too dangerous, we'll leave them, and this kind of navigation is extremely difficult "he explained.
Among the Pentagon's other projects are satellites that when in orbit are capable of moving on their own to avoid the anti-satellite missiles feared by American strategists.
And artificial intelligence capabilities capable of analyzing huge amounts of data on its own. This type of machine is already at work to scrutinize the Islamic State Group and better understand its organizational structure, according to the assistant secretary. « These learning machines will enable us to hunt down the Islamic State Group as a network and inflict a lasting defeat on it. "said Mr. Work.
The foreseeable emergence of autonomous weapons is of growing concern to scientists, the United Nations and human rights advocates around the world. Last July in Buenos Aires, several thousand researchers and personalities, including the famous British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, called for a ban on autonomous offensive weapons, warning in particular of the danger of mistaken targeting and terrorist use. « Legislation is needed as soon as possible as the technology could be available soon. ", warned one of the signatories at the time, British expert Toby Walsh.