By Jeff Welch
March 5, 2023
AI and Weapons for Security: Case Study
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in weapons systems is not a new concept. The U.S. military has been researching and developing AI-enabled weapons for over 50 years, with varying degrees of success. In the past, AI-enabled weapons have been used primarily for target identification and engagement; however, more recent developments have begun to explore the use of AI for other aspects of security, such as force protection and situational awareness.
JLENS AI-Enabled Weapon System
One example of an AI-enabled weapon system currently being developed is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). JLENS is a tethered aerostat that uses radar to detect cruise missiles and other long-range threats, providing early warning and allowing time for countermeasures to be deployed. The system consists of two aerostats, one carrying an X-band radar payload and the other an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor payload. The EO/IR sensor is used to identify targets detected by the radar, and the two payloads are linked by AI-enabled software that allows them to share data and cooperate in target identification and engagement.
Combatting Border Security, Anti-Terrorism and More with AI
JLENS is just one example of how AI-enabled weapons systems can be used for security purposes; other potential applications include border security, anti-terrorism, and law enforcement. In each of these cases, AI-enabled weapons systems can provide a critical capability that human operators alone cannot match.
For example, border patrol agents using JLENS would be able to detect illegal border crossings from farther away than they could with visual observation alone, allowing them to respond more quickly and effectively to potential threats. Similarly, police officers equipped with AI-enabled firearms could make split-second decisions about whether or not to use deadly force based on real-time analysis of a suspect's behavior; this could potentially save lives by reducing the number of mistaken shootings by law enforcement officers.
Potential Risks of AI-Enabled Weapons
While the potential benefits of using AI-enabled weapons systems are clear, there are also some significant risks associated with this technology. One of the most significant concerns is the possibility of AI-enabled weapons being used to commit war crimes or other atrocities. For example, if an AI-enabled weapon system were to be used in a crowded urban area, the risk of civilian casualties would be high. Additionally, there is a risk that AI-enabled weapons could be hacked or otherwise compromised by adversaries, leading to them being used against friendly forces.
Another concern is the potential for AI-enabled weapons systems to become autonomous weapons, capable of making their own decisions about when and how to use force. This could lead to a situation where AI-enabled weapons systems are used without human oversight or control, potentially causing large-scale loss of life. Additionally, it could create an arms race in which nations seek to develop ever-more sophisticated AI-enabled weapons to maintain military superiority over their rivals.
Using AI-enabled weapons systems raises many ethical and legal questions that have yet to be fully resolved. As such, it is important that any decision to deploy these systems be made carefully and fully consider the potential risks and implications involved.
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