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AI Technology In Military Will Transform Future Warfare

The incarnation of AI is motivating global powers to prepare themselves to control and maneouvre advanced technologies. Superiority of artificial intelligence is the new paradigm of power in between superpowers. Modern warfare in essence is more complex, on account of an increasing number of micro variables. Change in any one variable could create an exponential impact on battle outcomes – and even on the war itself. What is AI in Military? Authors decode the complexity and the inevitability of AI.

TINY SWARMS OF DRONES in the sky can rain down disaster of an unprecedented magnitude. Controlled faraway from the conventional battle field, these swarms can swoop down over territory, across international boundaries and unleash destruction powered by a barrage of cross-spectrum ammution. Threats of uninhibited intensity – without an actual declaration of war – are what militaries across the world could be left grappling with. The recent drones attack at the IAF base in Jammu is perhaps, just the beginning of this covert form of warfare.

Technology has become the key driver of the pace of societal evolution and it redefines social parameters with unique outputs. The incarnation of AI is motivating global powers to prepare themselves to control and maneouvre advanced technologies with the goal of establishing their dominance in the global power play. Superiority of artificial intelligence is the new paradigm of power in between superpowers. Technology is becoming the most important actor in determining the effective power of a nation in modern military warfare. It enables the military to encounter complex challenges through effective and innovative methods and will be a key component for future wars. Global military institutions and countries are trying to identify areas where this ‘metallic-intelligence’ could plug-in with regular military operations.


Modern warfare in essence is more complex, on account of an increasing number of micro variables. Change in any one variable could create an exponential impact on battle outcomes – and even on the war itself. The induction of AI is converting the war from specialized-mechanized war to intelligent-robotized-digitized conflict. Global powers are preparing their military establishments to leverage modern intelligent technologies to optimize war results.

The establishment of PLASSF (People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force) by the Xi-Jinping government in 2015 is indicative of the seriousness of the Chinese about induction of technology into the military and in warfare. 

To challenge the supremacy of the United States and for overall development of military-AI technologies, Chinese policymakers released their 10th defence white paper, China’s National Defense in the New Era Roadmap, outlining the complete AI-ecosystem for the Chinese Army.


Artificial intelligence could help enhance multi-layer capabilities of military forces in handling a spectrum of undefined war situations or hostile environments. Artificial intelligence enables rapid decision-making capabilities in a dynamic information dense environment as well as in information sparse situations.

For the military, a phased AI evolution can be encapsulated under the following heads: 

  • lPhase 1: Initial development of a variety of AI techniques for the military.
  • lPhase 2: Timely deployment of AI techniques for functional applications of the armed forces.
  • lPhase 3: Constant discovery framework for applications of AI techniques for military.
  • lPhase 4: Development of a dynamically evolving future AI roadmap for the military.

The integration of AI with regular military operations could upgrade logistics, administration, maintenance, training, personal management and even routine activities or exercises. It could reduce institutional workload and free up warriors to focus on core functions. Artificial intelligence could handle the OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) loop faster, create combat intelligent clouds with secure gateways as well as upgrade Command-and-Control capabilities of the armed forces with the establishment of a resilient data-oriented highly automated approach. The Military-AI-Ecosystem could support higher formations to design and deploy more effective and efficient battle plans for better control of operations through sharper and deep insights.

The new intelligent technologies could speed up decision making capabilities which would help military leaders to take a higher number of offensive or defensive decisions during wars or combat with greater efficacy. Artificial intelligence will accelerate establishment of a dynamic autonomous system for 360 degree analysis of the environment for better real-time battlefield decision making.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to enchance future combat skills of the military through the following:

  • lAI-based smart logistics with integrated actions
  • lAI-based transportation system for each node of the establishment
  • lAI- Enabled target recognition capabilities across naval, air and land attack systems
  • lUnmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle
  • lUnmanned Intelligent Ground Vehicle
  • lAI-enabled deep analysis of integrated warfare theatres
  • (land, naval and air)
  • l Cybersecurity
  • l Cyber warfare
  • l Robotic battlefields
  • l Advanced war simulators
  • l AI-based war games for training of the forces
  • l Predictive & sequential analysis of threats and situations
  • l Use of AI techniques for military data processing & analysis
  • l AI based guided and loitering missile systems
  • lAI-based autonomous weapon systems.

In modern warfare extensive strategic intelligence is required with more sophisticated integration of technological components to deal with the situational requirements of war theatres. War zones are one of the areas where each discrete event is overloaded with a high volume of unstructured unstructured data. Artificial intelligence could create taxonomies of events from available data sets for integration and structuring of data, thus aiding real-time decision support. As wars become driven by information, AI can provide or recommend valuable options to the commanders that the human brain may not be able to assess on account of the volume or decision time stress. Global military powers are smartly working towards modelling a common platform to handle the context-based challenges from the sea floor to space, using convergence of disruptive technologies, combined with different tools enabled by AI. 

This entire processing is making wars knowledge-based as opposed to traditionally quantity driven – a radical shift from attrition and destruction-based approaches to one based on effects and outcomes. The fusion of old war skills with AI technology is driving the evolution of a new doctrinal concept of war that is based on rapid and accurate decisions, deployments and destruction of the adversary’s ability and will to fight – instead of one based merely on the targeting of enemy armament and arsenal. 

Physical bravery on the battlefield as we know it, has now an additional dimension of courage in cyberspace, with the advent of digitized warfare  Artificial intelligence is the next generation weapon required to transform the way in which armed forces operate, train and fight – right from the barracks to the trenches. Models based on AI are necessary for each country to demystify and structurally address hidden war behaviours of the enemy. Accurate decisions supported by AI could create an exponential impact on the conduct and outcome of wars. Another dimension to this is the possibility of tweaking existing algorithms from commercial applications and find use cases for these in the military domain. This requires a broader understanding of technology and a deeper understanding of the entire battle design framework. A silo based approach would be highly expensive, time consuming and only duplicate algorithms that are already residing in other domains. 

By itself, AI cannot provide a complete solution and the requisite underlays of hardware and the overlays of networks and systems are a necessity. The operational knowledge built into AI can create competencies that can enhance operational capabilities of submarines on sea-beds. Cognitive frameworks built on AI can help submarines sense qualitative changes in the environment and help react with more sophisticated options. 

International maritime operations create high volume of data from sea-profiling to ship-movement. The hidden strategic information within this data can be extracted with the help of AI for a smart maritime strategy. 


The likelihood of success in a maritime environment can be increased through the integration of maritime domain knowledge with the real time high volume analytic capabilities of AI technology. Emergent challenges are dynamic and instantaneous in air warfare situations and split second responses are required to address them in the battlefield. Artificial intelligence based situational responses can provide more accurate context to our pilots in conflict zones. 

Effective encapsulation of AI and human intelligence in an integrated decision support envelop can help air assets ranging from fighter aircraft to choppers and refuellers to AWACS, plan and execute more effective missions. 

The fusion of AI with war strategy can generate deep strategic insights for commanders and help countries reduce war losses through high accurate real-time predictive inputs derived from high volume, dynamic and unstructured data.

Manish Kumar Jha is the Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor of BW Businessworld manish.jha@businessworld.in

Amit Das is Director of AI and Machine Learning, ICFAI University, Dehradun (This article is the first of a series on AI in defence and its application worldwide)

'AI in Military' is published in BW Businessworld Defence cover  Edition Print  (19 July -02 August) 2021






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