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Robotics The Military

Military Robots from 2007 to 2032 118

Roland Piquepaille writes "A new report from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) looks at the future of the military's unmanned systems over the next 25 years. This 188-page report covers air-, land- and sea-based unmanned technology from 2007 to 2032. The long document notes that drone aircraft and ground-based robots have already proved they could be useful in Iraq and Afghanistan by saving soldiers' lives. The report also integrates contributions of combat commanders pointing out possible improvements to today's systems, such as 'better sensor technology for use on unmanned systems to identify underwater mines and land-based improvised explosive devices.' This report also looks at how developments in artificial intelligence and robotics might lead to 'autonomous, 'thinking' unmanned systems that could, for example, be used in aerial platforms to suppress enemy air defenses.'"
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Military Robots from 2007 to 2032

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  • Dinochrome Brigade (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:41PM (#21809126) Homepage Journal
    The article didn't address the big question. Are we on track with the Bolo program []?
  • Re:Apocalypse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Speefnarkle1982 ( 901875 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:50PM (#21809218)
    I really think the best bet is to have smart machines go in and do the really dangerous stuff that could kill a lot of humans. The EOD guys use robots to disable IED's and landmines now, and it has saved many of their lives for sure. As long as there is someone monitoring what those autonomous systems are up to, then "intelligent" decisions can be made by soldiers in the battlefield on how best to use these great resources.

    I don't honestly ever see us relying entirely on autonomous systems to do the hard work of planning, coordinating, and executing battle operations. They'll probably fall under helping humans execute a battle plan in some capacity. There is a human element to strategy that we just can't reciprocate with AI. Brilliant Generals with good instincts have helped pave the way for successful military campaigns. Human experience is irreplaceable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:17PM (#21809442)
    Until now, the foot soldier has been the essential ingredient necessary to successfully fight a war. You can bomb and destroy people and property but you can't occupy territory without foot soldiers.

    Now, we are beginning to see a way to occupy territory without having personnel on the ground. Robots could be much cheaper than soldiers and the infrastructure necessary to maintain them. That means you can have more patrols and make it much harder for the enemy to infiltrate. This would change the balance in guerilla warfare.

    Consider going on patrol. Currently a group of soldiers on patrol needs a translator to travel with them. Most of the time the translator is doing nothing. He has to be protected and his family faces reprisals because he can be identified by the Taliban (for instance). With robotic patrols, the translator could be in the air-conditioned comfort of an office in downtown Kabul. None of the locals have to know who he is. He can translate for many patrols assuming they all didn't need his services at the same time. So, even for the jobs that still require humans, robots would make things a lot more efficient.

    Although the price of vehicles won't change much, the electronics necessary to control them is getting cheaper. Not only that but the vehicles themselves can be cheaper if they don't have to transport humans.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:17PM (#21809444)

    I don't see any pressure or influence that would cause people to decide against warfare. It has been part of our history forever and if you look at nature, you'll see that this holds for all life, not just humans. War isn't something we'll "grow out of." (Why would that happen? What would cause it?) There will always be disagreement about resources, and when someone can't get what they want any other way, you're left with two choices: 1) war 2) losing.

    Unmanned fighters are just another aspect of making war cheaper (whether in dollars or lives), along the same lines of a wide diversity of developments from precision-guided weapons, to MASH units. The cheaper you make it for your side (and more expensive you make it for the opposing side), the more likely you "win." It's just like any other technology.

    Thus, there's nothing really special about this development. It's neat (or horrifying if you're a pacifist), but just another incremental step. It doesn't change the overall politics and philosophy of war in any way.

  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:21PM (#21809468) Homepage Journal
    It's clear from the public record that the leadership in this country (both parties) plan on fighting counterinsurgency wars of one kind or another for most of the next century, if not beyond.

      This only makes sense from their perspective - economically, there is rough parity between the United States and the other centers of economic might (roughly: Western Europe and East Asia). Only in the area of military might does the US have an overwhelming advantage.

      So, if there's a dispute or competition, US planners want it to be resolved militarily, because they expect to win.

      However, it's impossible to fight colonial wars with a citizen's army, even a volunteer army. As we see in Iraq, the army destroys itself. We might try to fight it with mercenaries (Blackwater, etc.), and we probably will, if planners can get away with it, but they'll want to hedge their bets by automating as much of the process of occupation and counter-insurgency as they can.

      As a test case for using American military might to dominate the next century, Iraq has been an abysmal failure. But don't think that will dissuade the ultra-right; they're committed to violence, and if the tools we have are inadequate, and however disastrous the consequences of failure, they won't give it up willingly.
  • Re:Apocalypse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @11:05AM (#21814588)
    When someone finally develops a videogame AI that doesn't think and act like a total retard, then I will worry. As long as my Halo 3 Marines drive right at the well-armed enemy, and function as complete cannon fodder on Heroic and Legendary, I'm not worried about any Terminators or Cylons.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.