November 21, 2023

From Land Mines to Drones, Tech Has Driven Fears About Autonomous Arms

Source: The New York Times

Journalist: Eric Lipton

The next step in the progression toward more sophisticated autonomous weapons came in the form of “fire and forget” homing munitions like the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, which has a radar seeker that refines the trajectory of a fired missile as it tries to destroy enemy planes.

Homing munitions generally cannot be recalled after they are fired, and act like “an attack dog sent by police to run down a suspect,” wrote Paul Scharre, a former senior Pentagon official and author of the book “Army of None.” They have a certain degree of autonomy in refining their path, but Mr. Scharre defined it as “limited autonomy.” Harpoon anti-ship missiles operate in a similar fashion, with limited autonomy.


But there is widespread concern within the United Nations about the risks of the new systems. And while some weapons have long had a degree of autonomy built into them, the new generation is fundamentally different.

“When this conversation started about a decade ago, it really was kind of science fiction,” Mr. Scharre said. “And now it’s not at all. The technology is very, very real.”

Read the full story and more from The New York Times.


  • Paul Scharre

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Paul Scharre is the Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS. He is the award-winning author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence...