January 25, 2024

How the West Can Match Russia in Drone Innovation

This article was originally published in War on the Rocks.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the use of AI for military operations has been one of the most debated topics across public media and the open-source literature. But for all the praise Ukrainian innovation has garnered, there is too little recognition of how effective Russia’s more reckless approach to AI has been.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have used AI for decision-making and data analysis when processing information received from multiple sensors and observation points, including drones, uncrewed aerial vehicles, manned aircraft, satellites, and ground-based forces and systems. But there have also been differences in the way both sides employed AI. Ukrainian and Western AI has focused on fast identification, tracking, and targeting. Russia, in turn, has used loitering munitions, as well as different command and control and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, to meet its need for precision targeting.

The war in Ukraine is pushing innovation on both sides to the limit, forcing the adversaries to adapt and adopt the latest in military and civilian technologies for combat.

Put simply, the focus of Western AI-enabled systems is on the left side of the observe, orient, decide, and act loop. But while the West prioritizes faster targeting and enhanced warfighter capabilities, Russia is attempting to make strides to automate the entire kill chain. In short, Russia’s aggressive military and volunteer-driven AI use stands in contrast to the United States’ cautious and responsible, if under-resourced, approach. Now, the U.S. Department of Defense needs to urgently prioritize AI assurance to ethically compete in the dynamic AI battlefield.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

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