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US Army Acquiring Gun Technology that Can Choose it’s Own Targets on the Battlefield

Toronto, March 12: As the US Army seeks an upgrade of its current Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) used on ground combat vehicles to help human gunners aim, the evolution in automation means that newer systems will “acquire, identify, and engage targets at least three times faster than the current manual process”.

The US military is seeking commercial partners to help develop these new-age aiming systems that essentially choose their own targets and process information about choosing to kill at three times the rate of human intelligence

The Quartz explains that ATLAS will use an algorithm to detect and identify targets and “parts of the fire control process” will be automated, under the US Army’s call for white papers. ATLAS would be the first use of artificial intelligence and machine learning-powering ground combat vehicles. Over the next few years, the Pentagon is poised to spend almost $1 billion for a range of robots designed to complement combat troops.

However, the US Army released a statement soon after its tender went public that said the emphasis in these systems continues to be that the final decision to shoot remains in human hands. It said the US Army remained committed to the rules governing human-robot interaction, known as Directive 3000.09, which requires a human finger on every trigger. Read: US Army Doctors ‘Grow’ Replacement Ear for an Accident Victim Inside Her Arm

Some military experts says that autonomous weapons systems are preferable on moral grounds to the use of human combatants as it confers technical advantage as well as decreases human cost. Major Jeffrey S. Thurnher, U.S. Army, wrote way back in 2012that, “[lethal autonomous robots] have the unique potential to operate at a tempo faster than humans can possibly achieve and to lethally strike even when communications links have been severed.”

The US Army’s White Paper basically declares that ‘killer robots’ or artificial intelligence-powered tanks and guns are the future of war but the control of these automated killers will remain in the hands of humans. This argument has not convinced many. A campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organizations working to ban autonomous weapons and maintain “meaningful human control over the use of force,” cautions that letting machines select and attack targets could lead the world into “a destabilizing robotic arms race.”

More than 25 countries have called for a ban on autonomous weapons. However, the U.S., South Korea, Russia, Israel, and Australia have pushed back against these campaigns. Defence contractors including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and Raytheon are investing heavily in the development of unmanned weapons systems.

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