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Israelis urged to prepare for battlefields dominated by robots

Jan. 27, 2014 at 3:10 PM   |   Comments

TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Israel's military planners and high-tech defense industry must accelerate development of robotic and unmanned systems that will dominate the future battlefield, eliminating the need for large armies with fighter jets, tanks and warships, a study recommends.

That's a message the U.S. Department of Defense acknowledges it's already received with its recent technological vision of how wars will be fought in the years ahead, one in which robots and drones will be "critical to the future success" of the United States' armed forces.

A 2012 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service found 31 percent of the U.S. warplanes currently in service are drones, changing the way wars are fought.

The Israeli study by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, unveiled at a recent institute conference, included research by 30 specialists in public policy-related fields over the last two years.

They were tasked with putting together a report to be presented to Israel's decision-makers and generals as a guide to formulating military policy, budgets and priorities for the defense of the Jewish state in 2035.

"The bottom line of the grand project was that any army that wishes to continue to function as an army in the future will need to rebuild itself and to adapt its manpower, its chain of command, and its combat strategy, to a situation in which the real field work is executed by swarms of unmanned devices," defense analyst Yuval Azulai observed.

Israel is already a leading producer and exporters of unmanned aerial vehicles, which are increasingly a critical element in combat operations for the world's most advanced armed forces, including the United States, Britain, France and Israel.

These are largely produced by a cluster of defense companies, most of them state-owned, headed by the flagship Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Elbit Systems, Aeronautics Defense Systems and the recently privatized Israel Military Industries.

Israel's 176,500-strong military operates some of the most advanced weapons and surveillance systems available, thanks to a well-funded research and development program and enterprising defense companies. This has produced some unique systems, such as Rafael's Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and missiles but ignore those headed for uninhabited areas, and the Arrow-3 exo-atmospheric anti-ballistic interceptor.

Azulai observed that the researchers arrived at three main conclusions concerning unmanned systems in 2035: "It will be possible to plan almost any military operation using autonomous unmanned devices; it will be possible to carry out most military operations using such devices; and unmanned devices will operate in swarms.

"In other words, hundreds of devices, of different kinds, will communicate with one another in real time, will react to the changing reality, and will attain the desired outcome on the battlefield, with no human presence on the scene."

Azulai went on: "The research methodology is based on a set of central technologies, by assessing the rates and directions in which they will be developed over the next 20 years.

"This includes technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic automation, general awareness, communication, survivability and information security, energy resources and more.

"Alongside these, future capabilities that would enable unmanned devices to repair themselves, to replicate, to change shape, to camouflage effectively in broad daylight, to operate with stealth and invisibility, and more, were accounted for as well.

"There is no doubt these abilities, even if only some become reality, will change the landscape of the battlefield, and, moreover, will change the role of humans in warfare," Azulai noted.

Lead researcher Liran Antebi said she estimated that within two decades unmanned systems will be capable of performing 70-80 percent of "classic military tasks."

"We'll need human fighters in this era too," she noted, "but they'll serve within very specialized frameworks and will be trained to execute specific tasks that have been determined to be better for human to execute, and this is because of morals and ethics.

"It's reasonable to assume that by then there will be an organized system of considerations based upon which it will be decided whether to allow a machine to decide in real time whether to open deadly fire on a human being, or where it is preferable ... to deploy a force of human soldiers."

Topics: Iron Dome
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