It is widely believed that the world is about to enter a new phase in the nature of war. Artificial intelligence is expected to change the course and nature of warfare, just as gunpowder, tanks, airplanes, and the atomic bomb have changed warfare in previous eras. For example, historians attributed the end of World War I to tanks and Yanks, highlighting the importance of tanks in altering the fate of the battlefield. Similarly, the use of the atomic bomb marked the end of the Second World War. Today, states are actively seeking to harness the power of artificial intelligence and Internet of Things for military advantage. AIoT, or Artificial Intelligence of Things, is a term that describes the combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). AIoT involves the merging of AI technologies like machine learning, natural language processing, and data analytics with IoT devices and networks. This collaboration enables IoT devices to autonomously collect, process, analyze data, make intelligent decisions, and communicate with other devices and centralized systems with minimal human intervention.
War can impose significant stress on the human body, leaving soldiers exhausted and impairing their ability to concentrate and function effectively. This can lead to human error, compromising mission success, and resulting in significant injuries or even failure. However, with AI, soldiers can make better use of their time and energy. For example, instead of driving combat vehicles or piloting aircraft, AI could assume full control, allowing soldiers to focus their efforts elsewhere, such as analyzing data and preparing for battle. This can significantly reduce the risk of fatalities and increase the chances of mission success.
Frank Sauer of the German Metis Institute for Strategy and Foresight in Munich describes the Russia-Ukraine war as a different kind of conflict in which advanced technology plays a major role. The fact that Ukraine has been able to resist the Russian attack after early defeats is not only due to its fighting morale and continuous supply of conventional weapons but also due to the use of modern technology on the battlefield. AIoT has become so important that China has announced its intention to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Therefore, AIoT is a new technology that will continue to change the nature of war for years to come. According to statista, the United States had the strongest capacity for research among the leading 20 AI nations worldwide in 2023. It has a ranking of 100, compared with its nearest competitor China at just around 54. After them, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Israel and South Korea.
This article conceptualizes the impact of AIoT on war in four categories: information and communication, fire control systems, cyber-attacks, and autonomous killer robots. Of course, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are also used in other military fields such as logistics, training, simulation, surveillance, espionage, etc., which this article does not tackle. However, the content of current article partly match with C4ISR which stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in military terms. Finally, this article examines the limitations of artificial intelligence and whether it can replace humans or not.
Communication and Information
As strategists believe, information is considered as the arbiter of success and failure in war. Clausewitz said imperfect knowledge of the situation, inter alia, can bring military action to a standstill. Sun Tzu indicated information is inherent in warfighting. Since the beginning of Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, advanced technology companies such as Starlink, Palantir, and Maxar have played important roles in the conflict by providing facilities such as satellite mobile, satellite internet, and data analysis with the help of artificial intelligence. Clearview AI has offered its facial recognition services to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian armed forces are now using this technology to identify downed fighters and captured Russian soldiers. Additionally, Ukrainians have been able to intercept and analyze unencrypted phone calls of Russian fighters using Primer AI software.
Battlefields are extremely dangerous environments where AI can help mitigate some threats. The US military system utilizes threat detection with the help of Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors (ATR-MCAS). This technology allows soldiers to identify threats more quickly and receive guidance on how to address them. Detailed data analysis can also assist in targeting opponents more effectively. By leveraging automated technology, smarter and safer decisions can be made in battle, minimizing errors. Drones and artificial intelligence are employed to accurately identify and communicate potential risks or threats, providing an advantage in preparation for attacks.
To collect effective military data, thousands, and even millions of sensors need to be implemented and developed across a wide range of platforms. Radar, video sonar, infrared technology, and RF data detection are collected by airborne sensing platforms, spy satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), land and sea stations, soldiers on the battlefield, and distributed conventional ground systems (DCGS). DCGS examines and analyzes data related to the upper and lower information of the command chain. This system provides a comprehensive picture of the position and status of both friendly and enemy forces, facilitating the process of detecting positions and controlling the battle space.
The US Department of Defense plans to design Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative, which aimed to connect all armed forces into a single cloud-like network so teams can quickly and seamlessly share critical data, allowing them to deploy the full force of military capabilities during current and future conflict. To perform efficiently, it will require critical decisions, operational environment data analysis, and rapid issuance of orders in future conflicts. This system collects data from thousands of devices on the battlefield through smart devices and then analyzes it using artificial intelligence and machine learning to profile the enemy and determine appropriate responses. Senior commanders can have comprehensive situational awareness of the battlefield through central operations centers that gather data from various platforms.
Fire -control system
In the past, many firearms such as artillery, cannons, mortars and even missiles did not have the necessary accuracy in targeting. But in the war in Ukraine, the parties to the conflict increased the accuracy of targeting fire bombs by using data derived from artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Therefore of fascinating function of AIoT is improving the accuracy of targeting firearms, thereby reducing resource wastage. Smart guns utilize data from various sensors to react quickly and achieve precise targeting. For instance, the AN/SPY-1, the United States Navy 3D radar system, can automatically track and intercept numerous targets simultaneously. Modern militaries worldwide have made significant investments in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to engage high-value enemy targets. These weapons have been repeatedly used in conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine and Houthis-Saudi Arabia wars. The US ground station pilots operate Predator drones using the cameras and sensors on board, providing them with a virtual cockpit experience. By combining the sensors on the aircraft and the information obtained from the DCGS (Distributed Common Ground System), the Predator identifies its targets and engages them using Hellfire missiles and laser guidance. Furthermore, the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) features two-way satellite communication, enabling the missile to be redirected toward a new target. As the missile progresses toward its target, the camera installed on it transmits relevant battle scene videos to commandos who can assign new targets. TLAM can also be deployed to attack predetermined targets or use updated GPS coordinates for its strike.
In 2010, centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz were hijacked by a cyberweapon built and used by the United States and Israel. Over the course of a year, the cyberweapon, called Stuxnet, was used to manipulate Iranian nuclear equipment, and later, to destroy part of the facilities. Just imagine this kind attacks is executed frequently by artificial Intelligence. To use artificial intelligence to carry out sophisticated cyber-attacks is a daunting prospect, because we still don’t know what capabilities such attacks will have. The most significant AI-based attack we’ve seen to date is the use of AI-powered of a massive DDoS botnet made up of a slave network of hijacked home and office routers. However, we are likely to see much more sophisticated attacks in the future. AI-powered software can learn what kinds of approaches work best and adapt its attack methods accordingly. They can use information feeds as well as system scans to quickly identify software vulnerabilities. AI-based attacks can work around the clock unlike humans. They are also fast, efficient, cost-effective and compatible. Artificial intelligence can also help in cyber defense. Due to the high capabilities of artificial intelligence in analyzing data and identifying patterns, this technology helps military forces to quickly and accurately identify cyber-attacks and counter them. Also, artificial intelligence helps the military to automatically update their security systems and resist cyber-attacks. In this way, military forces can protect their information against cyber-attacks and be stable against their enemies through the use of artificial intelligence.
Killer robots: flying, walking and swimming
Killer robots are autonomous robotic systems capable of selecting and attacking targets without the intervention of a human operator. While in some of these systems the initial command to attack is given by a human and then the robot has a degree of independent “choice” to act, some countries are experimenting with achieving killer robot technology without human intervention. In this technology, the decision to deploy lethal force is left to artificial intelligence. Such a massive development would fundamentally change future warfare. The automatic target selection and attack function can be applied to various platforms such as battle tanks, fighter jets, or ships. Another term used to describe these weapons is Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). Gen. Robert Cone has predicted that a quarter of the US military will be robotic by 2030, making the military smaller, deadlier, and more agile. The use of robots and automated systems for unmanned ground vehicles, robotic exoskeletons, and even autonomous combat systems in warfare can reduce risks to human soldiers and increase battlefield capabilities. You can fly a drone with an infrared sensor over a minefield – do it in the evening, when the sun has been shining all day and the mines are warmer than the soil around them. You can then identify individual mines in this location. The infrared image detects and maps mines.
Drone could change the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in favor of Baku in the late 2020. Drones filled the skies and devastated enemy territory without the need for large numbers of infantry, tanks, or any significant ground presence. Drones carry bombs and missiles and are controlled or programmed to deliver munitions for an intended attack in a specific area. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has unveiled the SeaBaby, a floating drone with hundreds of kilograms of explosives allegedly used in attacks on the Crimean Bridge and a Russian warship. The Protector robot is an unmanned vehicle designed and created by Israel, currently patrolling in the Mediterranean and around the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, controlled from a remote ground station. Its advantages include high maneuverability without crew, carrying out a wide range of missions such as coastal patrolling and penetration with minimum visibility. These unmanned boats can also carry cargo, cameras, sensors, and weapons. The remote control range of this boat is up to 10 miles.
Additionally, South Korea has built independent combat robots using the Samsung SGR-1 model, capable of identifying targets up to a distance of four kilometers during the day and two kilometers during the night. These robots will replace human soldiers along the 250-kilometer border with North Korea, one of the most turbulent border regions in the world. They can continuously protect major military bases in unfavorable geographical conditions.
The Guardium robot is an unmanned ground vehicle designed and built by the Israeli army. This robot is able to move soldiers in dangerous situations and reduce casualty rates. It has night vision capabilities and can carry up to 660 pounds. Guardium can be equipped with cameras, night vision equipment, and combat gear such as machine guns and sensors. The robot’s cameras rotate 360 degrees at all times, and when they detect something suspicious, they alert the operator in the control room. This robot is programmed to navigate between cities, disregarding road signs, traffic, and intersections.
More eye catching and also dangerous is launching the 103 Perdix or swarm drones by the US Strategic Capabilities Office in October 2013, which can navigate across a battlefield without human intervention. This technology has raised concerns about the potential for autonomous weapon swarms to become weapons of mass destruction without human control when were released.
Limitations of artificial intelligence
Of course, AIoT also has its disadvantages. With AIoT, it is easy to create fake images and videos, spread false information about authorities and the safety of cities, and create disruptions in societal security and public perception. This misinformation and rumors can have a destructive effect, particularly on soldiers. Using AIoT in warfare involves sending and receiving sensitive data, which can jeopardize system security if the enemy infiltrates the network. Moreover, AI can only analyze data that is within its memory, and in unexpected situations, it may struggle to react accurately and swiftly. Users may also make mistakes in data entry, leading the system to act based on incorrect information.
The construction and maintenance of AI systems involve complex engineering processes, resulting in significant costs. AI-based software applications require frequent upgrades to adapt to the changing environment and become smarter over time. While machines may be more efficient than humans in certain tasks, they cannot entirely replace humans. Machines lack the ability to modify their responses in response to changing environments. Whenever there is a change in the input, AI systems must be re-evaluated, re-trained, and re-engineered.
Furthermore, AI -based machines are incapable of making decisions or discerning between moral right and wrong, as they lack an understanding of the concept of morality. AI is not designed for creative work, highlighting that imagination and creativity are not within the realm of AI capabilities since they are machines. Just as you can create infinite words and sentences by combining the letters of the alphabet, humans can use countless new tactics on the battlefield that are far from the known data of artificial intelligence. Therefore, tools related to artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things cannot completely replace humans in the future military conflicts; rather, they serve as useful and effective tools in conjunction with human involvement and make themselves update with passing of time.
This article was written with the consultation of Professor Ali Omidi, University of Isfahan-Iran).