The UK Ministry of Defence has published its first Defence AI Strategy, outlining a three-pillar approach which will see the MoD adopting a new approach to cooperation with the private sector around artificial intelligence.
Following the announcement of the strategy, Jeremy Quin, minister of state for defence procurement, described AI as the most transformative and disruptive area of new technology that could reshape the future of conflict, suggesting that AI is “a strategic national resource as vital now as coal was once to the industrial age”.
Speaking over video link at the AI Summit in London today, Quin told delegates it is vital the UK maintains its “technological edge to stay one step ahead” of adversaries, with AI among the most important, as he announced the new Defence AI Strategy.
What is the UK Defence AI Strategy?
This is a “three-pillar strategy” he said, focusing on ambition, innovation and responsibility, with efforts to ensure all areas of the MoD utilise AI capabilities, including a new modern approach to working with the private sector.
“We shall have soldiers on the front line guarded by control devices which analyse footage from hundreds of drones in real time. We shall have autonomous resupply systems delivering kit more efficiently without putting people in danger,” he said.
“[The strategy] sets up plans to use AI in defence at pace and at scale, and builds on the national AI strategy published last year which was about transforming all areas of society, driving economic growth and getting the governance of AI right.”
To do this the MoD will ensure every leader in defence has a strategic understanding of AI, create a new head of AI profession, as well as specific AI career development opportunities to incubate talent and bring it forward.
Quin told delegates at the AI Summit that it will “modernise commercial processes in order to encourage partnerships across the AI sector” which will include “increasing access to defence data and capabilities, including specialist computing infrastructure”.
How is the MoD utilising AI and digital technologies?
The MoD is embracing digital technologies across the spectrum and, as reported by Tech Monitor, last week it purchased its first quantum computer. The machine, developed by British company ORCA Computing, will be used to speed up the process of analysing large sets of data from sensors and other equipment.
AI already plays a fundamental role in the way the department operates. Speaking at a Tech Monitor event in December 2020, MoD CIO Charles Forte outlined his vision for the way automated systems could be deployed across the MoD.
“AI will show up in virtually all aspects of either business decision making about how we run the department, and better, smarter and faster ways of running physical plants and machinery, be that aircraft or ships,” Forte said. “But it will also apply in the wider intelligence space.”
At the event, Forte also identified synthetics – the use of virtual and augmented reality in military training and exercises – as a vital area of innovation for the MoD.