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Pentagon Creating New AI Drone Project to Protect Against China


New reports from the Pentagon Wednesday revealed that the agency is considering to develop a vast Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered technology to counter threats from China. The Pentagon hopes to include drones and autonomous systems within two years.

Deputy Secretary of Defense touted a new initiative designed to create thousands of weapons systems powered by AI, describing it as a "game-changing shift" in defense and security. The Deputy Secretary of the project, known as the Replicator, is part of a concentrated push by the Department of Defense (DoD) to accelerate cultural and technological change and achieve a "military advantage faster" over competitors.

She noted that since 2018, the United States has "outpaced" China's creation of satellites.

"We are approaching a future where the web of satellites we can draw upon would be futile, not even worth contemplating or trying. That's what 'small, smart, cheap, and many' can do. Replicator will allow us to explore this in even more domains," she said in Virginia.

"Now is the time to scale with systems that are harder to plan for, harder to hit, and harder to beat," Hicks said at a Defense News conference in Virginia.

She added that such autonomous weapons could "help a determined defender stop a larger aggressor from achieving its objectives, put fewer people in the line of fire, and be made shielded and upgraded at the speed warfighters need without long maintenance."

While the American military has already created some autonomous systems, including vehicles, aircraft, and drones, the new project is a big push toward developing more. The Deputy Secretary said the new units would be "mall, smart, cheap, and many, and that AI-powered systems would be "flying at all sorts of altitudes doing a range of missions," with some potentially even solar-powered.

"Replicator signals from the top that we are embarking on audacious change fast, using the means we have to face an urgent challenge — and we intend to meet it with the courage to bet big," Hicks said.

According to reports, the US government will not provide new funding to the program and change existing funding allocations through a new steering committee. One of the biggest challenges will be the fast timeline to deploy these units globally, given the public and private stakeholders.

With regards to the Chinese military's drone capabilities, Hicks explained that Replicator is the increase in the scale of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems, which makes it "harder" to destroy than those operated by the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Related Story: Report Reveals Chinese Military Efforts to Use AI for War

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