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AI-powered artillery could bring down costs, preserve environmental data, expert says

China has looked to artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy and range of its artillery in an effort to reduce the cost of warfare through improved navigation and automating regulation in-flight, an expert explained to Fox News Digital.

“[It’s important] not just to observe, but also to forecast conditions in a much more precise way with the types of data that they could ingest and exploit enabled by artificial intelligence,” said Matt McInnis, senior fellow for the Institute for the Study of War.

“It’s also the ability to anticipate the operating environment, whether that’s weather or enemy fire or whatever, that anticipating that that environment is going to be as powerful as simply observing what’s happening at that moment while it’s in flight,” he added. 

China has wholeheartedly embraced the potential of AI technology, having already experimented with the various applications the technology offers across different fields, including manufacturing and construction in addition to the more attractive military applications. 

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Scientists from the People’s Liberation Army in April touted their potential to improve the performance of artillery with AI tech, proving through multiple tests in various conditions in 2022 that they could hit human-sized targets nearly 10 miles away, the South China Morning Post reported. 

The precision exceeded expectations and the capabilities of current large weapons in service, even hitting a bull’s-eye. 

Surface-to-air missile system at the Zhuhai Airshow in south China’s Guangdong province, Nov 9, 2022. (CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

“Certainly, the accuracy is pretty clear how AI can aid with that insofar as identifying targets, adjust flight trajectory more quickly during combat and being able to simply navigate more complex environments or changing weather conditions – that all aids in greater precision,” McInnis said, adding that claims about extended trajectories are “certainly feasible.” 

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“The Chinese claim that they can create, frankly, very small coil and rail guns is certainly something that is concerning,” McInnis stressed. “I don’t know if they’re going to achieve that but it’s some aspects of a new technology to aid in those situations.” 

Achieving more accurate artillery that can adjust flight paths and make use of immense data in very short amount of times would appeal to many nations, but few have been able to demonstrate the ability.

US Navy Port

A U.S. Navy officer leads visitors on the deck of the USS Robert Smalls guided missile cruiser, during a port visit in Danang on June 26, 2023. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images)

Traditional methods required the system to eject raw data to complete the process, thus impacting the overall accuracy of the weapon.  

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Chinese scientists have collaborated with experts in the Beijing-based China-United Arab Emirates Belt and Road lab to develop the technology, and the U.S. is working toward the same goal. The clear benefit of these weapons would allow China to minimize the amount of arms used in assaults, helping to more efficiently maintain its forces. 

McInnis also highlighted the slippery slope of handing off more and more decision-making to the AI as officers find they can automate more processes. 

Russian warship

A Russian navy boat launches an anti-ship missile test in the Peter The Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan, on March 28, 2023. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

“I still think the main breakthrough really is going to increase precision and try to use that to increase, frankly, the speed of employment of any of these types of weapons and how they can increase the decision-making efficiency,” he argued. 

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“There’s huge debate about whether they’re going to still keep a person in the loop in decision-making or whether they’re going to take greater risks with AI to allow for autonomous targeting and all the technical and ethical problems that that’s going to bring for the Chinese, certainly on the accuracy, certainly on the speed of decision-making and employment of weapons, and then potentially also on the distance and range of weapons,” he added. 

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