China - International Relations
Warbotic changes the defense world
Salvador Raza captures the complex impact that robot systems are generating. Warbotic means a moment in which we are living the incorporation on large scale and in so far unexplored areas of robot technology in defense systems. From Washington, DC.
Substantive technological changes in defense systems were always dangerously complicated. Any slip in the projection of threats and tasks in the security environment to justify these changes can break the balance of dissuasion with a double risk. It can lead to a system of insufficient defense capacity beyond the effective needs; or it can lead to a project of force very much more than the potential needs of the county, above what it needs.
This alert is important at the moment in which we are living the incorporation on large scale and in so far unexplored areas, of robot technology in defense systems. This movement is being defined as a new technological revolution in military affairs, the warbotic.
Robots evoke science fiction but are already a reality in the composition of defense capacity in the way of the automation of arms defense systems equipment, propulsion control systems, drones, mine hunting operations equipment, missiles with dynamic redefinition of targets. Robots were intensively used in rescue missions after the 9/11 terrorist attack in the USA.
The solid introduction of robots in conflicts is not only altering the lethality but the identity of actors, closing the human monopoly in conflicts and together, changing government and business practices. There is no way of going back on this trend, or reducing its acceleration rate. Modern war will more and more have sustained capacity or be totally defined by robot systems or systems of robot systems. The question is that options limit possibilities and at what cost.
The solid introduction of robots in conflicts is not only altering the lethality but the identity of actors, closing the human monopoly in conflicts.
The warbotic is being simultaneously pushed on three main fronts, which tend to merge. The first is in the emergence of post conflict urban space, imposing an enormous limitation on tactical movement to fulfill missions redefined within the American concept of “stabilization and reconstruction”. The forces in Iraq suffer on average 3,000 attacks per IED (improvised explosive devices). To face this threat, the USA is spending US$ 6,1 billion/year. This also increases the amount and tactical importance of the personnel who disarm these devices. But also increases to US$ 50,000 the prize for killing one of them.
The second warbotic front is in guarding frontiers. There is no way of saying yet, for lack of reliable numbers, which of these two fronts will get priority; but all indications are that this second one will generate demand over the whole world, since frontier problems involve vigilance operations and fighting against trafficking of drugs, arms and people (all interlinked). This vigilance requires ever more sophistication as organized crime becomes more sophisticated. On this front unmanned planes (UAV) are the systems in greatest demand, together with systems of command and integrated control with police repression structures. Global demand for UAV equipment, of command and control, specialized training, integrated radar associated to other peripheral equipment like “trial” (military, police, civilian) is simply being catapulted, increasing enormously the strategic value of robot factories like IRobot and Foster Miller, both from Boston and articulated with MIT and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The value of these companies is being multiplied by 10 every 7 years, fed by a 60% growth rate p.a. in specific military expenditure on this area. We are seeing the birth of other gigantic “IBMbotica” and “GEbotica”.
Initially, the function of the UAV was to saturate adversary air defense and drain munitions, as do the Israelis. Now the UAV are forcing profound tactical and organizational changes. The pilots of the Predator, for example, stay in bases in Arizona, California, Texas and North Dakota, to operate over Iraq and Afghanistan, to generate intelligence, decide targets, guide intelligent missiles and mainly now, attack these same targets. It is estimated that this equipment is flying more than 2,000 missions per month, equivalent to more than 30,000 hours of flight, to attack more than 15,000 targets. Something not easily reachable with the available number of manned craft. The UAV helped arrest 2,309 illegal immigrants on the frontier of the USA with Mexico. Frontier vigilance is one of the greatest growth areas of robot use.
The other UAV, like Global Hawk, executes strategic intelligence on nuclear capacity all over the world practically continuously flying over air space at very high altitudes beyond the vigilance sphere systems of the countries scrutinized. By 2012, the USA will have an arsenal of 51 of these UAV, at a cost of US$ 6 billion, computing more potential to the 5,000 UAV already in operation, almost double the manned aircraft. The Senate Armed Forces Committee of the USA decided that by 2010, one third of all American aircraft that have to operate behind enemy lines should be robotic, and by 2015, one third of all ground combat platforms should be robotized. Furthermore, from 2008, all American arms systems acquisitions must justify the non-use of robot technology. Lockheed Martin, maker of the future F-35 Jont Strike Fighter, which should be the most sophisticated fighter in the world, is studying how to robotize it, removing the pilot. The Navy with its Cormoran Project is developing an UAV that, launched from a submarine, can open attack on a target, altering naval combat.
The Navy with its Cormoran Project is developing an UAV that, launched from a submarine, can open attack on a target, altering naval combat.
The third front, with slower development but projecting a long-term market with high amounts maintained, are dual use systems for maritime underwater and anti-submarines of a military nature and civilian operations for deep-water equipment exploration and maintenance. Strategic naval concepts are being explored to forgo traditional surface means of submarine platform protection. Also conceptually necessary with technology already shown, these concepts still face strong institutional opposition from the Navy.
By 2019, the dual use military robot market will have reached the astronomic sum of US$ 103,7 billion. It is this market that companies are seeking and which will have a preponderance of artificial intelligence sensors and user interface. Just the area of artificial intelligence already consumes more than US$ 21 billion presently. Advances in the area of interface must compensate the notion of the weakest link of the defense chain tending to be human, increasing the capacity of humans to assimilate simultaneous information, technologies called haptics and superficial skin implants in the “crew” of these robots. Tests with this idea are being conducted at the University of Duke.
This present and projected potential is leading to the development of a combat architecture for unmanned vehicles (in all combat dimensions) to be integrated into the architecture of combat centered in networks at a cost of over US$ 230 billion. The need factor of this architecture is the exponencialization of the size of combat spaces. In World War I the combat space was 10 m2/soldier, or rather, the space that a soldier would be capable of dominating in combat with the arms available. In World War II, this space was 50 m2. In 2008, in Iraq, each American soldier dominated 7,800 m2. Never has humanity been so unprepared for technological change, its economic opportunities and its risks.
Companies and entrepreneurs on these three fronts are operating with a quite daring business model called Field of Dreams. Instead of faces and inefficient market analyses with traditional models, which certainly would point to an unacceptable degree of risk for investment, entrepreneurs are working with the concept that if they manage to project, develop and produce, customer will appear.
The warbotic is generating a cultural revolution. Only equivalent to the introduction of the transistor and laptops. The defense world will not be the same with the expansion of industrial defenses bases of countries to incorporate warbotic capacities. The winner will be the one who goes ahead but for this, it is necessary to look ahead!