Panel: Artificial intelligence promises to help sailors make better decisions faster

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Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels (USVs) operate with USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) on October 7, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy envisions artificial intelligence in two ways: infrastructure to operate unmanned systems and technology to improve the way sailors and their commanders make decisions, a panel of technical and policy experts said Tuesday. .

The AI-delivered output is there to aid humans or supplement manned operations with unmanned resources, said Navy AI chief Brett Vaughan, speaking at the US Naval on Tuesday. Institute. A human will always be in the know and play a central role.

“Overall, AI is here to augment and provide a human decision maker with a range of options and recommendations,” Vaughan said.

That’s not to say there aren’t decisions the AI ​​system could make, he said. There are situations with unmanned vessels, such as circumnavigating a seamount, that AI can create without the need for a human, Vaughan said.

“It just shows you that when we’re talking about offloading or delegating decisions, there’s a sliding scale that we have to be aware of, that has to show up in your math,” Vaughan said. “This is where the perspective of the aided human being or the customer, the warfighter, the sailor, the navy is important in designing the code and the capability.”

The Pentagon’s goal for AI is to use it to gain competitive advantage, said retired Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, former director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“How to gain a competitive advantage against China, against any of our other opponents and be able to operate with pace and precision,” Groen said. “And so that’s the real heart of what we’re trying to build here today.”

Right now in the DoD, it looks like pattern recognition and algorithms, for example, that can help streamline processes or decisions.

As an early operational application, AI is key to the Navy’s ongoing testing of unmanned vessels in the Middle East, US 5th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said last week. .

“They’re going to see everything that passes, they’re going to take a picture of it. And then they’re going to map using AI – the life pattern of everything around them as far as the eye can see. And then when there’s something different, they’re going to take a picture of it every second, you’re going to send it back to a Navy command center. And then a human being makes a decision,” he told the Coast Guard Academy last week.

Already, civilians and the military are used to using AI, he said. Take the example of cars. AI algorithms help a car monitor fuel levels or tire pressure. The same goes for navigation apps that adjust to show the amount of traffic on a route or where to stop for a coffee.

For the military, AI can help show commanders additional opportunities or risks, just like navigation apps can suggest a different route based on traffic.

Vaughan’s office never starts with AI, but first examines the problem or challenge and then enlists AI to help solve it, if AI is the right tool needed. He currently oversees around 1,000 AI-related projects.

The use of AI will force the Navy to recalibrate the way it does business, he said.

It’s different from building hardware like ships, where they get built, go out and come back for repairs. AI requires constant monitoring and verification to ensure the system is working properly.

The United States is not the only country that wants to use AI with its military. China and Russia are already using AI, said Sam Tangredi, professor of national, naval and maritime strategy at the US Naval War College.

China has said it wants to be a leader in AI, he said, which it could achieve because the country wants to use AI for different reasons.

“They want it for social control, for Chinese Communist Party control of the population. Great incentives to spend a lot of money on it,” Tangredi said.

Russia is looking to use AI for autonomy so it can complement its force, he said.
The United States, on the other hand, is focused on keeping the human in the loop, Tangredi said.

The Chinese are good at human surveillance, Groen said, but the question is whether Beijing can convert that into a combat capability. China has also shown interest in AI as a tool for battlefield commanders to counter US operations in the Western Pacific, USNI News reported last year.

“There is a need to assist battlefield command by establishing a wargaming system that can rigorously reflect reality to train an AI system capable of handling distributed lethality,” reads a 2020 Marine Design & Research Institute of China (MARIC).

Whether the Chinese can achieve their goals remains an open question, Groen said.

“Can they innovate? And then can we innovate faster? he said. “Can we innovate enough and organize ourselves enough to actually have the company that can effectively fight against a largely organized, non-innovative adversary?

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