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Moscow is consistently investing in research and development (R&D) programs with the goal to adopt and diversify its application of artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes. This covers a broad spectrum of military uses for AI, including robotic systems, improved command and control (C2), enhanced weapons, as well as for demining operations (see EDM, June 19, 2019).
Increasingly, Russian military specialists in the field of AI applications are considering and making advances in the use of such technologies in the maritime context, suggesting that Russian sea power and maritime security will be boosted in the future through such means and technologies. Although not exclusively, a key feature in the maritime exploitation of AI for the military lies in the area of situational analysis technology (situatsionnym analizom informatsii—SAI), designed to help the individual commander make rapid and accurate decisions (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, June 24, 2020).
Moscow’s interests in the use of AI to further develop maritime military capabilities relates to the future development of surface and sub-surface platforms that will be fully roboticized. Alongside this longer-term ambition is the use of SAI to ensure that naval commanders gain an advantage in time and space over a potential adversary by using the AI system to foresee the development of any situation within an operational environment, thus helping to gain the initiative (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, June 24).
However, this is taking place within a much wider context of Moscow’s increasingly proactive interest in using AI technologies, which is changing the face of its conventional military capability and will do so for years to come.
One illustration of this process relates to the use of AI to create a unified database to allow military bases to automate the interaction of participants in the management of housing. According to scientists from the ERA technopolis, AI elements were introduced to the Smart Garrison automated systems. The R&D outfit plans to showcase such AI automated breakthroughs during the Army 2020 military technical forum, on August 23–28, in Moscow. ERA will also host a roundtable for representatives of the Russian defense ministry and C2 bodies to assess the experience of developing new weapons and specialist military equipment using new AI technology and algorithms (Topspb.tv, June 29).
Captain 2nd Rank (ret.) Vitaly Shpikerman, a naval acoustics specialist, examined in detail the development of AI applications to maritime military capability in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer. Shpikerman noted the use of SAI, which already functions to facilitate the speed of decision-making in the area of maritime border security. SAI facilitates the process of decision-making in any hypothetical security situation at sea. The author illustrates the point in the possible detection of a torpedo threat:
“Depending on the classification results, the time for predicting the situation is determined, during which it is necessary to ‘intercept’ the situation: destroy the missile or evade the torpedo. The critical time in this case is the time the missile (torpedo) reaches its goal. At the same time, dangers for our forces are forecast, [and] the use of funds is planned depending on the likelihood of threats. It is necessary to develop a preemptive effect: the use of electronic warfare, sonar countermeasures, air defense or anti-torpedo defense, course and speed deviation. During possession of a situation, a ship or a combination of ships must destroy an attacking target or evade a missile or torpedo” (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, June 24).
While this approach would undoubtedly increase speed in the process of military decision-making, such specialists do not make clear the level of human control in executing any particular action. Namely, to what extent would the AI-based system identify the threat and then act to eliminate it? Shpikerman sees the future evolution of SAI as covering all military domains, meanwhile it seems to be making most progress in the field of maritime security. He believes that modules of SAI must be integrated into automated and automatic command-and-control systems, which will further increase their speed and efficiency (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, June 24).
The exploitation of AI technologies for military purposes extends into the work of state-owned defense-industry concern Rostec and efforts to further the “Internet of things.” The Rostec United Engine Corporation and the Tsifra group of companies have begun testing the Zyfra Industrial Internet of Things Platform at the Salyut production complex. The system uses AI to track the manufacture of engines and simulates their tests in a virtual environment. This will significantly reduce the number of real tests, improve the quality of products, and speed up the production process (Aviaport.ru, June 18).
The system determines how the characteristics of parts affect the quality of the engine, and creates a mathematical test model. This model—which is loaded with information about new engine components and the conditions of its assembly—creates an element of a digital twin of the future product. AI analyzes data and predicts how successful real tests of an engine assembled from such components under given conditions will be. “The use of artificial intelligence and digital counterparts is a global practice that is being actively implemented at Rostec enterprises. Such solutions increase the efficiency of labor and production resources. The pilot project to introduce the platform of the industrial Internet of things at the Salyut production complex is designed for a year, according to its results a methodology for the replication of this experience at other Rostec enterprises has been formed,” noted Oleg Evtushenko, the executive director of Rostec (Aviaport.ru, June 18).
The extent to which Moscow has prioritized, developed and continued to plan future advances in applying AI in the military has probably been underestimated by Western governments. This is likely partly because of over-confidence in the ability of the sanctions regime against Russia to impair the latter’s technological growth. However, with the introduction of artificial intelligence in the fields of maritime security, engine production, housing planning, as well as in enhancing command and control, there is no doubt that AI is finding a burgeoning role in the modern Russian Armed Forces.