The Defense AI Observatory (DAIO) at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg has released a new study examining the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The complete study titled “Evolution not Revolution: Australia’s Defence AI Pathway” can be accessed through this link [PDF]: https://defenseai.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/DAIO_Study2202.pdf. The study provides provides a comprehensive overview of the current and potential future uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in Australia’s defence sector.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is actively exploring the myriad possibilities that AI offers. The ADF views AI as a collection of interrelated technologies that solve problems and perform tasks requiring human-like thinking. This perspective underscores the ADF’s vision of integrating AI into its operations, not just as a tool but as a strategic partner.
One of the primary envisaged applications of AI within the ADF is in the realm of human-machine teams. The goal is to harness AI to enhance efficiency, allowing for an affordable expansion of the force structure. By integrating numerous small AI-enabled systems, the ADF aims to achieve decision-making superiority, all while reducing risks to its personnel. This approach underscores the belief in AI’s potential to augment human capabilities rather than replace them.
However, the journey of integrating AI into defense isn’t without its challenges. While the ADF perceives AI as a technology that refines existing processes, there’s a potential pitfall in this approach. Viewing AI merely as a sustaining innovation might limit its transformative potential. If adversaries harness AI as a disruptive force, this narrow vision could place the ADF at a strategic disadvantage. The challenge lies in balancing the immediate benefits of AI with its long-term, game-changing potential.
Australia’s approach to defense AI isn’t isolated but aligns with a broader national vision. The Australian Department of Defence’s initiatives resonate with the National AI Action Plan, a key component of the Australian Government’s Digital Economy Strategy. This overarching strategy paints a picture of Australia as a global leader in the realm of trusted, secure, and responsible AI.
Looking ahead, the ADF’s investment in AI is both ambitious and strategic. The latest major equipment acquisition plan reveals a commitment to several AI-centric projects. These range from the Air Force Teaming Air Vehicles and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System to the Joint Air Battle Management System and the Distributed Ground Station Australia. Each of these projects signifies not just a financial investment but a belief in the transformative power of AI. Moreover, there’s a clear expectation that Australian AI companies, many of which are burgeoning startups, will play a pivotal role in these initiatives.
The Australian Defence Force’s journey with AI is emblematic of a broader global trend. As AI continues to redefine the boundaries of what’s possible, defense forces worldwide will grapple with its implications. For the ADF, the challenge and opportunity lie in harnessing AI’s potential to not just do things better but to envision and realize a future where they can do better things.
For 30+ years, I've been committed to protecting people, businesses, and the environment from the physical harm caused by cyber-kinetic threats, blending cybersecurity strategies and resilience and safety measures. Lately, my worries have grown due to the rapid, complex advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Having observed AI's progression for two decades and penned a book on its future, I see it as a unique and escalating threat, especially when applied to military systems, disinformation, or integrated into critical infrastructure like 5G networks or smart grids. More about me, and about Defence.AI.