by Marc Canellas and Rachel Haga
Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) are already here. Although some of the colloquial names for AWS may suggest science fiction (killer robots , , terminators , and cyborg assassins ), these systems are anything but fiction. Since the 1970s the U.S. Navy’s “Phalanx” Close-In Weapon System has been capable of “autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions” against high-speed threats such as missiles, ships, aircraft, and helicopters . Not limited to the U.S., Germany has developed a similar land vehicle defense system, the Active Vehicle Protection System, which has a reaction time of less than 400 ms when launching fragmentation grenades against incoming missiles .
AWS are possible due to the convergence of new technology supply and well-established military demand . The drivers of military demand can be summed up as force multiplication, expanding the battle-space, extending the warfighters’ reach, and casualty reduction . As for technology supply, over the past three decades, sensors and transmitters have decreased in cost while increasing in functionality. As a result, AWS sit at the intersection of novel automation capable of making decisions without humans and established lethal weapons.
CLICK ON EACH PAGE FOLLOWING TO VIEW AND READ: