AFC motto: Forging the Future
The United States is making plans for the further development of the armed forces and their materiel. A special place in them is occupied by network technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), capable of solving a wide range of problems. So far it is only about the introduction of certain elements of this kind, but plans are already being made for the distant future. The other day, some curious thoughts about the implementation and application of modern and promising technologies became known.
A key role in the planning and development of army development issues is played by the Army Futures Command (AFC), formed less than two years ago. On May 30, The National Interest published excerpts from a conversation with its head, General John M. Murray. The commander revealed the possible ways of developing the army and its equipment for the coming decades. The topic of conversation was the expected change in the US Army until 2040.
The general noted the complexity of planning and solving tasks. AFC in planning has to take into account not only the future needs of the army, but also the expected capabilities of science and technology. It is also necessary to predict the development of the latter, so that the required technologies appear in the expected period.
According to General Murray, the main areas of development for army systems are network-centric technologies and AI. Separately, they can give certain advantages, and their combined application promises special benefits.
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AFC proposes to continue the development of network technologies. The general control loops for diverse forces and assets have already proven their potential and should be improved. One of the ways of modernization will be the introduction of AI elements. The latter can be interesting in isolation from networks, to reduce the load on people. At the same time, facilitating the work of crews, operators, etc. is almost the main task.
Demonstration of the principles of "multi-operation" in the chart from AFC
In the network sphere, the main goal is the development of technologies of so-called Multi-Domain Operations Troops should be able to work simultaneously in space, in air, on land and on water, as well as in the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace. All systems of various kinds involved in the operation must work in the same information management environment. This management approach is highly sophisticated, but provides obvious benefits.
The introduction of artificial intelligence is offered at different levels. So, such systems can be useful in creating new equipment for the ground forces, aviation or fleet. By collecting, processing and issuing information, AI will be able to take on the routine tasks of managing equipment, and people will be able to focus on priorities.
AI will be useful at the operational-tactical or operational-strategic level. He will be able to process large volumes of intelligence data, information about the situation on the battlefield, the actions of his troops, the enemy, etc., and then issue recommendations to the command. All this will increase the speed and efficiency of the staffs.
The prospective appearance of the troops proposed by the Command of the Future provides for the active development of all existing directions and the introduction of new technologies. While maintaining the existing "manned" samples of equipment of different classes, new unmanned systems should be introduced. Each manned and robotic platform should become a node of a large information-control network and possess AI elements with the necessary capabilities.
J. Murray revealed some features of past and current works in the context of information networks and artificial intelligence. Some of them are conducted within the framework of existing programs, while others are created with a reserve for the future.
Helicopter Sikorsky DB-1 while learning to fly on their own. In the future, his AI will be able to control drones. Photo Sikorsky / Lockheed Martin
New technologies are being introduced in the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, which aims to create a high-speed multi-purpose helicopter. They propose to equip such equipment with a set of various sensors, as well as their own computer for processing incoming data. First of all, this is done to simplify piloting as much as possible - such issues are being worked out in the Controlled Flight into Terrain project. Its successful completion will facilitate the work of pilots, as well as provide the opportunity to continue the flight in case of their defeat.
A highly efficient exchange of raw and processed data between helicopters, other equipment and headquarters will be provided. Accordingly, the commanders will be able to get the most complete picture in almost real time. It is expected that the FVL will be able to work with UAVs of one kind or another, exchanging data with them and giving orders.
Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is developing new technologies and solutions. In the early stages, there are still projects to create complex systems, including a manned vehicle and driven crewless systems - both land and air or sea.
One of the projects of this kind is intended for the program of promising land combat vehicles Next-Generation Combat Vehicle. The possibility of introducing AI-based unmanned reconnaissance and data processing systems into the artillery systems of the Long Range Precision Fires program is being considered.
The expected appearance of the missile system LRPF. Networks and AI will help him hit faster and more accurately. US Army Graphics
Another promising area is autonomous “swarms” of unmanned systems. Such complexes will have to conduct reconnaissance, and in the future solve combat or other missions. It is curious that in the context of unmanned systems, the army so far shows interest only in systems that complement existing models and in which key decisions are made by man. AFC is proactive and is already engaged in fully autonomous complexes.
The technological development of the armed forces is carried out through the joint work of different structures with different tasks. Moreover, as noted, there are serious difficulties. In preparing for future conflicts, the army and industry are often mistaken in their forecasts - it is necessary to reduce such risks.
For a more complete analysis and the most accurate forecasting, there is the Army Futures Command. It studies the current situation and tries to predict the situation in the future, as well as formulates general recommendations. Then, research and design organizations, such as ARL or defense enterprises, begin to implement the proposed ideas.
In these processes, AFC has a particularly difficult task. The forecasts of this organization must take into account a lot of factors of various kinds, from technical and economic to geographical and demographic. Any current mistake in such work can lead to serious problems in the future. With all this, one should not forget about the “ordinary” mistakes of long-term army planning.
AFC is currently conducting research and making plans until the forties, inclusive. Solutions and technologies are proposed, some of which have already been accepted for development and will appear in the foreseeable future. Other ideas have long been studied, worked out and put into practice - and now they need to be improved.
For example, the US Army has long and actively used a variety of network systems and structures that simplify data exchange and troop control. The command of the future army proposes to continue the development of this direction. Smart armaments are widely used and AI elements are being introduced. In the future, their role and scope will increase.
At the moment, we are talking about the systematic development of existing areas with the simultaneous creation of fundamentally new technologies. In the future, all these developments should be combined with each other and improve the technique of familiar classes. However, the implementation of all such plans will not be simple and quick - according to current plans, this one will take at least 20 years.
Thus, with the successful solution of all the tasks posed by AFC specialists, by the forties the US army will change dramatically. It will be as saturated as possible with the most modern and high-performance electronics connected to powerful information-management networks. Manned vehicles will enter the battlefield, in the water area and in the contested airspace, with the support of robots of varying degrees of autonomy. The processing of data at headquarters will be done by artificial intelligence, capable of giving the generals the best recommendations. However, this is still a long way off both in time and in the efforts required to carry out all the necessary work.