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Aukus ‘looks to drive AI into military capabilities after world firsts at trial’

The Aukus alliance is looking to “rapidly drive” advanced artificial intelligence (AI) into military capabilities after a trial saw “world firsts” achieved with the technology, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The developments made by the trilateral partnership will help “uphold the principles of freedom and democracy around the world”, the US said.

Experimental work was carried out in Upavon in Wiltshire in April which included the live retraining of models in flight, according to the MoD.

The trial saw AI retrained to improve performance against known targets and to be able to identify emergent targets, involving vehicles including the UK’s Blue Bear Ghost and Challenger 2 tanks.

Among the other equipment used were Warrior armoured vehicles, Viking unmanned ground vehicles and a commercially hired FV433 Abbot self-propelled gun and former Eastern Bloc BMP OT-90.

Joint machine-learning models were developed and also quickly updated to include new targets, the MoD said.

In a press release, the MoD said they achieved “world firsts, including the live retraining of models in flight and the interchange of AI models between Aukus nations”.

The event was attended by senior Aukus leaders including Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff General Rob Magowan.

He said: “This trial demonstrates the military advantage of Aukus advanced capabilities, as we work in coalition to identify, track and counter potential adversaries from a greater distance and with greater speed.

“Service personnel, scientists and engineers from our three nations combined to develop and share critical information to enhance commanders’ decision making.

“Accelerating technological advances will deliver the operational advantages necessary to defeat current and future threats across the battlespace.

“We are committed to collaborating with partners to ensure that we achieve this while also promoting the responsible development and deployment of AI.”

US senior adviser to the secretary of defence for Aukus Abe Denmark said: “We recognise the immense importance of this collaboration in strengthening our collective national security of our nations.

“The development and deployment of advanced artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to transform the way we approach defence and security challenges.

“This capability demonstration is truly a shared effort and is thus a critical step in our collective initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats.

“By pooling our expertise and resources through our Aukus partnerships, we can ensure that our militaries are equipped with the latest and most effective tools to defend our nations and uphold the principles of freedom and democracy around the world.”

Australian deputy secretary of strategy, policy and industry Hugh Jeffrey said: “I was impressed to see AI models rapidly updated at the tactical edge to incorporate new targets, which were immediately shared among the three partners to deliver decision advantage and meet changing mission requirements.”

More than 70 military and civilian defence personnel and industry contractors were involved in the exercise, according to the MoD.

The Aukus partnership was first announced in 2021 as Australia sought to respond to China’s actions in the Pacific.

Rishi Sunak visit to US
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego in March with US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to discuss the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines under a pact between the three nations as part of Aukus (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ties between the countries were reinforced as the UK published its updated integrated review of foreign and security policy, which highlights China’s “more aggressive stance”.

The deal caused a diplomatic rift with France, which had expected to supply diesel-powered submarines to the Canberra government.

It has so far involved a pact to deliver a new generation of nuclear-powered attack submarines, which would be in operation for the Royal Navy by the late 2030s under current plans.