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What Should Artificial Intelligence do for Air and Space Power in the UK?

A new series of commentary pieces published by the Freeman Air and Space Institute offers a deep dive into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the challenges it presents in a defence context, and its potential contributions to air and space power. Their lead author, Professor Patrick Baker, sets out to discuss some of the big questions surrounding AI and its potential for defence. He will consider machine learning and black boxes as well as issues of trust and explainability in the context of future air and space power.


AI is already widespread both within world’s militaries and the commercial sphere. It is here today; it will increase in capability and capacity with Defence’s most likely an approach to make use of both commercially developed AI and specific more resilient and reliable ‘Military AI’ to deliver a range of effects and counter effects.


The need to see over the hill and understand the motivation of the enemy remain consistent. AI enabled capabilities will provide a new lens through which to understand the consequence of such issues and predict future action. Operating in a future battlespace will require not only the capability to apply force, however defined, but also the data and data exploitation to understand centres of gravity at all levels of the campaign.


About the authors

Professor Patrick J Baker, (Dstl) Head of Science, Royal Air Force. Rapid Capabilities Office, Air Information Experimentation, assisted by Air Commodore Mark Phelps, Deputy Director of Legal Services for the Royal Air Force and Mr Aaron Thorpe, Air Systems Principal Engineer – Policy, Autonomy Concepts and Evaluation at Dstl. The before mentioned have brought together a Scientific, Legal/ethical and engineering mindset to the advantages and challenges to the development and deployment of AI for Air and Space Power, these should be viewed as relevant to the whole of the UK Defence and Security enterprise.


The Freeman Air and Space Institute

The Freeman Air and Space Institute, based in the School of Security Studies, King’s College London, provides independent, original knowledge and understanding of air and space issues. Sign up to the mailing list for updates.