Artificial Intelligence and Futuristic Warfare

By Kanika Thakur


Artificial Intelligence is emerging as the most disruptive technology of the current era and is advancing exponentially. Defence forces across the globe are embedding AI into weapons and other systems which has enabled the development of efficient warfare systems that is less reliant on human input.

Warfare and war fighting have witnessed a significant transformation since World War II. With a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) well and truly underway, conflicts today involve actions that would have been considered inconceivable by military planners in a bygone era. The battlefield of tomorrow is going to be non-linear with multi–dimensional battle space characterized by nuclear ambiguity, increased lethality, a very high degree of mobility coupled with simultaneity of engagement and increased tempo of operations with compressed time and space coupled with a high degree of‘transparency’. Such war fighting imperative would demand a swift and concentrated reply along with fast decision making. This would also require battlefield efficiency of the highest level by resource integration and combination on any future conflict.


The present day is an era of increasing battlefield transparency and shrinking military budgets.The military around the world have to deal with these two manacles on a daily basis.

The weapon systems acquired by the defence services are extremely potent; however, coordination with information system becomes a prime concern. This entails the requirement of an integrated environment. Gone are the days of war wastage reserves locked in shelved inventory in the preparation for a war. In a nation which faces severe socio-economic challenges, it will be impractical for us to expect unlimited defence budget resource sharing. Complementing each other’s capabilities and optimizing the use of resources is the only way out.

If we follow the basics of Arthasashtra which is apt even in today’s scenario where Kautilya laid great stress on misinformation campaign or upajapa which is synonymous to modern day information operations and psychological operations. So, for achieving successful covert operations, the essential factors can be summarized as follows:-

(a) Well-trained and motivated agents
(b) Use of unconventional clandestine weapons
(c) Dynamic evolution of unconventional means
(d) Surveillance, monitoring and continuous tracking of likely targets
(e) Protracted deployment of agents in enemy’s heartland.
(f) Uninterrupted exchange of intelligence and information.


Rapid advancements in military and dual-use civilian technology have exponentially raised the scale of destruction, precision of attacks and reach of non-state actors, thereby dictating doctrinal and strategy changes by major military powers around the world. In addition to land, sea and air, space, cyber and electromagnetic spectrum are the new mediums of warfare with intense and vicious combat expected in them in any future war, as control over them would almost blind the adversary.

It is, therefore, necessary to have complete synergy in all six domains for success at any level of war. Technology today has shortened the sensor shooter cycle, and our war fighting structures and processes need to exploit this by swifter and quicker reaction times. Technological advancements have facilitated near real-time intelligence and transparency of the battlefield, all of which need to be harnessed and harvested using assets jointly for battle space dominance.

Artificial intelligence is the capability of a computer system to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition and decision making. Military robots in future will incorporate ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) that could make them capable of undertaking tasks and missions on their own. The rise in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – commonly known as drones – in both military and commercial settings has been accompanied by a heated debate as to whether there should be an outright ban on what some label ‘killer robots’ (Future of Life Institute, 2015; Human Rights Watch, 2013; Human Rights Watch and International Human Rights Clinic, 2016).

In the military context, this gives rise to a debate as to whether such robots should be allowed to execute such missions, especially if there is a possibility that any human life could be at stake.But, definitely, it can facilitate the task of surveillance, as unmanned systems are used to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations (ISR) which can either be remotely operated or sent on a pre-defined route. Equipping these systems with AI assists defence personnel in threat monitoring, thereby enhancing their situational awareness. UAVs, with integrated AI, can patrol border areas, identify potential threats, and transmit information about these threats to response teams and can thus strengthen the security of military bases, as well as increase the safety and efficacy of military personnel in battle or at remote locations.

AI has broadened the scope of application for machines. Applications like data aggregation from nation-wide databases, practice tools for training troops, bioinformatics, and the security options that AI technology offer scan be optimized with these intelligent computers. It is due to this competency the technology offers, that scientists have started applying AI in the defence sector to make up for the limitations that humans have. Defence forces from different countries across the globe are embedding AI into weapons and other systems used on land, naval, airborne, and space platforms. Using AI in systems based on these platforms has enabled the development of efficient warfare systems, which are less reliant on human input. It has also led to increased synergy and enhanced performance of warfare systems while requiring less maintenance.

AI is also expected to empower autonomous and high-speed weapons to carry out collaborative attacks. Integrating AI with military transportation can lower transportation costs and reduce human operational efforts. It also enables military fleets to easily detect anomalies and quickly predict component failures. Capabilities of AI-enabled target recognition systems include probability based forecasts of enemy behaviour, aggregation of weather and environmental conditions, anticipation and flagging of potential supply line bottlenecks or vulnerabilities, assessments of mission approaches, and suggested mitigation strategies. Machine learning is also used to learn, track, and discover targets from the data obtained.

In war zones, the nature of warfare has changed drastically, and technologies play a key role in shaping warfare tactics. The threats faced by militaries are uncertain, with populated places often being the battlefields, and enemies tactically innovative, highly networked, and intelligent use of artificial intelligence can give countries the capability to counter enemy attacks in an efficient and effective manner.

The author teaches Computer Science at Amity School of Engineering & Technology – Amity University, Ranchi