Asymmetric Dialogue

France to increase investment in AI for future weapon systems

PARIS — France’s armed forces minister has announced a plan to increase spending over time to an annual €100 million (U.S. $123 million) on artificial intelligence as part of an innovation drive to develop future weapon systems.
Florence Parly made the announcement March 16 at the launch of the government-backed Man-Machine Teaming, or MMT, study for applying AI to combat aircraft. That study is part of the ministry’s road map to explore AI for armaments.
Parly also announced the creation of an agency for defense innovation, which is open to civil and startup companies and as well as European cooperation.
About half the annual AI budget will fund studies, and some €10 million a year will test and integrate existing AI technology, the ministry said. Some 50 AI specialists will be recruited by 2022 to staff the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office and the services. The ministry will also keep track of civil development of AI.
Parly visited Dassault Aviation on the launch of the MMT study, which was requested and funded by the DGA. Dassault and Thales will run the study, which will draw on a network of small and medium companies and laboratories.
The MMT study will look for “innovative strategies” to fly fighter jets and drones together to evade air defense systems.
Future aircraft flying in 2025-2030 will be fitted with advanced and high-resolution sensors, generating a great deal of data, which will need to be processed and merged in real time. The study will consider how to merge that real-time data and also allow the system to draw on historic data and other sources of information in the combat cloud.
“These systems will be hyper connected,” the ministry said.
In the face of this increasing complexity, the human must manage the system and stay in the decision-making loop. A key factor in AI will be to deliver “robust decision-making” based on the display of information to the pilot, not just processing the data.
AI will play a larger role in future weapons, with the first applications expected to be in intelligence gathering, cybersecurity, collaborative combat on land and in the air, anti-mine warfare, and predictive equipment maintenance.
AI applications are expected to be used in four areas: intelligent and recognition sensors; autonomous navigation in complex areas; collaborative operations between manned and unmanned aircraft; and man-machine interface in the cockpit.
Technology developed under the MMT project will not be tied to a specific platform or program, but will be applied to all future combat aircraft systems, both manned and unmanned. The first AI applications are expected in 2025, with wide distribution in 2030.
AI is already in use for algorithms that calculate missile trajectories and for systems that perform transcription and translate foreign languages.
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