Autonomous weapons
Although experts say that Artificial Intelligence is still several decades away, current technology is on the verge of giving us fully weapon systems. For years, our Navy has protected its ships with automated defensive weapon systems that target threats without much human help. Our Army’s counter-mortar system tracks incoming mortar rounds and returns a volley of mortars without direct human input. Once launched, our Air Force’s anti-aircraft missiles seek out the nearest heat source without further human control. The next generation of weapon systems will likely have complete autonomy in terms of what they target and how they engage the enemy, all without any human involvement or intervention. One system approaching this capability is the $200,000 Samsung SGR-1 sentry-bot which patrols the Korean demilitarized zone for South Korea. It uses heat and motion sensors to detect intruders and is armed with machine guns and grenade launchers -although these cannot be fired without human authorization. Current research is determining how to make robots better able to operate on their own for extended periods of time, possibly behind enemy lines. Some of today’s semi-autonomous robots are able to independently choose targets to attack and locate power sources on their own. By 2019, our Navy will debut its secret Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), a cruise missile-like weapon that seeks out and destroys targets almost entirely on its own. With a range of at least 200 miles, LRASM will first be deployed on carrier aircraft, with later versions to be launched from ships, submarines and other aircraft.

It is estimated that fully autonomous robots are still about 20 years away from deployment. Critics say we should not remove the human factor from lethal battlefield decisions. Others say properly-programmed autonomous weapons can eliminate some human battlefield mistakes such as misidentifying targets or discounting vital intelligence because of cognitive bias. Our Pentagon has recently issued a temporary pledge that it will keep humans in the loop with regards to targeting and the use of deadly force. However, other nations developing these weapons have made no such pledge.

Pending Legislation: None

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Poll Opening Date
March 26, 2020
Poll Closing Date
April 1, 2020

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