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Will AI Lead the Future War?

Russia and Ukraine war that broke out on February 24, 2022, was the first large-scale application of artificial intelligence technology in war practice. It has become a key testing ground for artificial military intelligence and a critical window to see the actual combat effects of artificial intelligence.

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in recent years, major countries have listed it as an emerging technology for priority development. Governments promoted project research and development with top-level strategic planning and accelerated the application of artificial intelligence technology in the military field.

AI Military Drones

Artificial intelligence technology's rapid development has improved unmanned systems' autonomy. Unmanned systems identify and engage targets based on data from cameras and sensors.

In this round of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the drones dispatched by the Russian army are mainly small and medium-sized reconnaissance drones; only a tiny number of reconnaissance drones are used, and ground robots are deployed.

The UAVs used by the Russian military include Haiying-10, Haiying-30, Sentinel-R, Orion, Zara Kib (KUB-BLA), etc. Robots have Uranus mine-sweeping robots, which mainly perform reconnaissance and surveillance and real-time strikes, fire calibration, anti-battery/convoy accompanying reconnaissance, reverse infiltration/sabotage, humanitarian corridor/convoy surveillance, etc.


The main UAV used by the Ukrainian army is the "Banner" TB2, which carries out precise strikes on Russian military fuel vehicles, ground oil delivery devices, ammunition supply vehicles, and other logistics support nodes. The system shot down 35 aircraft, more than half the installed number. As Russia and Ukraine entered the street fighting in the Donbas region, the RQ-20 "Puma" and "Switchblade-600" small reconnaissance and strike weapons aided by NATO Man-machines provided strong support for the Ukrainian army.

On April 13, 2022, the Ukrainian President's Office stated that the Russian missile cruiser "Moskva" was severely damaged by the Ukrainian army. During the attack on the "Moscow", the Ukrainian military dispatched TB2 drones to carry out close reconnaissance and harassment and chose a time when the "Moscow" was returning to the voyage when the combat awareness of the ship's personnel was relatively lax.

According to the information provided by TB2, The initial target information closed the kill chain and launched two "Neptune" shore-to-ship missiles deployed on the Odessa coastline, hitting the "Moscow".

Russian cruiser Moskva sinking

AI Is Applied to Assist Decision-making

AI technology has been applied in all parties' command, control, and decision-making in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

First, the Ukrainian army uses artificial intelligence technology to provide richer information. On March 22, 2022, the US technology company Seekr Technologies Inc announced a partnership with intelligence software Semantic AI to give the US government continuous monitoring, including Russian threat data.

The system can collect various open-source news content and automatically detect persuasive techniques, such as headline exaggeration, clickbait, etc.

The second is that artificial intelligence technology is used to achieve more effective decision-making.

Seekr combines with Semantic AI's enhanced intelligence platform and applies in-depth analysis technology to improve the quality of information analysis. It discovers hidden links between people, locations, organizations, and events and automatically generates reports to identify threats in any open-source data and help commanders make wiser decisions.

The Russian military uses artificial intelligence technology to analyze drone images and combat data. At the same time, media reports said Russia's artificial intelligence-based force and fire control system could increase decision-making speed by 40 to 50 times.

The system records data about Ukraine and Ukraine's allies, such as troop movements, to support Russia's preparations for the following conflict scenario.

AI Applied To Analyzing Russia-Ukraine Battlefield Intelligence To Simulate Future War

Facing the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Defense actively uses artificial intelligence technology to study the Russian-Ukrainian battlefield.

On April 21, a U.S. Department of Defense official said, "The Pentagon is secretly using artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to analyze large amounts of data, create valuable battlefield intelligence, and analyze Russian tactics and strategy."

The Ukrainian side stated, "The United States is collecting data for the future, and their approach is beneficial to Ukraine."

During the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine used facial recognition technology from Clearview AI to use artificial intelligence for personnel identification.

Ukraine's Ministry of Digital Transformation stated, "Ukraine is using Clearview AI technology to give Russians the opportunity to experience the true cost of war.''

Ukraine uses mugshots of Russian soldiers uploaded from the battlefield to support identity matching of the dead. In addition to identifying the dead, Ukraine uses technology to help reunite refugees who have been separated from their families and identify Russian agents. The Ukrainian side stated that it used facial recognition algorithms to discover many Russian agents operating in the Kyiv area. The Ukrainian army used artificial intelligence-based facial recognition algorithms at checkpoints and found more than 200 Russian personnel, limiting the movement of Russian agents in Ukraine.

Facial recognition technology in Russia-Ukraine Conflict

American facial recognition company Clearview AI has a database of 10 billion faces from the web, including 2 billion images from Russian social media VKonakte alone.

The company wants to have 100 billion facial images in its database by 2023 — the equivalent of 14 for every person on the planet — to improve the system's recognition accuracy.

AI-trained Deepfakes Spread Disinformation Online

During the Russia-Ukraine conflict, artificial intelligence-trained deepfakes were widely disseminated, manipulating public opinion and affecting social cognition.

A notable example is that the video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky encouraging the Ukrainian people to surrender was spread on the Internet.

In addition, in the early days of the war, many short videos mixed war scenes with old audio to form false information. At the same time, the recommendation algorithm of the video platform has expanded the scope of dissemination of false information by parameters such as popularity weight.

To this end, Russia has banned many social media platforms to prevent them from becoming weapons for disseminating incorrect information. TikTok has suspended the release of videos from Russia since March 6, and Youtube has deleted hundreds of "violating regulations" channels and thousands of videos and blocked the accounts of some Russian media.

AI System Tracks and Automatically Translates Unencrypted Communications

During the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the United States used advanced artificial intelligence systems to monitor unencrypted Russian military communications and automatically translate them to intelligence experts.

On April 15, 2022, according to media reports, most of the radio transmission equipment used by the Russian military is old equipment that is easy to monitor and cannot send encrypted messages, allowing Ukraine and its allies to analyze Russian communications. The Ukrainian army can learn more about Russian military movements by capturing radio and telephone communications between Russian troops and analyzing them using an artificial intelligence transcription program.

The US company Primer is the leading provider of artificial intelligence services to intercept Russian military communications in Ukraine. The company usually provides users with advanced algorithms that allow efficient translation of communications.

The artificial intelligence tool developed by Primer is used to eavesdrop on the communications of the Russian army on the battlefield. It can automatically capture, transcribe, translate, and analyze the Russian army’s communications content.

Based on the militarized application of artificial intelligence technology in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, scholars have pointed out that modern warfare has extended from competing commanders, military forces, and financial resources to artificial intelligence products and services.

This round of the Russia-Ukraine conflict shows that artificial intelligence has expanded the lethal weapons of modern hybrid warfare from traditional destructive methods such as tanks and ammunition to date, time, and speed.

The war is getting smarter and more dangerous. Will WWIII come in the form of an AI war?

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