Report: Pentagon Boosting Arsenal of AI-Powered Autonomous Vehicles

    Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News via Getty Images

    The Facts

    • After testing out small, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered autonomous surveillance drones in special mission operations and the war in Ukraine, the Pentagon is reportedly seeking to field multiple thousands of AI-enabled autonomous vehicles by 2026 to stay on par with the PRC.

    • This comes as part of the ambitious Replicator initiative, which is expected to "galvanize progress" and accelerate hard decisions on what AI tech is mature and trustworthy enough to deploy — including on weaponized systems. The Pentagon has over 800 unclassified AI projects, much of which are still in testing.

    The Spin

    Establishment-critical narrative

    As the military use of AI-powered autonomous drones inevitably expands, governments across the globe must promise to use them only in a limited capacity. These weapons should be prohibited from targeting areas containing humans — ideally, their scope would be narrowed to just military objects. This technology makes on-the-battlefield decisions without human input, which means the humans who build them can and must program them to steer clear of people in the first place.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    While it's understandable to question the legality and morality of autonomous weapon systems, US adversaries like China won't care about such debates. Western countries — with the goal of defending freedom and peace — need to responsibly develop these weapons faster and in larger quantities if they hope to deter enemy regimes. These next-generation weapons are already being used in Ukraine, so it's best if democratic allies control their global use before autocrats do.

    Nerd narrative

    There's an 11% chance that the United States will sign a Treaty on the Prohibition of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems before 2031, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



    Sign up to our daily newsletter