With the promise of streamlining operations and assisting human operators with making decisions faster, both the Navy and the Marine Corps are working on ways to better integrate artificial intelligence into their weapons systems and business practices.
The Navy's fiscal year 2020 budget request targeted the development of artificial intelligence platforms, said Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.
"As we move from rebuilding readiness to owning the next fight, this budget prioritizes a balanced and strategy-driven approach to provide for a bigger, better trained and more ready force," he said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in April. To get at that, it is requesting investments in capabilities in emerging areas such as applied artificial intelligence and machine learning, he added.
In the budget proposal, the Navy requests a 9.5 percent bump in funding over fiscal year 2019 for its research-and-development account, which includes the development of items such as unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.
The Navy is currently employing AI for automated data processing on its unmanned systems, said Jason Stack, the Office of Naval Research's autonomy portfolio manager and director of its ocean, atmosphere and space research division.
The Navy is using AI for mine countermeasure missions, he said. Unmanned underwater vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence can collect sonar data, examine it and then recognize mines and discard clutter, he said in an email.
The service has already fielded initial AI capabilities, known as automatic target recognition, or "bell ringers," that assist the human analysts in finding mines, Stack said.
It is also using AI for anti-submarine warfare missions where sensors collect sonar data and machine learning is then used to separate distant enemy submarines from noise, he said.
"Future and more sophisticated AI will be able to simultaneously process a wider array of sensor data and account for more variability in environmental conditions," he added.
More advanced systems will eventually be able to operate in more extreme and challenging environments, he said. They will one day achieve the performance and trust necessary to be used in a fully autonomous mode and guide vehicle behaviors in real time, Stack said.
Tom Callender, a senior research fellow for defense programs focusing on naval warfare and advanced technologies at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think...