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Cutting the Cord: Discrimination and Command Responsibility in Autonomous Lethal Weapons

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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The focus of this research is to examine the relationship between target discrimination TD and command responsibility CR as the primary barrier to the lawful use of autonomous lethal weapons under jus in bello. This paper begins with a thesis followed by three main points regarding the relationship and dependencies between TD and CR in the context of autonomous lethal weapons. Discrete roles in air-to-air and Air Interdiction are described that may permit autonomous systems to meet or exceed human thresholds in target discrimination and commensurate risk, followed by two brief case studies in fratricide to illustrate the main points submitted. Ultimately this research concludes that there is clear potential for autonomous lethal weapons to follow objective legal decision trees to meet rules of engagement criteria for the application of lethal force.

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