NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT RI NEWPORT United States
Lethal autonomous weapon systems LAWS seem inevitable. Despite warnings from the scientific community not to pursue this third revolution in warfare, the U.S. and its principal adversaries are exploring LAWS. U.S. commanders must be willing to relinquish some control to autonomous weapons in order to preserve the U.S. military advantage. This paper reviews current and upcoming technology, as well as U.S. and adversary efforts to implement it. It also discusses how the U.S. might increase its integration of AI-powered weaponry without compromising its values. A defensive focus, at least at first, will be more politically palatable, and will help to develop the necessary technology for offensive weapons if needed. Commanders should adapt human command and control models such as mission command to autonomous systems. Having established a trustworthy command and control model, the U.S. must accept that true autonomy will require removing the human from the loop in order to realize the weapons capabilities. If the U.S. fails to do so, it will likely find itself on the receiving end of more effective weaponry in war.