Swarms of AI-fueled drones, vehicles track targets in AUKUS tests.

By Colin Demarest

Photo: Blue Bear drones are seen in a field during artificial intelligence and autonomy testing among AUKUS partners in April 2023. (Photo provided/U.K. Ministry of Defence)

A swarm of Australian, U.K. and U.S. artificial intelligence-enabled air and ground vehicles collaboratively detected and tracked targets during testing overseas.

The trials conducted by the AUKUS partners delivered several “world firsts,” including the live re-training and international exchange of AI models, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence, which disclosed the news on May 26, a month after testing.

More than 70 military and civilian defence personnel and industry players participated in the experiment, part of the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Pillar, or Pillar 2, established to expedite the trilateral development of critical technologies, such as AI, quantum, cyber and hypersonics. Pillar 1 — more discussed — aims to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Abe Denmark, the U.S. senior adviser to the secretary of defence for AUKUS, in a statement, said the April demonstration was “truly a shared effort.”

Together, teams developed models, directed different nations’ uncrewed aerial vehicles and evaluated performance. The joint deployments in the field featured Blue Bear Ghost and Insitu CT220 drones; Challenger 2 main battle tanks and Warrior armoured vehicles; Viking uncrewed ground vehicles; a commercial FV433 Abbot self-propelled artillery gun; and a former Eastern Bloc BMP OT-90, an infantry fighting vehicle.

“By pooling our expertise and resources through our AUKUS partnerships,” Denmark said, “we can ensure that our militaries are equipped with the latest and most effective tools to defend our nations and uphold the principles of freedom and democracy around the world.”

Australian, U.K. and U.S. leaders have described AI as critical to international competitiveness in many sectors, finance, health and defence among them. By sharing AI and its underpinnings, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said in its announcement, the friendly militaries can figure out interoperability now, and not later, as well as save time and money.


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