The Royal Navy has announced that artificial intelligence and cyber attacks will be used in a major forthcoming military exercise as the organisation looks to ensure full combat readiness, whatever the situation.
Dubbed Information Warrior 17, the training exercise will take place over two weeks in late March and early April and is designed to ensure the Navy is prepared for the challenges that a new era of warfare could pose, as project director Colonel Dan Cheesman of the Royal Marines explained.
"The pace and scale of technological change in the world today is breath-taking. The Royal Navy is no less affected than anyone else by the challenges of cheap, smartphone computing power with high-grade encryption. And more is coming in the Internet of Things," he said.
He continued: "Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation and quantum computing are all future uncertainties. As a result, the Royal Navy, priding itself on its long history of world-leading innovation, is focused on the implications for maritime and littoral warfare in the Information Age."
As such the exercise is designed to test the operational effectiveness of warships, submarines and Royal Marines in responding to cyber incidents that may unfold during a real-life crisis.
It will not just be defensive issues that are tested though, but also how the Navy could proactively use technologies like artificial intelligence to improve its strategies for responding to threats, and even weapons targeting.
For example, the AI component will examine how a ‘ship's brain' could issues commands to the fleet in a faster and more effective manner.
"This will result in a ship that can operate for longer periods of time and at less risk to personnel, with less running costs. Our ships and submarines will become even more effective and give the Royal Navy the edge in operations," the Navy states on its information page for the exercise.
The Navy will also examine how it could build a more comprehensive computer system for the fleet that would allow information to be shared more easily across its units and personnel for battle responses.
"The Royal Navy is streamlining and enhancing its computer systems to create an integrated infrastructure that is capable of meeting a number of challenges anywhere in the world quickly and efficiently. This comprehensive approach will improve the efficiency of how the Royal Navy goes about its daily business during peacetime and at times of war," it states.
Cyber defences will also be tested, with the Information Warrior 17 website noting just how dangerous a successful attack on its systems could be.
"The risk of cyber attacks against our ships and submarines is as real a threat as traditional weapons such as rockets, missiles and torpedoes," it says.
"A lot of the combat systems, communications systems, power and propulsion control systems are run by computers, and a successful cyber attack on these would disable a ship rendering it ineffective."
The Armed Forces must be able to defend themselves against cyber attacks to ensure their operational capability and also be prepared to carry out cyber attacks themselves to gain an operational advantage.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said it was vital that the Royal Navy evolved as required to ensure it did not fall behind in its ability to defend against modern attacks, and use them to its own advantage as well.
"The Royal Navy stands ready to lead the charge in the information domain, just as we do at sea, from the sea and in the air over the sea," he said.
"Exercise Information Warrior will push the boundaries of innovation, by introducing cyber, information exploitation and artificial intelligence into the UK's most important multi-national maritime exercise, Joint Warrior."
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