AI used in Army operation for first time

Written by Sam Trendall on 7 July 2021 in News

Soldiers used a tool providing information on nearby terrain

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/J.M. Eddins Jr.

Artificial intelligence technology has been used in a British Army operation for the first time, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

During the ongoing Operation Cabrit deployment in Estonia, soldiers from the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade used “an AI engine which provides information on the surrounding environment and terrain”, the MoD said.

The technology was used during Exercise Spring Storm which, according to NATO, is an “annual event [that] tests the integration between NATO troops and the Estonian Defence Forces”. The exercise ran from 17 May to 5 June.

“During the exercise, participants – including Estonia's flagship 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades – will check the synchronisation of battle plans, cooperation across different levels of command and the readiness of units to perform combat task,” NATO added. “Spring Storm's most intense part will start on 24 May, including live-fire drills, running through the final week.”

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The MoD said that British troops taking part in the exercise benefited from AI tech that provided “significant automation and smart analytics… [and] is able to rapidly cut through masses of complex data”.

The ministry added that the technology could “be hosted in the cloud or operate in independent mode”, and that its use on the ground in Estonia had “saved significant time and effort, providing soldiers with instant planning support and enhancing command and control processes”.
The Army’s director of information Major General Jonathan Cole said: “The deployment was a first of its kind for the Army. It built on close collaboration between the MoD and industry partners that developed AI specifically designed for the way the Army is trained to operate. The lessons this has provided are considerable, not just in terms of our support to deployed forces, but more broadly in how we inform defence’s digital transformation agenda and the best practices we must adopt to integrate and exploit leading-edge technologies.”

Major James Mcevoy of the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade, which deployed the technology, added: “This was a fantastic opportunity to use a new and innovative piece of technology in a deployed environment. The kit was shown to outperform our expectations and has clear applications for improving our level of analysis and speed at which we conduct our planning. I’m greatly looking forward to further opportunities to work with this. In future, the UK armed forces will increasingly use AI to predict adversaries’ behaviour, perform reconnaissance and relay real-time intelligence from the battlefield.”

Operation Cabrit is the British Army’s deployment in Estonia as part of multinational force that forms NATO’s “enhanced Forward Presence” in the Baltic region.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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