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Smart forces: Japan and South Korea drive advances in AI

The Haegeum-3 (Sea Sword 3) USV, developed by LIG Nex1 under a civil-military joint programme, undergoing sea trials. The South Korean MND is encouraging the development of ‘AI-centric systems' especially those designed to support maritime missions. (LIG Nex1)

The development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) have become priorities for South Korea and Japan as part of wider efforts to strengthen military capabilities amid rising security challenges in the Indo-Pacific.

Neither South Korea nor Japan has outlined the scope of funding they intend to invest in AI for defence purposes. However, with such capabilities likely to be supported by advances in civilian sectors, the defence forces in both countries are expected to benefit from their respective governments' commitments to invest heavily in commercial AI technologies.

These countries' profiles as two of the world's most modern manufacturing bases is almost certain to continue to spur defence technology gains over the coming decade.

A spokesperson for South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) told Janes in late May that AI had emerged as a critical component for the next-generation Republic of Korea (RoK) Armed Forces. “The Republic of Korea acknowledges the significant importance of AI in the realm of future national defence,” the spokesperson said.

“Diligent efforts are being made to procure a multitude of technologies tailored to specific domains such as surveillance, reconnaissance, command-and-control (C2), and manned-unmanned systems. Simultaneously, a range of technological challenges related to autonomous driving, swarm operations, and the like are currently under way.”

In addition, the spokesperson said DAPA plans to undertake “AI-based upgrades to surveillance and monitoring systems” and to leverage AI in developing autonomous driving technologies. The latter would support ground-based personnel through capabilities such as unmanned vehicles.

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