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Surface Navy 2022: Tactical focus driving AI development

SCO's Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vehicles, NOMAD & RANGER, conduct underway operations off the coast of California in 2021. After transiting to the West Coast, almost entirely in autonomous mode, the vessels will continue fleet experimentation before transitioning to the navy in early 2022. (US Navy)

US Navy (USN) leaders are looking to leverage advanced technological capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the tactical and operational realm, with combat requirements in those areas driving much of the research and development efforts for those technologies.

“It [has] already helped us in [fleet] readiness [because] it is predictive,” US Navy Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, commander of both the Naval Surface Forces and the Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet, told reporters on 7 January, about the development of AI and ML capabilities within the service. His comments came during a media roundtable prior to the Surface Navy Association National Symposium, which began on 11 January in Arlington, Virginia.

When asked where service leaders would like to focus burgeoning AI and ML applications in the coming years, he said, “There are a number of [areas] when I look at AI, [and] there are some tactical applications”, for those technologies that are showing promise, at the concept and prototype level. At the fleet level, senior brass “want us to focus on warfighting, there is a big push on that”, specifically on integrating AI and ML concepts and technologies into those operations, Vice Adm Kitchener said.

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