skip to main content

DSEI 2021: Head of UK Strategic Command lays out new vision of military power

Future battlefield advantage will not come from numerical supremacy in warships, fighter squadrons or soldiers but machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Head of UK Strategic Command, General Sir Patrick Sanders.

Speaking at the DSEI defence exhibition in London on 14 September, Gen Sanders said that the adoption of these new technologies would give the British Armed Forces advantage in future conflicts. He described this technological revolution as being at the heart of the ‘Multi-Domain Integration' concept, as laid out in March's Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

“Fundamentally, the source of battlefield advantage will not come from platforms,” said Gen Sanders. “If we focus, as some commentary invariably does, on the number of grey hulls the navy has, the number of fighter squadrons in the [Royal Air Force] and the strength of the regular army, we will simply perpetuate a traditional, industrial age force that is costly, exquisite, and vulnerable to being defeated in detail.”

“The true source of battlefield advantage will come from our ability to sense, understand, and orchestrate across domains at a tempo faster than the enemy,” the general said. “To create and close kill chains this means a digital force: software-defined, hardware-enabled; a force that harnesses pervasive sensors, resilient networks, cloud and edge computing; one that applies machine learning and artificial intelligence to exploit data, support decision-making, and enable expendable autonomous systems and swarming. It will be more about drones and missiles than manned platforms.”

Gen Sanders said AI use will be pervasive with autonomous systems, swarming systems, cyber defence, decision support, and intelligence processing. “Our adversaries will gain a decisive advantage if we do not compete in a more concerted and urgent way in this technology,” he said.

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...