Israel aims to be ‘AI superpower’, advance autonomous warfare

Israel aims to parlay its technological prowess to become an artificial intelligence "superpower", the Defence Ministry director-general said on Monday, predicting advances in autonomous warfare and streamlined combat decision-making, according to Reuters.

Steps to harness rapid AI evolutions include the formation of a dedicated organisation for military robotics in the ministry, and a record-high budget for related research and development this year, retired army general Eyal Zamir said.

"There are those who see AI as the next revolution in changing the face of warfare in the battlefield," Zamir told the Herzliya Conference, an annual international security forum.

He named GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) as deep-learning realms being addressed by civilian AI industries which could eventually have military applications.

These, Zamir said, potentially include "the ability of platforms to strike in swarms, or of combat systems to operate independently, of data fusion and of assistance in fast decision-making, on a scale greater than we have ever seen".

The ministry declined to provide figures on AI funding.

The Israeli military has lifted the veil on some of the autonomous systems already deployed. In 2021, it said robot surveillance jeeps would help patrol the Gaza Strip border.

This month, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled an autonomous intelligence-gathering submarine which, it said, had already completed "thousands of hours" of operations.

Eyal credited Israel's achievements in cyber warfare - widely believed to have been used against Iranian nuclear facilities - to "a correct and timely discerning of the defence, economic, national and international dimensions".

Similarly, he said, "Our mission is to turn the State of Israel into an AI superpower and to be at the head of a very limited number of world powers that are in this club".