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Troops from 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade have used an artificial intelligence (AI) engine to provide information on the operational environment for the first time during Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia, the MoD announced on 5 July.

In using significant automation and smart analytics, the engine is able to rapidly cut through masses of complex data, providing efficient information and enabling troops to plan appropriate activity and outputs.

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,” commented the service’s Director of Information, Maj Gen John Cole.

This AI capability, which can be hosted in the cloud or operate in an independent mode, saved significant time and effort, providing soldiers with instant planning support and enhancing C2 processes. AI features high on the agenda of the government’s commitment to investing in developing the ability to meet future threats.

Maj James McEvoy, the user of the system during Exercise Spring Storm, stated “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.”

In future, the UK armed forces will increasingly use AI to predict adversaries’ behaviour, conduct reconnaissance and relay real-time intelligence from the battlefield. AI has already been incorporated in a number of key military initiatives, including the Future Combat Air System, and is the focus of several innovative funding programmes through the Defence and Security Accelerator.

British and allied troops made use of an AI-powered system to derive timely operational intelligence. (Photo via UK MoD)

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