National Security

The AI Arms Race: Global Competition & Military Collaboration

Published on
September 19, 2023

It was September 2nd 1955, when for the first time in modern history, China claimed ownership of Taiwan's territories through hard power. On September 4th of that year, U.S. President Eisenhower in cooperation with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed the use of nuclear weapons against China to safeguard Taiwan's national security.

Today, Taiwan's national security is not safeguarded by U.S. nuclear power; 52 years later it is safeguarded by AI programs, semiconductors and cruise missiles. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarms and guided missiles with autonomous threat targeting capabilities are just some sectors of defense cooperation between Taiwan, UK and USA.

Military AI Global Landscape

USA, UK, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia.

These six countries are the main leaders so far in the development and implementation of systems with embedded AI for military use. Through a broad framework of government and industry partnerships, these countries have formed a unified defense architectural structure in the South China Sea region, whose armament dimension is based on a high degree of autonomous weapon systems that collect information, share data and process and analyze vast amounts of information ‘bits’.

The largest capital flows in the areas of autonomous and semi-autonomous process development relevant to defense include:

In-missile Software

The development of in-missile software for autonomous search, tracking, threat assessment, and targeting processes is revolutionizing modern warfare. This advanced technology enables missiles to adapt in real-time, enhancing precision, reducing human error, and maximizing the efficiency of defense systems. Integrating AI capabilities, these missiles can identify and prioritize threats autonomously, making split-second decisions crucial in combat scenarios.

Software Development

For autonomous battle data processing and risk assessment analysis of all the data that have been collected in the chaotic environment of warfare. The most major project is the US Pentagon's ‘Project Maven’ which uses AI and machine learning to analyze images and video footage from drone swarms to perform real-time battlefield command and control operations.

Development of Autonomous UAV

The development of autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV/UCAV), Unmanned Robotic Vehicles (USV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) like the Sea Hunter program. This program involves a US Navy autonomous unit that conducts automated cruise procedures, collection, evaluation and transfer of data to command and control centers. The vehicle is programmed so that it does not make autonomous strike decisions against enemy targets.

Development of Autonomous Drone Swarms

The development of and missiles swarms that exchange information with each other without human intervention. They automatically transfer combat data to the Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence Centers (C4I) and autonomously alter their flight path based on the constantly evolving environment of warfare.

Development of Autonomous Processes

The development of autonomous processes in sectors of defense and military by the above-mentioned states is touching upon the more comprehensive defense architectural structure to contain Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea. Development of state collaborations in the field of applied Artificial Intelligence has led to the creation of a prototype ‘Kill-Web’ in the Indo-Pacific Region where emphasis is given on the full automation of combat data acquisition by autonomous unmanned vehicles and automated processing of this information. The final decision-making is subject to human control.

China's AI strategy

China is actively implementing the ‘dual-use strategy’ for AI, aiming for global leadership in both military and civilian domains. In the defense sector, China is developing autonomous technologies in various fields, including air, land, sea, submarine and space vehicles. In 2017, Chinese University unveiled a swarm of 1,000 drones powered by artificial intelligence that conducted autonomous destruction operations of enemy ballistic missiles in an island-chain environment.

The structure of China's applied AI development ecosystem differs significantly from that of the United States. In China, there is a holistic integration between commercial products, academic research laboratories, military, and Central Government. This allows the Communist Party of China to direct the development of AI and use commercially available products for military purposes. To facilitate this process, China established the Military Development Policy Commission in January 2017 to accelerate the transfer of AI software from the commercial and academic sectors straight to the military. China is also taking maximum advantage of the vast databases of Chinese citizens at its disposal to continuously train algorithms and combat software in applied AI, rapidly increasing their warfare operational effectiveness.

It also imports know-how from the US through investments in US private companies involved in the field of AI for potential military applications. This process gives China legitimate access to areas of operational development of autonomous combat software and its application to key Chinese Army PLA programs. Between 2010 and 2017, Chinese venture capital investment in US AI development companies is estimated to have totaled approximately $1.5 billion dollars.  

Russia's AI strategy

Russia as a state-entity is investing to a small but significant extent on the application of AI in its armed forces and defense industry. Huge emphasis is being placed on creating autonomous programs that distribute false and corrupted information across all dimensions of cyberspace (including social media). Its strategic purpose is to create a 'false' and 'degenerate' reality in the minds of the enemy's political/diplomatic system so that it can be exploited politically. The distribution of huge amounts of fake news is done through autonomous programs of creating fake accounts in social media and autonomous reproduction of degenerated information and meanings.

In the purely military sphere, Russian General Viktor Bondarev revealed that since February 2017, the country has been developing artillery systems with AI-guided missiles capable of transmitting targeting data and flight profiles during their course. Russia's Military-Industrial Commission aims to flank 30% of the Russian Air Force's combat power with robotic/autonomous platforms by 2030. Importance is mainly given to the creation of autonomous drone swarms and autonomous targeting information acquisition processes for the artillery.


We can understand that the new ‘face of war’ has been shifted through the implementation of artificial intelligence in the sectors of military and defense. Data and information - as a unique part of warfare - have a vital role in the global competition and collaboration in military artificial intelligence.

Military forces that will understand, adopt and weaponize machine learning, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology will have a prestigious role in the changing world order that we are facing since 2020. The rules of war have changed; through AI you don’t need to ‘destroy’ your enemy, you (just) need to ‘inactivate’ him through precise strikes in critical infrastructures. In this AI arms race there is no ‘order’, only a chaotic modification between the technologies that will reshape the face of war.

Written by
Aggelos Chorianopoulos
Aggelos is the Founder and CEO of Future Warfare (, the first think-tank in Greece that investigates the role of artificial intelligence in the modern and future battlefield, and geopolitics in the changing world order. Aggelos is a prestigious Geostrategy and Defense Analyst in Greece, with a background in international economics and financial risk intelligence analysis.
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