An Unmanned Artificial Intelligence-Guided Chinese Submarine Fleet: What Could Go Wrong?

Military Tech

The South China Morning Post reported on July 23rd that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is pursuing designs for a fleet of unmanned autonomous underwater submarines. These submersibles would be able to take on a docket of missions, from whale tracking to anti-carrier kamikaze ops. And the ace up China's sleeve to make this a reality is artificial intelligence.


The use of unmanned underwater vehicles — UUVs — has been ongoing since the mid-’60s. However, the large majority of these drones, including the U.S.’s, have been controlled remotely by a human operator at the surface or in another sub. Maintaining control over a submerged drone is difficult under the best circumstances. But China’s fearless embrace of a possible robot uprising has conquered all that, supposedly. With AI at the helm, the limitations of remote human controls are theoretically eliminated.

The downsides, though, are many. An AI-driven sub could go rogue and attack a tanker or a random blue whale. Perhaps it could surface and fire on a British frigate to incite a war for TV ratings, like in a certain James Bond film. But even if you don’t speculate on the apocalyptic possibilities, you have to admit that self-driving drone subs could moot maritime law awfully fast, providing new legal challenges, just like the headaches aerial drones have created for aviation authorities.

CTG 56.1 conducts Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Training in the 5th Fleet AOR.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik/Released

Some of those murky legal waters washed up in 2016, when the Chinese Navy seized a (remotely piloted) U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea; the wayward unmanned vehicle was eventually released, but the possibilities for mishap and mayhem remain almost limitless if a fleet of armed submarines starts trawling around the world’s oceans and something goes wrong.

China isn’t the only one looking into “Extra Large Underwater Unmanned Vehicles,” or XLUUVs. Uncle Sam’s favorite defense corporations are gearing up to outfit the U.S. Navy with its own fleet of terrifying artificial intelligence driven ocean-dwellers. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have each been given over $40 million to start designing the XLUUV of the future. Submarine fights of the 21st century are looking less The Hunt For Red October and more like an episode of Battle Bots.

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(U.S. Army photo)

Army Futures Command will reach fully operational status just before the newest gem of the Army's modernization plan sees its first birthday on August 24th, officials announced on Tuesday.

AFC Commander Gen. John "Mike" Murray told reporters at a technologies showcase on Tuesday that the command will be fully operational on July 31st before showing off everything AFC personnel have been working on over the last year, from night vision goggles and robotic vehicles to new air- and missile-defense capabilities.

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(Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has been told to stop using the Marine Corps' emblem and the 1st Marine Division's motto in his campaign literature, Corps officials confirmed.

The Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office has sent Hunter, a Marine veteran, a cease and desist letter telling him to quit using the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem along with the phrase, "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy," on a fundraising mailer that accuses his political opponent of having links to terrorism, NBC News first reported on Wednesday.

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(Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department)

Arapahoe County sheriff's deputies have arrested a U.S. Army recruiter for investigation of soliciting girls as young as 10 years old for sex after he allegedly sent selfies calling himself "Colorado batman," the sheriff's department reported.

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(Associated Press/The Fayetteville Observer/Andrew Craft)

An Army appeals court has rejected Bowe Bergdahl's claim that President Trump's public description of him as "a no-good traitor who should have been executed" and other comments on the disgraced soldier's case constituted unlawful command influence (UCI).

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(Department of Defense photos)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Marine Corps must update its parental-leave policies to give new moms and dads time with their newborns, the service's new top general wrote this week, including considering a full year's worth of leave for women who've had a child.

Marines should not be expected to choose between being the best parent possible and their career duties, Commandant Gen. David Berger wrote in his planning guidance released to the force Tuesday.

"These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other," Berger wrote. "Our parental/maternity leave policies are inadequate and have failed to keep pace with societal norms and modern talent management practices."

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