US and China prepare for AI submarine warfare

Technological developments could see AI-powered warships attack each other as concerns rise regarding autonomous weapons.

The US and China are developing autonomous submarine warships which could battle against each other in the near future.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reportedly being integrated in Chinese nuclear submarines, while the US navy has taken control of an experimental autonomous submarine-hunting vessel from its defence research agency.

Just as Professor Stephen Hawking warned, the world's most powerful militaries have continued to develop autonomous systems to bolster their ability to project their force.

A senior Chinese navy scientist, speaking to The South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, claimed China was building nuclear submarines which had sophisticated AI installed to support the captain make battlefield decisions.

Meanwhile, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has formally given an experimental anti-submarine vessel it was developing to the US navy.

The vessel - officially known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) and unofficially known as "Sea Hunter" - is set to complement the US navy, which is considerably larger than China's.

Sea Hunter "represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditised, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate," said DARPA's Fred Kennedy.

"The US military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing 'king' and 'queen' pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of 'pawns,' and ACTUV is a first step toward doing exactly that," said Mr Kennedy.

The anonymous scientist told the South China Morning Post that Beijing was investing heavily in its AI submarine programme.

The claims regarding the additional developments in Chinese maritime technology come as Beijing seeks to increasingly grow its navy to challenge the dominance of the US, whose forces are bigger than the next three largest combined.