We’ll be fight­ing with ro­bots – Army chief

‘Man and ro­botic ma­chin­ery could be at war to­gether’:

Western Daily Press - - Front Page - GE­ORGINA STUBBS news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

ACOMBINATION of hu­mans and ro­bots fight­ing along­side each other in the con­flicts of the near fu­ture is not in­con­ceiv­able, a se­nior Bri­tish Army of­fi­cer has said.

Bri­gadier Zac Sten­ning is the com­man­der of the Wiltshire-based 1st Ar­moured In­fantry Bri­gade, which is cur­rently tak­ing part in Ex­er­cise Saif Sa­reea 3 in Oman.

Dur­ing the month-long ex­er­cise, Brig Sten­ning said his Tid­worth­based troops will be ex­per­i­ment­ing with com­mer­cial drones and their tac­ti­cal util­ity in con­flict.

Asked how he thought war­fare would change in the com­ing decades, he said he thought con­flict “will look sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to now”.

“It could be a com­bi­na­tion of man and ro­botic ma­chin­ery – that is not in­con­ceiv­able,” he added.

Brig Sten­ning said there was a balance to be struck be­tween tech­nol­ogy and new tac­tics, but that fun­da­men­tally it was about per­son­nel and their in­ge­nu­ity.

He said the abil­ity of hu­mans to out-think other hu­mans, and to out­think the en­vi­ron­ment, would re­main “our de­ci­sive ca­pa­bil­ity”.

More than 5,500 Bri­tish per­son­nel and 65,000 Omani troops will take part in the ex­er­cise, be­ing held in lo­ca­tions across the Mid­dle East­ern coun­try.

Brig Sten­ning said Saif Sa­reea 3 al­lowed them to work out how to op­er­ate com­bat op­er­a­tions, but also as a joint force – with air­craft, ships and sol­diers.

UK troops will be oper­at­ing 18 Chal­lenger 2 bat­tle tanks and more than 100 ar­moured ve­hi­cles, plus other equip­ment, as they train in the harsh desert con­di­tions and sear­ing heat over the com­ing weeks.

Quizzed on whether he thought tanks and ar­moured ve­hi­cles would be rel­e­vant in fu­ture con­flicts, he said the abil­ity of them along­side in­fantry per­son­nel, engi­neers and ar­tillery, if re­quired to move for­ward across ground, was an “enduring re­quire­ment”.

“Of course, what ar­mour does is it of­fers us a level of pro­tec­tion which in the 21st cen­tury is im­por­tant for any na­tion state – the abil­ity to pro­tect its peo­ple,” Brig Sten­ning added.

“Also, of course, it in­volves the abil­ity to be lethal, to carry weapons sys­tems that can reach out fur­ther than your op­po­nents, and I think that’s a strug­gle that will con­tinue through­out his­tory.

“One of the things that is in­ter­est­ing is how we now bring in tech­nol­ogy – ro­botic ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, this is chang­ing.

“This na­ture of war­fare that we are see­ing is re­ally start­ing to change, and I think it is a hugely ex­cit­ing time. Our bri­gade is in­volved in it, and it has got to be part of the joint force.

“The joint force is evolv­ing as we are go­ing for­ward. The use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence – many, many ex­cit­ing things go­ing on.”

Ben Bir­chall/PA Wire

Bri­gadier Zac Sten­ning, Com­man­der of 1 Ar­moured In­fantry Bri­gade, says fu­ture con­flicts will look sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to now

Pic­ture: Ben Bir­chall

Bri­gadier Zac Sten­ning in the Oman desert, where UK forces are tak­ing part in a month-long ex­er­cise

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