Are AI and Robotics capable of Disrupting the Defence Industry?
The defence industry technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are changing the industry and enable intelligent warfare in the decades to come. These emerging technologies will have a significant impact on defence contractors. Integrating AI into the design of traditional battle networks will immensely improve the performance of current platforms and forces soon. Prime contractors will maintain an advantage during this phase. However, as robotics and AI’s capabilities arrive at an inflection point, the U.S Department of Defence will switch to smaller AI-and robotics-based systems. It will also rely on non-traditional players to provide them.
Although many leading defence contractors have treated AI and robotics as ancillary markets, they have underestimated the long-term threat to their business. AI and robotics specialists are improving legacy systems and are building scale, know-how, and trust within the U.S Department of Defence (DOD). They are primarily working through traditional contractors for now. If faith in an independent autonomous system grows, the contractors who provide them will also gain trust and share.
Though the full AI-and robotics-driven revolution is a decade or so away, it is distinct that these technologies will radically disrupt the defence industry. Defence contractors should lead to AI and robotics, making the strategic changes and investments necessary to conquer these emerging segments.
Transform Military Operations using AI and Robotics
The U.S military has enjoyed superior conventional forces after the Cold War, but it has narrowed in recent years. For instance, several countries have built ‘anti-access’ technologies like long-range air defence systems and precision strike weapons, which deny U.S military forces to operate in a contested area. On the other hand, the same countries actively develop artificial intelligence and robotics to reduce the gap further.
The DoD has developed a multi-decade strategy to offset those countries’ recent gains, using a suite of advanced technologies to almost every facet of its operations.
In the first phase, DoD will make an intelligent force using AI to improve platforms, munitions, and decision processes. As these technologies develop, DoD aims to build a more autonomous strength, pairing AI-powered systems and robotics with human military personnel to accentuate the muscles of each, enabling faster decisions and better combat results. Swarms of advanced cognitive robots may redefine combat operations in the battleground in the distant future.
DoD’s approach to AI and robotics requires to be different from previous military technological innovations, most of which had development cycles that were measured in years; for complex platforms, it took even decades. In the ecosystem, there were only a few established contractors that could compete for contracts. Today, DoD is bringing critical technologies from the commercial industry, expanding the scope of competition, which contractors face.
The Threat to Prime Contractors
Prime contractors have been overlooking the risk to their business. The military and its acquisitions function will operate like before in the future as well. DoD will not replace existing platforms immediately. It will instead enhance them using artificial intelligence. The new incremental investment will help AI and robotics applications to grow.
In this ecosystem, prime contractors will maintain their positions as the gatekeepers to major DoD programs. These contractors may be tempted to relinquish the AI and robotics market to small niche players or subcontractors.
Prime defence contractors have taken initial measures to avoid disruption. Over the past years, they have acquired high-profile robotics, expanded their venture for capital arms, and begun building partnerships with companies investing more in startups. But others who are building bridge between the DoD and Silicon Valley embrace AI and robotics companies as crucial subcontractors.