The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, under development by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force and Navy, can act autonomously on targets. Recent testing of the missile proved it is able to manoeuvre on its own out of radio contact with human controllers.
Alone, with no human intervention, the missile is able to decide which ships to attack.1 On Lockheed Martin’s website, the missile is defined as semiautonomous “The semi-autonomous guidance capability gets LRASM safely to the enemy area, where the weapon can use gross target cueing data to find and destroy its pre-determined target in denied environments.”2
The Pentagon argues that the missile is only semiautonomous, but officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which initially developed the missile, and Lockheed both declined to comment on how the weapon decides on targets, saying the information is classified.1
“It will be operating autonomously when it searches for the enemy fleet,” said Mark A. Gubrud, a physicist and a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and an early critic of so-called smart weapons. “This is pretty sophisticated stuff that I would call artificial intelligence outside human control.”1
According to Steve Omohundro, a physicist and artificial intelligence specialist at Self-Aware Systems, a research center in Palo Alto, California “An autonomous weapons arms race is already taking place. They can respond faster, more efficiently and less predictably.”1
Missiles and drones that can carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control are already being deployed by Great Britain, Israel and Norway, including Britain’s ‘fire and forget’ brimstone missile. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.1
The Government of Norway is poised to approve the development of Joint Strike Missiles. Equipped with sensors and cameras, JSMS can realise soft and hard targets on land, at sea and in coastal areas and can decide whether to act on the target – without human intervention. The JSMS is currently in development and the first prototypes have been tested.3