Pentagon wants to develop ‘fleet’ of AI drones and systems to fight China: report

The Pentagon has begun exploring the possibility of developing a fleet of drones and autonomous systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which officials say would allow the U.S. to compete and counter threats from China.

“We are not at war. “We don’t want to go to war, but we need to be able to move this department to action with the same urgency because the People’s Republic of China is not waiting,” Kathleen Hicks, the acting secretary of defense, said during an interview earlier this week with the Wall Street Journal.

Hicks spoke about the possible uses of such an AI fleet in a speech on Wednesday, announcing that the department would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the project, aiming to create thousands of systems for use over land, in the air and on Lake to produce ready for first use 2 years.

China has focused heavily on AI research and development, producing its own platforms and models independently of those produced in the US, with use in its military virtually unregulated, as part of a plan to speed up development and implementation. Several military officials have described China as the U.S.’s biggest “challenge” in recent years because of Beijing’s incredible expansion rate and military buildup.

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In a recent interview with Fox News Digital, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul compared the competition for AI systems and development to the space race with Russia, emphasizing that the U.S. must “win this” or give up “military and economic” “world domination.” China.

“We have to stop exporting our technology to China, which they can put into, for example, hypersonic missiles or the spy balloon that contains American parts, components,” McCaul said.

Speech by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks speaks Friday during a Pentagon staff memorial service on Sept. 11 in the Pentagon courtyard in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The gold rush effort to buy up chips and improve the ability to develop AI platforms alone has increased pressure on countries unwilling to do business with every supplier, such as China: The U.S. has banned Investments in Chinese semiconductors and chipsand China declared US chips from Micron a security risk.


But the war for chip dominance is just a small part of the overall battle for AI dominance, in which the Pentagon believes an AI fleet could play a major role in tipping the scales.

Autonomous systems would focus primarily on navigation and targeting, using computer vision as the main technology. Israel has already unveiled a new modified aircraft that will allow the military to track multiple targets over long distances, even in extreme weather conditions.

AI drone swarm

A view of an autonomous sub-cloud UAV named BAHA and two unmanned ground vehicles named BARKAN developed by HAVELSAN as part of the Mixed Swarm Operation at the Kalecik UAV Test Center in Ankara, Turkey, August 19, 2023. (Hakan Nural/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The U.S. would also seek to develop self-piloting ships and uncrewed aircraft, building on a proposal for AI drones that would fly alongside human pilots and provide additional cover in combat.


Hicks highlighted autonomous systems as “things we could use for three to five years before moving on to the next thing – which we must, given the dynamic, fast-moving adversary and the pace of innovation.”

Hicks did not address the concept of drone swarms, but said China has demonstrated “significant development efforts that demonstrate efforts to produce” such technology – in which multiple drones would be autonomously controlled by a single system – for “operational applications.”

The Pentagon building

The Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia is seen on April 21, 2023. (Tom Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The most important unanswered question regarding the development of the fleet concerns financing: contractors have expressed concerns that the funds discussed for the project are not enough to achieve the ambitious goal.

The United Kingdom faced similar criticism after announcing it had set aside £100 million ($124.8 million) to buy larger quantities of semiconductors and processors to keep pace with the United States and China hold. However, critics argued that this amount would not be enough.


The current Pentagon budget allocates around $1.8 billion for AI research and development, with little indication of how much of that money will go to each current project.

The Pentagon did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment at the time of publication.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Rick Schindler

Rick Schindler is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Rick Schindler joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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