Issue Brief on “Lethal Autonomous Weapons: Where does the International Arms Control and Disarmament Regime Stand?”


At the recent “Tsentr 2019 Maneuvers,” the Russian armed forces successfully conducted combat operations through a fully autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time. An army UAV Orlan-10 targeted the communication lines, control centres, and air defense systems of mock enemy “at its own.”[1] Meanwhile, the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced a successful development and testing of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named “Sea-Whale 2000 Drone.”[2] United States is also integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into its weapon systems through the “Pentagon`s Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre.”[3]These advancements could be game changers at the strategic, operational and tactical levels for respective militaries. According to US Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, “whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years.”[4]

The technological advantages have set off a new global AI arms race, posing a serious threat to international peace and stability, particularly in the absence of a binding international treaty to regulate research, development, production, testing, deployment, and use of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS).

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