The US Army is looking at large robot tanks, similar to the KMW Puma. Credit: KMW.

Imagine you’re in the George S. Patton firefight of your life, and forward operating robot “tanks” are taking the lead, acquiring targets, discerning and organizing war-crucial information, combat zones and even firing weapons when directed.

A bridge too far, one might say? Not really …

“For the first time the Army will deploy manned tanks that are capable of controlling robotic vehicles able to adapt to the environment and act semi-independently,” said Dr. Brandon Perelman, scientist and engineer at the Army Research Laboratory, in an interview with WarriorMaven and reported by Kris Osborn in National Interest.

The concept is aligned with ongoing research into new generations of AI being engineered to not only gather and organize information for human decision-makers but also advance networking between humans and machines, wrote Osborn, who previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army — Acquisition, Logistics & Technology.

“In the future we are going to be incorporating robotic systems that are larger, more like the size of a tanks,” he said.

Drawing upon advanced algorithms, computer technology can organize and disseminate otherwise dis-aggregated pools of data in seconds — or even milliseconds. AI-empowered sensors can bounce incoming images, video or data off a seemingly limitless existing database to assess comparisons, differences and perform near real-time analytics, the report said.

At the speed of the most advanced computer processing, various AI systems can simultaneously organize and share information, perform analyses and solve certain problems otherwise impossible for human address within any kind of comparable timeframe, the report said.

At the same time, there are many key attributes, faculties and problem solving abilities unique to human cognition. The optimal approach is, according to Perelman, to simultaneously leverage the best of both.

“We will use the power of human intelligence and the speed of AI to get novel interactions,” Perelman added.

This blending, or synthesis of attributes between mind and machine is expected to evolve quickly in coming years, increasingly giving warzone commanders combat-sensitive information much faster and more efficiently, the report said.

For instance, a forward operating robotic “wingman” vehicle could identify a target that might otherwise escape detection, and instantly analyze the data in relation to terrain, navigational details, previous missions in the area or a database of known threats.

“You have an AI system that is not better than a human but different than a human. It might be faster and it might be more efficient at processing certain kinds of data. It will deal with threats in concert with human teammates that are completely different than the way we do things today,” Perelman said.

Bringing this kind of manned-unmanned teaming to fruition introduces new strategic and tactical nuances to combat, enabling commanders a wider sphere of options.

“Commanders will be able to view a target through vehicle sensor packages, or if there is an aided target recognition technology or some kind of AI to spot targets, they might see battlespace target icons pop up on the map indicating the location of that target,” Perelman said.

AI-oriented autonomous platforms can greatly shorten sensor-to-shooter time and enable war commanders to quickly respond to, and attack, fast emerging moving targets or incoming enemy fire.

“Everything that a soldier does today …. shooting, moving, communicating … will be different in the future because you do not just have human to human teammates, you have humans working with AI-teammates,” Perelman said.

Also of great significance, Army thinkers explain, is that greater integration of drone attack assets can streamline a mission, thereby lessening the amount of soldiers needed for certain high-risk operations.