US not planning automatic killer robots

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsThe US has decided that automatic killer robots are not the droids it is looking for – yet.

A top Pentagon official was showing off all sorts of sci-fi type gear including missile-dodging satellites, self-flying F-16 fighters and robot naval fleets.

But Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said that the Pentagon is not planning to build devices that can kill without human input – unless its enemies start building them.

“We might be going up against a competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are, and as that competition unfolds we will have to make decisions on how we best can compete,” he said.

Work, who helps lead Pentagon efforts to ensure the US military keeps its technological edge, described several initiatives, including one dubbed “Loyal Wingman” that would see the Air Force convert an F-16 warplane into a semi-autonomous and unmanned fighter that flies alongside a manned F-35 jet.

“It is going to happen,” Work said of this and other unmanned systems.

“I would expect to see unmanned wingmen in the air first, I would expect to see unmanned systems undersea all over the place, I would expect to see unmanned systems on the surface of the sea,” Work told an audience at a discussion in the capital hosted by The Washington Post.

Work said it would take longer for the military to create autonomous trucks given the challenges of navigating off-road.

“When the roads become more dangerous we will go off road, and that type of navigation is extremely difficult,” Work said.

The US military wants to build driverless convoys to protect against roadside bombs, a low-tech weapon that has killed hundreds of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.