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Strategy paper sets out AI plans for defence


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Jeremy Quin
Image source: Jeremy Quin - UK Parliament CC BY 3.0

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has highlighted a plan for a Defence AI Centre (DAIC) as a key element of its new strategy for harnessing artificial intelligence in the sector.

The strategy paper also points to plans for a new digital backbone to support the work and an AI technical strategy.

The publication has come with announcement that the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has awarded a £7 million contract to Norther Ireland based company Kainos to deliver AI experimentation for the sector.

Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin MP, said: “Future conflicts may be won or lost on the speed and efficacy of AI technology, and our approach to AI must be rapid, ambitious and comprehensive.

“Our new Defence AI Centre and AI strategy will create a focused hub to champion these technologies, working ethically hand in hand with human judgements to maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of global security and responsible innovation.”

DAIC functions

The document says the DAIC will take on various functions, including bringing together people from defence, academia and the technology industry for the development and scaling up of AI projects, and providing common services, best practice and experts to support local adoption.

It will also include a head of AI profession for defence with responsibilities for the skills framework and developing a recruitment and retention offer; and will produce the AI technical strategy for defence and a practitioner’s handbook.

The centre will be part of the digital backbone, an ecosystem of people, processes, data and technology underpinned by enhanced cyber security. This will include cloud based hosting services for data classified as Secret and Above Secret, to be in place by the end of this year and 2024 respectively, and application programme interfaces and diodes for the development and deployment of algorithms.

There is also a plan for a digital foundry to work on software-intensive capabilities. This will be a federated ecosystem led by the Defence Digital agency.

Other commitments include strengthening existing regional collaborations on AI, exploiting the Defence and Security Accelerator’s network of regional innovation partners, increasing the use of the network of regional defence and security clusters, and exploring opportunities for thematic AI co-creation clusters.

Advantage, efficiency, capabilities

Four outcomes are also identified for the strategy: providing a decision advantage for UK defence; improving its efficiency; unlocking new capabilities; and empowering the workforce.

The deal between Dstl and Kainos – which will partner with technical consultancy Actica and AI specialist Faculty Science – will support up to 20 data science jobs across the UK and include the development of new specialist roles to ensure the technology is operational, safe and ethical.

Dr Paul Kealey, head of Dstl’s cyber and information systems division, said: “Dstl is delivering the most ambitious programme in its 20-year history – and we can only deliver on this by working with diverse talent from across industry and academia.

“AI has the potential to provide significant benefits across defence from the back office to the frontline and I’m delighted we are working with Kainos – a brand new supplier who will bring specialist expertise and experience as a leader in the civil world into defence.”

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