AI Baptism By Fire In Ukraine And Gaza Offers Broader Lessons


At first, they were just theoretical, ethical, and strategic questions concerning using artificial intelligence (AI) in battle. The technology is now actualized, and fighting within Ukraine and Gaza is being viewed as AI’s first fire trials.

AI is similar to both conflicts and primarily focuses on decision support in intelligence analysis and targeting. In both cases, AI has allowed planners to scan vast areas of information faster than previously thought possible.

However, Ukraine and Israel use AI in different situations. Ukraine is battling an opponent that is numerically superior to it, while Israel is looking to utilize AI to increase its military advantages in its efforts to defeat Hamas. 

Both forces have lessons and cautions about using AI in operational, tactical, and strategic pursuits.

Battle Lab Ukraine

The country’s use of a broad collection of AI applications is an opportunity for a country that is struggling in a period when its forces are fighting equipment and personnel shortages. Ukraine is using AI to help complete an advantage in asymmetric terms over a numerically and materially stronger adversary.

Kyiv, for instance, is working with AI to study how targeted military actions impact the cognitive capabilities of the opponent. 

According to a recent report by The Economist, Ukraine has been using these tools to conduct sentiment analysis. In one instance, efforts to figure out how a rocket strike against the Antonovsky Bridge leading out of the occupied Kherson affected the morale of Russian citizens and soldiers. 

The ability to track and coordinate the activity of a group to fulfill the maximum physical and mental effects is a significant benefit for a military with minimal resources.

In addition to its ability to analyze and exploit the information environment to complete military objectives, Ukraine has used AI to boost the sophistication of its targeted attacks. 

The country has also employed such techniques to boost intelligence countermeasures, for instance, scouring vast pools of information on people and their situations to determine individuals who could be in danger of committing cyber espionage. 

Ukraine also employed AI for its cyber defenses in 2022, when these tools could detect potential threats.

The Russians are also looking at leveraging AI to benefit their military. The nation has updated its Lancet-3 loitering weapon to be more jamming-resistant, and its Marker unmanned ground vehicles are using AI software that can analyze and interpret the environment and possibly recognize friendly camouflage.

Israeli Implementation

The determination of targets can be a frequent thread throughout the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) campaign in Gaza. In Gaza, the IDF has been using “The Gospel,” an automated decision-making system that can help planners determine which buildings to attack. Israel could use the technology to identify targets much more extensively.

A report that Israel does not deny states there is evidence that suggests the IDF is with a system known as ‘Lavender, which targets individuals with an accuracy of 90% rate, drawing from the database of over 37,000 Palestinians.

The application of these tools marks a turning point for AI and demonstrates that the technology has significant effects on the operational levels of the war. 

In addition, the United States has also embraced the technology and utilized the systems it developed under its most prominent AI project, known as “Project Maven,” to pinpoint the targets.

Implications For Decision-Makers

The current use of AI offers warnings and lessons to Western military troops. Ukraine and Gaza validate that AI Synthesis and Decision-Making Support can benefit, create more targets, and increase operational speed. 

However, it has also demonstrated that AI isn’t a panacea. Creating more targets pushes the need for human beings working in the loop to pursue a larger target volume, draining resources.

It is clear that even though the power of teaming between humans and machines will become more critical, it is not a good idea to think that AI is a silver bullet that can attain victory. 

People who believe in the American-dominated Third-Offset theory, which advocates technological advantage to overcome the disadvantage of numbers, could be inspired by the creative strategy employed by the Ukrainians to fight Russia. 

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