Israel quietly embeds AI systems in deadly military operations

Nishita Gupta
Nishita Gupta July 14, 2023
Updated 2023/07/20 at 4:39 AM

Though the military won’t comment on specific operations, officials say that it now uses an AI recommendation system that can crunch huge amounts of data to select targets for air strikes. Ensuing raids can then be rapidly assembled with another AI model called Fire Factory, which uses data about military-approved targets to calculate munition loads, prioritize and assign thousands of targets to aircraft and drones, and propose a schedule.While both systems are overseen by human operators who vet and approve individual targets and air raid plans, according to an IDF official, the technology is still not subject to any international or state-level regulation. Proponents argue that the advanced algorithms may surpass human capabilities and could help the military minimize casualties, while critics warn of the potentially deadly consequences of relying on increasingly autonomous systems.

In recent months, Israel has been issuing near-daily warnings to Iran over its uranium enrichment, vowing it will not allow the country to obtain nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Should the two enter into a military confrontation, the IDF anticipates that Iranian proxies in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon would retaliate, setting the stage for the first serious multi-front conflict for Israel since a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria 50 years ago sparked the Yom Kippur War.
AI-based tools like Fire Factory are tailored for such a scenario, according to IDF officials. “What used to take hours now takes minutes, with a few more minutes for human review,” said Col. Uri, who heads the army’s digital transformation unit and who spoke at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on the condition that only his first name be used for security reasons. “With the same amount of people, we do much more.”
The system, these officials stressed, is designed for all-out war.

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