China To Develop Next-Gen Modular Missiles With AI

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Next-generation cruise missiles equipped with artificial intelligence and capable of being tailored for specific combat scenarios, are set to debut in China.

Future conflicts will demand cost-effective and versatile weaponry, such as modular cruise missiles outfitted with artificial intelligence, Wang Changqing told the China Daily, at the 2016 Hiwing Forum in Beijing. Changqing is the director of the General Design Department of the Third Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.

“We plan to adopt a ‘plug and play’ approach in the development of new cruise missiles, which will enable our military commanders to tailor-make missiles in accordance with combat conditions and their specific requirements,” explained Changqing. “Moreover, our future cruise missiles will have a very high level of artificial intelligence and automation.”. Changqing indicated that China is already a global leader in artificial intelligence.

The new cruise missiles will “allow commanders to control them in a real-time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or to add more tasks to in-flight missiles,” Changqing said.

A modular missile is well-suited for future combat. The “destructive capacity, flight mode, and range” of the missiles can be easily adjusted to counter threats on the ground and at sea, Wang Ya’nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge Magazine, informed China Daily.

Since he took office three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been advocating for military modernization to protect Chinese security interests. Xi called on the country to build an army with the “capability to win wars,” in March, 2013.

In the past, China focused its efforts on manpower and numbers, but things have changed. China is reducing the size of its army and putting greater emphasis on mechanization and projectile-based defense.

“China wants its military to be capable of acting as an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force – a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening US forces,” reported the Congressional Research Service in a study.

Were China to master modular missiles with advanced artificial intelligence capabilities, China’s A2/AD strategy would likely receive a noticeable boost. Projectile weaponry is cheap and easy to mass produce. The development and deployment of advanced cruise missiles could further complicate issues in the East and South China Sea, regions where tensions are already high.

China’s defense budget for this year increased by only 7.6 percent, the “lowest defense budget increase in six years,” according to the Xinhua News Agency. While China is outpaced by the U.S., China’s security expenditures dwarf those of other states in the Asia-Pacific region.

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