AUKUS Scientists Test Autonomous Military Vehicles in South Australia

AUKUS Scientists Test Autonomous Military Vehicles in South Australia
The Muloorina Station, the closest road access point to Lake Eyre North, near Maree in South Australia, on April 1, 2009. (AAP Image/Grenville Turner)
Andrew Thornebrooke
Defense scientists from Australia, the UK, and the United States are testing the use of autonomous vehicles in combat environments, the U.S. military announced on Feb. 5.

The trials are designed to test autonomous vehicle behavior and sensor arrays in a contested environment, that is, when they are under attack.

A network of robotic ground vehicles simulated the conduct of long-range precision fires in a combat scenario in southern Australia but did not carry live munitions, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), which oversees U.S. military operations in the region.

Some of the vehicles were configured to represent autonomous multi-domain launchers, a type of unmanned high mobility artillery rocket system, commonly referred to as HIMARS.

Defence Australia said the trials had successfully demonstrated the “integration of advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence” in a now-deleted post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

The trials, Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment (TORVICE), were conducted to identify vulnerabilities faced by autonomous systems in electronic warfare environments and resolve related issues.

Scientists also subjected the vehicles to electronic warfare, electro-optical, position, navigation, and timing attacks.

The trials took place at Cultana Training Area in South Australia and are the latest artificial intelligence (AI) exercise by AUKUS, a trilateral partnership between the three nations designed to enhance military interoperability, readiness, and technology sharing.

A news release by INDOPACOM said that the tests were conceived as part of AUKUS Pillar II, advancing joint capabilities, and took place under the auspices of the Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy Working Group.
AUKUS has sought to jointly develop new capabilities in the cyber, AI, quantum, and undersea domains since its inception in 2021.

To that end, the trial follows another AUKUS AI exercise in April of last year, held in Salisbury, in the UK. That trial similarly sought to assess and mitigate vulnerabilities posed to autonomous systems in contested and complex environments but focused more on cyber threats.

A key goal of AUKUS and the TORVICE trials is to enhance collaboration that will effectively accelerate the adoption of AI and related technologies for military use.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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