Future Operating Environment

'The Future Autonomous War' with Paul Scharre via Modern War Institute

By Mick Fry May 17, 2019

In this podcast by the Modern War Institute (MWI), Paul Scharre talks about autonomy and the future of war. Paul commences the discussion by differentiating between automatic, automated and autonomous weapons and the blurred lines in how these are defined. Paul states that the essence of an autonomous weapon is that it is making its own targeting decisions; which is yet to occur.

He states that whilst there have been weapons such as homing missiles or 'fire and forget' weapons, the launcher generally has a target they intend to strike. An autonomous weapon of the future would be launched with parameters but the missile would decide what to strike (although Paul acknowledges there are several isolated examples already in existence).

Paul discusses current considerations regarding the employment of autonomous systems where he speaks about the current attitude of restraint exercised by the USA whereas other nations are making bolder claims about becoming fully 'roboticised' in the future. Paul offers the question that, given the historical development of automated technology has ben occurring for decades, why has it not been more widely employed? He suggests that there is an operational issue of what am I actually firing at? Or alternatively, do I want to employ a weapon system that is inside my own OODA (Observe, Orientate Decide Act) loop?

Paul concludes by discussing his assessment of the future trends and characteristics of autonomous weapons.  



Mick Fry


Mick Fry is a member of the Cove Team.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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