Uh… gulp… you thought it was bad when that experienced pilot ejected from one of the Air Force’s hottest “new” planes, the F-35 combat fighter, near — no, not China or somewhere in the Middle East — but Charleston, South Carolina. The plane then flew on its own for another 60 miles before crashing into an empty field. And that was without an enemy in sight.
Perhaps we should just be happy that an F-35 ever even made it into the air, given its endless problems in these years. After all, as Dan Grazier of the Center for Defense Information wrote, it’s now “the largest and most expensive weapons program in history.” Yet when it comes to something as significant as “mission availability,” according to the Congressional Budget Office, only about 26% of all F-35s, each of which now costs an estimated $80 million to produce and $44,000 an hour to fly, are available at any moment. Not exactly thrilling, all in all.
As TomDispatch regular and Pentagon expert William Hartung makes clear today, if that’s what happens with the Air Force’s least intelligent fighter plane, what should we expect of its just arriving artificial-intelligence-driven fleet of drones or “robot wingmen” that could be deployed, as he suggests, in a future war with China? Given the history of the U.S. military’s three-decade-old drone warfare program, which caused such havoc among civilian populations during this country’s Global War on Terror, what could the future hold in store? After all, non-AI drones were “roughly thirty times more likely to result in a civilian fatality than an airstrike by a manned aircraft.” And remember, that fleet of aircraft was still, at least officially, run by human intelligence, not the artificial variety. Who knows what may occur when such drones, freed from the human brain, are let loose on this planet? While you’re considering that possibility, let Hartung take you on a quick flight to the Pentagon and then to China. Tom
Will the Pentagon’s Techno-Fantasies Pave the Way for War with China?
On August 28th, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks chose the occasion of a three-day conference organized by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the arms industry’s biggest trade group, to announce the “Replicator Initiative.” Among other things, it would involve producing “swarms of drones” that could hit thousands of targets in China on short notice. Call it the full-scale launching of techno-war.
Her speech to the assembled arms makers was yet another sign that the military-industrial complex (MIC) President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about more than 60 years ago is still alive, all too well, and taking a new turn. Call it the MIC for the digital age.Read More