Deep in the Pentagon, a Secret AI Program to Find Hidden Nuclear Missiles

The US military increasingly believes artificial intelligence can be used to identify and target enemy missiles to speed a response to a North Korea-style missile launch. (source: Reuters, W. Foo)

The US military increasingly believes artificial intelligence can be used to identify and target enemy missiles to speed a response to a North Korea-style missile launch. (source: Reuters, W. Foo)

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Missile Threat Project, Missiles of North Korea.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Missile Threat Project, Missiles of North Korea.

July 2, 2018 | Source: Reuters Technology News, reuters.com, 5 June 2018, Phil Stewart

The U.S. military is increasing spending on a secret research effort to use artificial intelligence to help anticipate the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, as well as track and target mobile launchers in North Korea and elsewhere.

The effort has gone largely unreported, and the few publicly available details about it are buried under a layer of near impenetrable jargon in the latest Pentagon budget. But U.S. officials familiar with the research told Reuters there are multiple classified programs now under way to explore how to develop AI-driven systems to better protect the United States against a potential nuclear missile strike.

If the research is successful, such computer systems would be able to think for themselves, scouring huge amounts of data, including satellite imagery, with a speed and accuracy beyond the capability of humans, to look for signs of preparations for a missile launch, according to more than half a dozen sources. The sources included U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research is classified.

Forewarned, the U.S. government would be able to pursue diplomatic options or, in the case of an imminent attack, the military would have more time to try to destroy the missiles before they were launched, or try to intercept them.

“We should be doing everything in our power to find that missile before they launch it and make it increasingly harder to get it off (the ground),” one of the officials said.