Tuesday, March 21, 2023

US M1 Abrams Tank Spotted With AI-Driven Target Recognition System That Can Detect & Destroy Threats

In the latest images shared by the US military on February 13, an experimental artificial intelligence (AI)-driven target recognition system can be seen mounted on an M1 Abrams tank.  

The system is designed to boost the rate at which threats can be found and neutralized. The pictures were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) website. 

But in reality, the photos were captured on November 5, 2022, as a part of the five-week Project Convergence 2022 event, or PC22, held in California. 

According to the photos’ captions, engineers and scientists from the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center collaborated with Army soldiers to evaluate prototypes of the technology being built as a part of the Advanced Targeting and Lethality Aided System (ATLAS) program.

It further noted that “a range of aided target acquisition, tracking, and reporting capabilities were tested” in a realistic combat setting during the PC22 exercise. 

Project Convergence 2022
C5ISR Center teamed up with Army Soldiers for five weeks during Project Convergence 22 to test prototypes during force-on-force experimentation. : US Army

ATLAS is a collaborative project between the C5ISR and Armaments Centers of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM).

By automating human tasks during passive target acquisition using cutting-edge sensor technology and machine learning algorithms, ATLAS enables crews to attack three targets in the same amount of time it would typically take to shoot one, according to DVIDS. 

A black box can be seen just below the system’s boxy sensor unit positioned on a rotating base on the M1’s turret, and similar boxes can be found elsewhere around the tank. 

Image
A black box is visible just below the system’s boxy sensor unit positioned on a rotating base on the M1’s turret.

These appear to be mounted on the tank for the exercise as a part of the Instrumentable-Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System Combat Vehicle Tactical Engagement Simulation System (I-MILES CVTESS). 

This system uses lasers to simulate conflict and evaluate battle damage by identifying and tallying strikes. 

Advanced Targeting And Lethality Aided System (ATLAS) Program

Advanced Targeting & Lethality Automated System (ATLAS), despite its ominous name, is intended to assist humans in identifying threats they might have overlooked and prioritizing potential targets.

According to reports, ATLAS’ target recognition system is built to employ machine learning algorithms based on enormous databases the Army will have to compile to protect against false information and keep up with changing circumstances. 

Nathan Strout at C4ISRNET highlighted that the optical sensor mounted to the tank feeds photos of the surrounding region into AI algorithms for object detection and image categorization. 

The tank commanders can then see pictures of the detected threats and options for choosing which weapons and ammo are available on the touchscreen interface of the tank. 

The tank crews can then view pictures of the threats detected on the tank’s touchscreen interface and options for choosing weapons and ammo.

ABRAMS Tank
ABRAMS Tank

The level of detail that ATLAS offers the user will rely on how well the algorithms perform after training. However, the AI won’t intervene in the human’s ability to ascertain hostile intent, which is required under the law of war, before engaging in a self-defense shooting.

Through experimentation and application of AI, the program primarily seeks to accelerate target detection, relieving tank personnel from relying solely on the manual target location.

The Army has been developing strategies to increase tank lethality for several years through AI and machine learning technology. The DoD has been pushing toward autonomous weapons systems and AI in general.

The US military conducted an ATLAS system demonstration on a General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin I testbed vehicle in October 2020. 

Army photo
A soldier using the touchscreen-controlled, AI-assisted 50 mm cannon.

Naturally, commissioning ATLAS might provide the Army with a slew of advantages. AI- and computer-assisted target selection could be utilized to detect risks that humans cannot see, speeding up the elimination of threats by tank operators. 

This might be developed further to potentially aid tank operators in prioritizing which threats to eliminate in particular scenarios. The highly sophisticated M1 Abrams, in particular, requires the crew to undergo extensive and drawn-out training before they can be used.

The tank operator can use the ATLAS system to detect and shoot the target by making quick decisions. This is only one illustration of how AI will play a more prominent role in future weapons development.

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