Autonomous Weapon Systems used in Ukraine
Photo credit: Necro Mancer (Twitter)
Stop Killer Robots is deeply concerned with reports of weapons systems being used that may have options for autonomous targeting.
The reported use of the KUB-BLA (also known as the KYB-UAV) system by Russia in Ukraine is indicative of an increasing trend, amongst a range of militarised states, toward the deployment of weapons systems with autonomy in targeting.
The KUB-BLA is a ‘loitering munition’ – effectively a small drone that can search for and then explode into an intended target. The munition can be directed to a target by an operator by video link or (it is reported) by an onboard ‘target guidance system’. In the latter configuration, it would be functioning as an autonomous weapon if it was attacking a target based on sensor inputs matching a target profile, without human approval.
However, open-source information on these technicalities is unclear. The KUB is part of a new generation of weapon systems where the role of the human operator is becoming blurred and where it risks being reduced over time.
There are currently no specific legal rules to limit the extent to which machines are allowed to identify and attack targets. There is an urgent need for clear regulations of how these systems should be used, and where the red lines are.
With more than 70 countries having called for a legal instrument on autonomy in weapons systems, it is time to move to the negotiation of a treaty that preserves human dignity and maintains meaningful human control.
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