Nano Drones, Ethical Algorithms: Inside Israel’s Secret Plan for Its Future Air Force
An Israel Air Force flight simulator. Photo: IAF
Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket; helicopters piloted by robots who extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield; micro satellites on demand; large spy balloons in the upper reaches of the stratosphere; virtual training with a helmet from your office; algorithms that resolve pilots’ ethical dilemmas (so they won’t have to deal with those pesky war crimes tribunals); and farming out code to a network of high school kids.
Since mid-2009, some 300 Israel Air Force officers have been brainstorming about the next steps for one of the world’s most advanced air forces, and the main pillar of Israel’s strategic power. This “IAF 2030″ project has just come to an end. Besides a standard press release issued by the military, little has been disclosed about it. Exclusive details are reported here for the first time.
The task of preparing the project was given to Major Nimrod Segev, head of the IAF’s long-term planning department. Segev divided his 300 officers into nine teams: Advanced Information Technology, Vast Data, Space, Cyber, Environment, Intelligence, Human Factor, Organizational Behavior, and a ‘Red Team,’ to challenge the other eight’s assumptions.
The participants were asked to think ahead — far ahead — something that doesn’t come easy in the military culture here, where long-term planning is almost unheard of. What changes would it have to make in weapons systems, platforms, technology, manpower, and organizational behavior to meet potential new threats? What new planes, guidance systems, and technology would they want? Let loose, the officers were told. Don’t worry about the how and the how much; just let your imaginations go. The air force even brought in Israel’s number one dreamer — President Shimon Peres — to fire their imaginations with a pep talk.