Naval warfare has changed the course of history and decided the fate of nations. On occasion, one side has had an overwhelming preponderance of men and materiel and dominated the adversary through sheer force of numbers. In most cases, however, the actions of the naval commanders are what turned the tide of battle. From Salamis to Trafalgar, Jutland, Midway, and many more naval battles, the commander leading the victorious force made decisions that were better, faster, and more precise than those of the enemy.
Today’s naval commanders must make the same kind of important decisions their forbears made, but with a distinct difference. While Nelson at Trafalgar had hours to make the choice to sail his outnumbered ships perpendicular to the French and Spanish fleet, today’s strike group commanders have only minutes or even seconds to make equally significant judgments.
1. Duke of Wellington, cited in Louis Jennings, ed., The Correspondence and Diaries of the Late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830 (Albemarle Street, London: John Murray, 1885).
2. Craig Symonds, The Battle of Midway (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2011).
3. JASON Report, Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD (McLean, VA: The MITRE Corporation, January 2017), https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/ai-dod.pdf.
4. Ellen Nakashima and Craig Whitlock, “Air Force’s New Tool: ‘We Can See Everything,’” The Washington Post, 2 January 2011.
5. See a TCPED study by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and PMW 120 (Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations), an independent Navy Cyber Forces study, and the 2010 NRAC Summer Study.
6. Harry Hillaker, “John Boyd, Father of the F-16,” Code One, July 1997.
7. A video of the CNO’s remarks can be found at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLam-yp5uUR1ZUIyggfS_xqbQ0wAUrGoSo.
8. LGEN Jack Shanahan, USAF, U.S. Naval War College Address, “The Challenges and Opportunities of Fielding Artificial Intelligence Technology in the U.S. Military,” 12 December 2019.
9. Most prominently, the so-called FAANG Five (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet’s Google).
10. Hubert Dryfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (Tampa, FL: Free Press, 2011).
11. See DARPA’s Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) website for more information: www.darpa.mil/program/explainable-artificial-intelligence.
12. See, for example, Ben Werner, “Pentagon Falling Behind in Using Artificial Intelligence on the Battlefield,” USNI News, 22 October 2019, and Ben Werner, “Panel: U.S. Military Artificial Intelligence Effort Underfunded, Understaffed,” USNI News, 23 October 2019.