• Navy SEALs conduct train in the Atlantic Ocean, May 29, 2019. Navy Special Warfare Command expects artificial intelligence to augment the human weapon system as well as unmanned systems. Credit: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Jayme Pastoric
     Navy SEALs conduct train in the Atlantic Ocean, May 29, 2019. Navy Special Warfare Command expects artificial intelligence to augment the human weapon system as well as unmanned systems. Credit: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Jayme Pastoric

SEALS Enlist Artificial Intelligence for Special Missions

June 29, 2021
By George I. Seffers


AI will augment human weapon systems and unmanned systems.


The U.S. Navy Special Warfare Command seeks to conduct missions no one else can, and officials expect artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to assist in that effort, Rear Adm. Hugh Wyman Howard III, USN, the organization’s commander, told the audience today during the 2021 WEST virtual conference.

The command needs to find a balance between counterterrorism missions and missions aimed at countering peer and near-peer nations. To do that, it must find roles that no other organization can perform. “One of the things I did learn at business school is that if you’re doing anything in your business that anyone else can do even reasonably well … you’re at risk of going out of business,” Adm. Howard said. “And we are rapidly orienting Naval Special Warfare on the things that only we can do for the joint force, those distinctive missions, and they are principally in the maritime. They’re on and under the sea into the littorals.”

He added that those are the areas where the United States holds a comparative advantage over adversaries. He suggested the command will apply autonomy across surface, subsurface and multidomain operations, including autonomy for unmanned systems and to reduce the cognitive load for warfighters. Doing so will increase “the survivability of our platforms into crisis and conflict with peer adversaries, and critically, the lethality of our platforms, both kinetic and nonkinetic effects, including electronic warfare.”

The admiral said the command will apply artificial intelligence and machine learning toward two capstone initiatives: one around human capital and “human weapon systems,” the other on “autonomy for multidomain unmanned systems.”

Cyber and electronic warfare also are major focus areas for the command,” he added. 

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