24 February 2017

In, On, or Out of the Loop?

The increasing ability of military weapon systems to perform functions autonomously is a strategic trend with implications for defence policies and warfare in general.

Denmark and many of its allies possess weapons that function in an automatic, automated, or autonomous manner – the difference being the degree of sophistication of weapon responses to external stimuli. Such weapons can be controlled directly with a “man-in-the-loop,” managed by a “man-on-the-loop,” or supervised by a “man-out-of-the-loop.”

Like most other advanced democracies, Denmark has not developed a comprehensive policy with regard to weapon systems with autonomous functions. This report suggests that Danish decision-makers consider adopting a defence planning mechanism to analyse the issue of autonomous systems and clarify matters of principle and general Danish policy.

The topics to be addressed could include a process to consider the acquisition, integration, and utilisation of weapon systems with autonomous functions, including appropriate command and control arrangements.