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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2024

AUKUS Defense Scientists Test Robotic Vehicles

U.S. Department of Defense

Defense scientists from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States collaboratively tested a range of robotic vehicles and their sensors during a trial at Cultana Training Area, South Australia.

The Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment (TORVICE) trial was conducted in fall 2023 to identify and resolve vulnerabilities faced by autonomous systems in a congested electronic warfare environment.

Dr Peter Shoubridge, Chief Land and Joint Warfare at Defence, said the trial was designed to test autonomous vehicle behaviour when under attack.

"Understanding how robotic vehicles react in contested environments accelerates our collective know-how and helps improve the system to overcome such attacks," Dr Shoubridge said.

A network of robotic ground vehicles from the United Kingdom and the United States were configured to represent autonomous Multi-Domain Launchers and Uncrewed Ground Vehicles conducting Long Range Precision Fires and associated missions. The vehicles carried no weapons during the trial.

Australian scientists then subjected the vehicles to electronic warfare, electro optical and position, navigation, and timing attacks.

"Transitioning trusted robotic capabilities into the hands of our warfighters safely and ethically is a priority," Dr Shoubridge said.

TORVICE is part of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia's commitment to the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Pillar, known as Pillar II, under the Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy Working Group. The trial is part of an ongoing series pursuing a trilateral program of work on a range of leading-edge technologies and capabilities to promote security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Dr. Kimberly Sablon, the U.S. Department of Defense's Principal Director for Trusted Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, said "The TORVICE project builds upon the work the AUKUS partners demonstrated in Salisbury in April.  During this exercise, we performed rigorous red teaming of our autonomous/AI systems to assess and mitigate vulnerabilities and to improve their resilience in contested and complex environments."

Through AUKUS, Australia, the UK, and the United States have collaborated to accelerate collective understanding of AI and autonomy technologies, and how to rapidly field robust, trustworthy AI and autonomy in complex operations, while adhering to the shared values of safe and responsible AI.

TORVICE follows the first AUKUS artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy trial held in the UK in April. The aim of this AUKUS collaboration is to rapidly drive these technologies into responsible military use.