AI-powered tech companies are giving modern warfare a new look

M.of which Surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons, rocket launchers, howitzers, and other Western military hardware in use in Ukraine sound familiar to anyone who studies 20th century warfare. However, Ukraine’s use of Western information technology, including artificial intelligence (Love) and autonomous surveillance systems also had a powerful, if invisible, impact on the Russian military. Commercial vendors supply satellites, sensors, unmanned drones and software to the Ukrainian military. These products provide a wealth of battlefield data condensed into an app that helps soldiers on the ground target their enemies. One U.S. defense official appreciatively called it “Uber for artillery.”

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Behind this new form of warfare lies the most unconventional spirit in American tech. Rocket company SpaceX deployed Starlink satellites to Ukraine Elon Everyone knows about his mask (he now restricts access from the battlefield). Your columnist recently met his two other iconoclastic entrepreneurs. One is his 30-year-old Palmer Lucky, who in 2017 co-founded Anduril, a maker of watchtowers, drones, unmanned submarines and more. AIThe drive system that supports them, called the lattice. Dressed in his trademark flip-flops, Hawaiian shirt, and beard, he’s an atypical defense contractor (Marvel’s gadget-obsessed “Iron Man” Tony Stark comes to mind). But the startup is already shaking up the traditional model of American military procurement. In its short lifespan, it won contracts in America and Australia. We are providing Ukraine with an autonomous system. The last time he raised money in December, it was worth $8.5 billion.

Another is Alex Karp, the quirky Doctor of Philosophy with a mop of hair like Einstein. (Mr Karp once sat on the board of directors economistis the parent company of ) His Denver-based software company, Palantir, is building a digital His infrastructure that helps clients manage large amounts of data, including security threats, healthcare systems, and factory productivity. increase. Like SpaceX, it has paved the way for private military ventures since he co-founded it 20 years ago. He makes a bold claim. Palantir has changed the way the Ukrainian military targets its enemies and even the nature of counter-terrorism, he says. He believes the software saved millions of lives during the covid-19 pandemic. Not all of it is gospel truth (the British journalist’s description of “hard questions with crooked teeth” offered by Schumpeter while staring at him is only half true). Still, there is no doubt that Palantir supports Ukraine on the ground and as part of it. NATOintelligence network. Its market value rose to his $21 billion on Feb. 13 when Karp hinted that his company could be a potential acquisition target, reporting its first-ever quarterly profit.

Both men are cut from similar cloth. They are Silicon Valley rebels. They criticize Big Tech for abandoning its historic ties to America’s defense establishment. They lament the rapid pace of military-civilian integration in China, which they see as a potential threat to the West. More or less, they are related to right-wing venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Mr. Thiel chaired his Palantir and his Founders Fund was an early backer of his Anduril (both names reflect his love for his JRR his Tolkien) . to what makes them creepy. Yet, by using different business models, both highlight how the traditional system of “major” defense contracts has become rigid. They offer interesting choices.

Like the main contractor, Anduril only sells to military customers. But Lockheed does all the research and development, unlike defense giants such as Martin and Northrop he does Grumman (R.&D.) the risk rests on your shoulders. Mr Luckey is a born innovator. As a teenager, he invented his Oculus virtual reality headset, which he later sold to Facebook for his $3 billion. His whimsy as he walks with him through the arsenal of aerial and subsea equipment on display at Anduril’s headquarters in Southern California, explaining that the gadgets are almost overwhelming.

His business acumen is equally astute. He and his executives have no time to spend on the Pentagon’s traditional “cost-plus” procurement system. It may be necessary for large-scale projects like fighter jets and aircraft carriers, but in general it distorts incentives, creates risk-averse, costly and slow-moving defense giants, they say. . Rather than waiting for government contracts, Anduril creates what the defense sector deems necessary, using repeat manufacturing and lean supply his chain to produce products quickly and relatively cheaply. increase.

It’s a tough competition. Compared to Prolix’s PowerPoint-heavy bidding process for major contracts, Anduril is a “shoot-off”, i.e. the Department of Defense (D.oD.) test commercial products against each other. Its success rate is high. In 2020, we won a major contract to install a watchtower on the U.S.-Mexico border.Last year it secured $1 billion from D.oD. Provides an autonomous counter-drone system. We build bus-sized underwater vehicles to patrol waters off the coast of Australia. Luckey has elements of the “America First” crusade, but there’s no doubt he intends to make his Anduril a large and profitable business.

lord of the sling

Palantir has begun to take the position tentatively, but has adopted a “dual-use” business model. It works for private clients as well as governments (but only those that are American-friendly). Whether on the battlefield or in business, the company’s software cuts through dense data fog and enables quick decision-making. . Other dual-use companies are winning more and more defense contracts. Established in 2015, the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit supports a significant increase in the use of commercial technologies such as: AIautonomy and integrated systems to speed response to global threats.

Ukraine is a good testing ground. This is also a good metaphor. Technology David’s struggle to challenge America’s military industry Goliath bears little resemblance to a technology-enabled Ukrainian military battling Russia’s ferocious power.

Read the article by Schumpeter, a columnist on global business.
What did Joseph Schumpeter get from Apple? (February 9)
China’s BYD Overtakes Tesla to Become Automaker Extraordinaire (February 2)
How does Satya Nadella handle Microsoft’s ChatGPT moments? (January 25th)

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