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US aims to counter China’s military expansion with advanced autonomous systems

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The United States has set to counter China’s growing military prowess by deploying a wave of cutting-edge autonomous systems, including drones and high-tech military equipment, within the next two years. In response to China’s numerical advantage in personnel and weaponry, the Pentagon is embracing innovative “autonomous systems” to maintain a competitive edge, according to a senior defense official.

During a military technology conference held in Washington, DC, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks emphasized the urgency of innovation in the face of strategic rivalry with China. She described China as a unique adversary, distinct from the sluggish competitors the US confronted during the Cold War era.

Hicks, in a candid address, highlighted the considerable efforts China invested over the past two decades to craft a modern military force designed to neutralize the operational advantages enjoyed by the US. While US forces were engaged in prolonged conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, China strategically built up its military capabilities, shifting the balance of power.

China’s key military advantage lies in sheer quantity – more ships, missiles, and personnel, according to Hicks. She outlined the US approach to counter this mass with its own version – one that is more elusive, harder to predict, and more resilient in the face of challenges.

“Our aim is to deploy a substantial number of attritable autonomous systems across various domains within the next 18 to 24 months,” stated Hicks. By integrating autonomous systems across all operational domains, the US hopes to reduce costs and minimize human exposure to combat situations. The strategy aims to ensure that the Chinese leadership perceives the risks of aggression on a daily basis, deterring any aggressive actions.

In a comprehensive assessment of US defense priorities, the Pentagon formally recognized China as a “pacing challenge” in October. The National Defense Strategy called for urgent measures to strengthen deterrence against China, which is projected to be a significant strategic rival for decades to come.

This assessment followed closely after the White House released a National Security Strategy, identifying China as a major contender seeking to reshape the global order. The strategy underscored China’s growing economic, diplomatic, military, and technological prowess, coupled with its intent to redefine international norms.

One of Washington’s primary concerns is China’s ambitious efforts to reshape the Indo-Pacific region, as evidenced by its territorial claims in the South China Sea and its pursuit of Taiwan’s reunification with mainland China, even by force if necessary. As the rivalry intensifies, the US is strategically embracing advanced autonomous systems to maintain its competitive edge on the global stage.

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