Military aircraft should be built with quantum technology in mind: UK Official – Breaking Defense

Air warfare, networks/computers


A wireframe fighter jet sits on a computer chip. (Getty Images / Breaking Defense Graphics)

RIAT 2023 Military use of quantum computing is still in theoretical stages, but Western nations need to design their next-generation aircraft with the capability to use that technology when it’s ready, British Minister of State for the Armed Forces, James Heappey , proclaimed on Thursday.

Addressing delegates in his speech at the Global Air Chiefs conference in London, Heappey said that the arrival of quantum would be the really big threshold that could unlock the full potential of AI automation. And given that the jets being flown and designed today will be in service for decades to come, nations need to plan now how to incorporate quantum in the future.

They’re all going to be in service when quantum computing arrives, so we need to be able to buy planes, design planes, where by the time those computers are ready to go, you can rip anything in there and throw the quantum computer in it, because I think let this be a moment of tanks versus cavalry, machine guns versus humans, he said.

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Quantum computing has implications for a range of national security applications, from rapidly cracking traditional cryptography to building ultra-precise sensors and navigation systems. But while the US government and others have toyed with the technology for years, no one can tell how close it is to practical applications.

Still, Heappey urged the conference, which was attended by Air Force leaders from around the world, that quantum computing would change warfare in the most profound way.

At the moment, what prevents us from understanding where a target is in the hubbub of the battlespace is our ability to crunch through the data. Very often it comes back to human judgment, he said. Quantum computing could process the vastness of ocean noise; the vastness of heavenly affairs; or the sheer scale of everything that is happening within a human population on land.

Quantum computing will work at a speed we cannot imagine. It will massively change what our military can do, and we must be prepared to crash into our machines when that time comes. And that’s the key, Heappey said.

Success in any rollout of quantum technology will depend on how quickly the military can scale up capabilities, the minister said, noting that such a feat would require an entirely new relationship between force, industry and science.

RELATED: New White House directive warns of cryptographic risks from quantum computers

More broadly, Heappey pointed out that the pace of technology means the old paradigm of how the aircraft age no longer applies.

In the past, you could walk into the Farnborough Air Show or Fairford marquee and be shown an aircraft, and you could have some faith that in the life of that aircraft, it would start ahead of its time, he said. . And in the middle third of his service, it would be some time of him. And in the back third of its service, it would still be competitive with most other air forces and all would be well.

But the pace of innovation is now such that within the first third of service most of the platforms we buy, the technology will overtake them. And so I think we have to make an effort to get into this place where we get insight into what our opponents are doing. And within the industry, we need to talk to the industry about how they would innovate with that intelligence and that science. And then we have to apply military astuteness to how we intend to use that system and that vicious circle of intelligence, science, innovation and military astuteness.

I actually think this is the battle winning edge of the future, he continued.

Heappey used the ongoing war in Ukraine as an example, describing how some electronic warfare assets might typically have a burn time of about 10-12 weeks.

You will take a UAS into service for the Ukrainians. It will take the Russians about six weeks to figure out why it can fly across their EW screen, and another six weeks for the Russians to figure out how to reprogram their EW or put something new into their EW platforms to defeat it. And then you start again with that loop in contact between sorties of being able to reprogram, take intelligence, science, innovation and military cunning and constantly keep your reading.

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