Paul commences the discussion by differentiating between automatic, automated and autonomous weapons and the blurred lines in how these are defined.
Paul states that the essence of an autonomous weapon is its ability to make its own targeting decisions; which is yet to occur. He states that whilst there have been weapons such as homing missiles or ‘fire and forget’ weapons, the launcher generally has a target they intend to strike. An autonomous weapon of the future would be launched with parameters but the missile would decide what to strike (although Paul acknowledges there are several isolated examples already in existence).
Paul discusses current considerations regarding the employment of autonomous systems, including the current attitude of restraint exercised by the USA where other nations are making bolder claims about becoming fully ‘roboticised’ in the future.
Paul also poses the question that, given the historical development of automated technology has ben occurring for decades, why has it not been more widely employed? He suggests that the answer may lie in an operational issue of determining what a force is actually firing at, or, alternatively, whether commanders want to employ a weapon system that is inside their own OODA (Observe, Orientate Decide Act) loop?
Paul concludes by proving an insight into his assessment of the future trends and characteristics of autonomous weapons.