Small Wars Journal

Robotics and Autonomous Systems

Mission Command and Armed Robotic Systems Command and Control: A Human and Machine Assessment

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 5:50pm

Dr. Robert J. Bunker, Senior Fellow, Small Wars Journal-El Centro has a new Land Warfare Paper at the Association of the United States Army. The paper"Mission Command and Armed Robotic Systems Command and Control: A Human and Machine Assessment" looks at 'Mission Command' in the context of emerging armed robotic systems (artificial intelligence driven autonomous and semiautonomous weapons systems) in war. — SWJ Editors

Armed Robotics Bunker


Mission Command and Armed Robotic Systems Command and Control: A Human
and Machine Assessment 

Robert J. Bunker
AUSA ILW Paper 132
29 May 2020

For almost 20 years, mission command has been a key component of command and control (C2) in the U.S. Army. However, with the advancements in the realm of artificial intelligence and the resultant utilization of autonomous and semiautonomous weapon systems in warfare, it is necessary to examine the extent to which these machines can cooperate within this construct.

Mission command, properly understood, empowers subordinate decisionmaking and decentralized execution appropriate to any given situation. It is solely meant for human-to-human C2. Like war itself, it is an inherently “human endeavor . . . not a mechanical process that can be precisely controlled by machines [or] calculations.” Systems that use machine algorithms for their decisionmaking processes are in direct variance to the emotive- and moral-seeking components of
human cognition. Humans experience love, fear, camaraderie and hate—machines do not. Nor do they understand honor, integrity or self-sacrifice. Faced with this conflict, how can the deployment of machines work in concert with the Army’s C2?

Available at:


Balancing Effectiveness and Ethics in Future Autonomous Weapons SWJED Thu, 09/20/2018 - 1:40am
Competing visions of future warfare invariably include some version of robotic fighting machines operating either alongside, or in place of, humans. Each of the world's major powers are pursuing development of such automated killers, each looking to grant their robotic minions varying degrees of autonomy. The decisions made concerning the future employment of such systems are driving today's policymaking and research / development efforts.