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MAKICHUK: Secret war: China, US in AI tech dogfight

“It is the future of combat.”

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A war is being waged — but nobody is getting killed or injured and nobody really knows much about it, except for the insiders.

It is without doubt that artificial intelligence, or AI, is the foundation of China’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) mission to become a world-class military, capable of rivalling its main adversary, the United States.

It is the future of combat.

Unveiled in 2017, Beijing’s New Generation AI Development Plan established China’s goal to become “the world leader” in AI by 2030 — and this obviously extends to military affairs.

In a major development in this field, for the first time on record earlier this year, an artificial intelligence system reportedly beat one of the PLA’s top fighter pilots in a simulated dogfight, according to a report by research analyst Ryan Fedasiuk for Breaking Defense

Chinese state media outlet, The Global Times, hailed it as a watershed moment in the country’s military modernization. 

An aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Central Theater Command Air Force held a training simulation in early summer in which Fang Guoyu, a group leader of the brigade, was shot down in a mock aerial battle against an AI aircraft in a simulator, the PLA Daily reported.

“The AI has shown adept flight control skills and errorless tactical decisions, making it a valuable opponent to hone our capabilities,” Du Jianfeng, commander of the brigade, was quoted as saying. 

But almost as significant was the fact that it came just months after the US military had achieved the same milestone.

In a 5 to 0 sweep, an “AI pilot” developed by Heron Systems beat one of the Air Force’s top F-16 fighter pilots in a simulated aerial dogfight contest held by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) .

The three-day trials showed that AI systems can maneuver an aircraft in a simple, one-on-one combat scenario and shoot its forward guns in a classic World War Two-style dogfight.

For years, experts have written of China’s plan to wield AI for battlefield advantage but cited US advantages in hardware and workforce development as sources of US strength.

As tensions mount between the US and China, and some experts warn of an impending crisis over Taiwan — China claims the democratic island nation as its own under the “One China” policy — US policymakers and defense planners are faced with the challenge of taking steps to defend the United States’ edge.

This past week, H-6J strategic bombers armed with anti-ship missiles practiced “island bombing” as the PLA Navy (PLAN), projected its nascent power in the disputed South China Sea.

More broadly, China appears on the edge of joining the tiny group of states that possess a nuclear triad.

According to a Department of Defense report, Beijing has accelerated its nuclear expansion, which may enable the China to have up to “700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027 and likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030.”

On top of that, China “is building hundreds of new ICBM silos, and is on the cusp of a large silo-based ICBM force expansion comparable to those undertaken by other major powers.”

China’s navy, the PLAN, is now larger than that of the United States Naval forces, by a large margin — and getting stronger and more powerful by the day.

Meanwhile, China’s efforts to build an “intelligentized” force was recently detailed in a new report for Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), co-authored by Fedasiuk.

Many of the AI projects identified in the study are explicitly focused on degrading and countering systems at the heart of the US military’s Joint Warfighting Concept, using techniques like adaptive radar jamming and vulnerability fuzzing, Fedasiuk writes. 

Research papers from China’s defense universities even discuss using machine learning systems to counter specific US drone swarm projects like Locust and Gremlins.

What’s more, the PLA is backing up its ambitious AI development goals with significant investment. 

Despite the several-hundred-billion-dollar difference in the topline budgets of the US and Chinese militaries, countries are investing about the same amount in AI for military use — in the low billions of dollars each year, Fedasiuk says. 

Between April and December 2020, more than one in 20 public contracts awarded by the PLA’s main service branches were related to AI or “intelligent” equipment. 

In particular, the PLA is investing in AI capabilities meant to jam, blind, and hack the C4ISR systems (Command, Control, Communications, Computers Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) that bind US assets together. 

PLA units and state-backed research institutions have also awarded contracts for “microwave reconnaissance jamming drones” and “electromagnetic weapon” payloads that can be attached to swarms of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and flown into enemy airspace, Fedasiuk says. 

China is clearly not alone in the relentless push for AI weaponization — US technology is also racing ahead and it’s a lead it does not want to relinquish.

This week, for example, US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the service hopes to give the secretive new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber a drone sidekick.

“The B-21 is a very expensive aircraft. It has a certain payload and range. We’d like to amplify that capability it has to penetrate, which is valuable,” Kendall said during a Defense One event.

The Air Force has floated the idea of a “Loyal Wingman”-style drone that would accompany fighter jets into combat and operate with some level of artificial intelligence. 

The service is developing an autonomy module under the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Skyborg program and has already integrated and flown that system with the uncrewed Kratos UTAP-22 Mako and General Atomics’ MQ-20 Avenger.

But despite the PLA’s significant progress in adopting AI-enabled systems, there are at least two clear vulnerabilities in its blueprint, Fedasiuk points out.

First, while Chinese military leaders plan to exploit weaknesses in US sensor and communication networks, it is not clear how they plan to build resilient, cloud-based networks of their own. 

While the US military is susceptible to information manipulation and data poisoning, the so-called “Achilles’ heel” of the US joint all-domain command and control strategy, in a potential conflict, the PLA itself would also likely struggle to ensure the integrity of data used to train its own AI systems — to say nothing of the inherent fragility of AI-based computer vision and object recognition systems. 

SecondChina’s “intelligentization” strategy is entirely predicated on access to AI chips designed by US companies and manufactured in Taiwan and South Korea. The supply of these high-end microelectronics, however, is far from guaranteed. 

Both the US and its allies have already adopted several measures to starve Chinese military companies of the chips required to train advanced machine learning models.

China’s technology giants have been pushing to develop their own chips, with the goal to become self-reliant in the critical technology.

In reality, China is still a long way off even if it’s one step closer to self-sufficiency.

US Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered some perspective on China’s technological advancements and subsequent rise to power in an interview this week with Breaking Defense.

“If you look at again, 40 years ago, they had zero satellites. Look at what they’ve got today. They had no ICBMs. Look at what they’ve got today. They had no nuclear weapons. Look at what they’ve got today,” he said.

“They had no fourth or fifth generation fighters or even more advanced fighters, back then. Look at what they’ve got today. They had no navy. Look what they have today. 

“They had no sub force. Look at what they have today.

“We’re witnessing, in my view, we’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news
makichukd@gmail.com

Dave Makichuck is a Columnist for the Western Standard. He is a 35-year veteran journalist who has served at both the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    December 19, 2021 at 9:59 am

    Since the Epstein Frequent Flyer Billie Klinton got China into the WTO back in the 90s it has been downhill for the western democracies & the USA.

    100s of thousands of Chinese Nationals have infiltrated every University, Western Corporation & Tech Company . . . even the Bio Lab in Winnipeg . . .

    Many of them have been supplying Technology & Data to the CCP for decades. Politicians said & did nothing as 10s of thousands of Companies moved their facilities to China where they partnered with the CCP to produce cheaper products. Canada’s Crime Minister even expressed his luv for the Regime. Just a chip off the old block, Uncle Fidel was proud.

    In Canada life today is starting to look more like life in the CCP . . . some say literally all of our institutions have been compromised by the CCP, from the Politicians, to Business to our feckless Politicians.

    China had a large influence on the last US Election . . . and no one in the FakeStream Media wants to talk about it. The Wuhan Lab is where the Gain of Function research that created Covid took place, and now we have enough information to prove that Dr. Fauci and NIH funded that research. The Virus was no accident and neither was it’s release . . .

  2. Mars Hill

    December 12, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    The cabal and CCP together thought they would take America down, the cabal would take the financial system the CCP would get AI, only problem was they were monitored and called by Q and the war was on, Q won before it started and is mopping up while mitigating collateral damage. Americas Pacific fleet has told the CCP it will turn China into a parking lot if does anything stupid…Xi is on board with Q to eliminate the CCP and cabal and liberate the world……just watch.

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These Yellowstone-Alberta memes capture the soul of Wild Rose Country

The Montana-based violent drama has found its way into the hearts of Albertans — it even mentioned the friendliness of the Calgary Stampede — with a new meme circulating on Facebook.

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The Paramount Network smash-hit Yellowstone is wildly the most popular show on cable and streaming on Amazon Prime.

Although the network blockbuster starring Kevin Costner drew more than 11 million viewers for its fourth season finale earlier this month, without streaming, it has gone virtually unnoticed by award shows until Wednesday — receiving its first major nomination for a Screen Actors Guild award.

The Montana-based violent drama has found its way into the hearts of Albertans — it even mentioned the friendliness of the Calgary Stampede — with a new meme circulating on Facebook.

The meme depicts show characters as a representation of towns and small cities throughout Alberta.

The character Beth Dutton played by Kelly Reilly is captioned with Alberta’s St. Paul and has the most comments of all the characters listed in the meme, likely due to her merciless, tougher-than-tough, bad-ass nature.

“She’s a Cockroach. A Superhero Without the Cape,” said Reilly reflecting on her character Beth in a recent article in Esquire.

Tanya Hollasch — calling herself a Beth look-a-like — commented on Ms. Dutton’s image with an attached picture of herself — bright purple shiner and all.

“I’ve been told I’m a Beth look-a-like from Bonnyville🙈 ….I’m just not bad-ass enough 🤣 just a boring story of a horse mishap😂”

Many of the main characters from the show are featured in the meme including Costner representing Nanton.

Hundreds of people have chimed in from picture to picture either agreeing wholeheartedly with each character’s related Alberta location or have inserted their own suggested location comparison.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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MAKICHUK: Unholy alliance: America faces a formidable two-front crisis

That might be the diplomatic view, but two against one was never a fair fight.

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The year is 2065.

Russia and China have combined their space programs and now have a functioning, expansive joint lunar station.

Advanced Chinese shuttle landers are making regular visits to the base, which has pioneered major mining projects below the lunar surface with the use of robot devices.

The station generates its own food, water and oxygen, and the landers regularly deliver workers and supplies and return shipments of valuable minerals.

America, a once-great power in space could not keep up with the expanding space gap, nor the military gap, or even the technology gap and now trails the two nations that formed a strong alliance early into the new century.

Back on earth, China, with Russian help, invaded Taiwan and now controls the former democratic island, enforcing a strict Communist crackdown on the helpless populace. 

The US, a country racked by crumbling infrastructure, runaway poverty and deep political divisions and now dwarfed by the Sino-Russian alliance, did nothing — except to place more useless sanctions on Beijing.

This may sound like a dream, or perhaps even a nightmare, depending on what your perspective is.

Could it happen? Nobody knows, of course. But the way things are going an alliance of this nature appears to be growing with each day, week and month.

The more the US and its allies place pressure on China for its perceived sins, the more they push the Red Dragon into an unholy alliance with the Russian bear.

Beware of such a development, because it will change the world.

According to a report in the New York Times, the militaries of both countries have stepped up joint exercises and even operations, including in the air and for the first time in October, naval patrols in the Pacific. They have also pledged to explore space together.

Analysts say that an important factor in Russian-Chinese ties is the personal chemistry between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both men in their late 60s who have consolidated control over their countries’ political systems, NYT reported. 

Xi has addressed Putin as his “old friend,” while the Russian president called his Chinese counterpart both his “dear friend” and “esteemed friend.”

There is still plenty of historical friction between Russia and China, onetime adversaries that share a land border stretching more than 4,200 km.

But on trade, security and geopolitics they are increasingly on the same page, forming a bloc trying to take on American influence as both countries’ confrontations with the US deepen, the NYT reported.

For Putin, a recent congenial video summit between the two comes at a high-stakes moment in his brinkmanship over Western influence in Ukraine.

The imposing Kremlin leader, facing threats of crushing Western sanctions if Russian forces attack Ukraine, heard Xi propose that Russian and China cooperate to “more effectively safeguard the security interests of both parties.”

Meanwhile, China has come under US and European criticism for human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region and its suppression of political freedoms in Hong Kong as well as its alarming military activity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Make no mistake, the mere thought that two of the strongest military powers in the world may join forces against the US and its allies will send shockwaves through the corridors of Western powers — for the basic fact, it is a two-front crisis that US President Joe Biden can’t win.

And while the two countries have not signed anything official and neither of the leaders can really be trusted further than you can toss a chihuahua, this can’t be ignored.

Yet, the US appears blind to the fact it is pushing China into a corner, with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rejecting so-called “red-lines” in Ukraine and Taiwan — tough talk, but it might just be another hollow gesture.

Words don’t stop tanks, fighter jets, missiles or amphibious landing craft.

Citing human rights concerns, the US, Canada and Australia have declared diplomatic protests over the upcoming 2022 Beijing Summer Games (athletes will still attend), while Putin was the first major leader to RSVP his attendance.

This week, the Biden administration added China’s top military medical research institute to an export blacklist in response to concerns about Beijing’s use of emerging technologies such as biometrics and brain-control weapons.

All that aside, Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not receive Article 5 protections from the alliance, Defense One reported. But the country does receive regular rotations of US troops and sales of weapons to bolster its self-defense. 

Taiwan is recognized by the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the US provides weapons and training to Taiwan so it too can defend itself. But neither is guaranteed US military protection in case of an attack.

The US, meanwhile, plans to channel US$7.1 billion in defence spending to the Indo-Pacific region in the next financial year, the South China Morning Post reported.

It is turning its entire military might — the Navy, Marines, the Air Force and the Army — toward the Indo-Pacific theater. Even the CIA is following suit, with the creation of a new China mandate, abandoning its Bush-era war on terror.

Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, told the SCMP the funding indicated the US was determined to confront China head-on.

“Beijing is driven by its goals for national rejuvenation and Washington understands that it’s impossible for them to change China’s political mindset, which is counter to the one recognized by the Western world,” Zhao said.

The winds for a perfect storm are howling in both Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific just as the Biden administration is reeling from the effects of a chaotic withdrawal from a 20-year war in Afghanistan and a persistent pandemic that has exacerbated sharp political divides at home, Newsweek reported.

“This is a time when democracies are being challenged — some being challenged from within, others being challenged from without,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe press conference. 

“And there is a contest between autocracies and democracies, and as President Biden has spoken to on numerous occasions, that is a fundamental contest of our time.”

That might be the diplomatic view, but two against one was never a fair fight.

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald and covering military issues in Asia. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news
makichukd@gmail.com

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A look at Austria — the harshest COVID lockdown measures in the world

After locking down the nation for the fourth time since the pandemic began, Austria announced it will make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for every citizen effective February 2022.

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New and heavy restrictions have been brought in across Austria, including a full national lockdown, while COVID-19 infection rates are on a sharp rise across Europe.

Austria has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in Western Europe — only sitting about 65% of the eligible population at the time of lockdowns in mid-November.

The unvaccinated — roughly two million of the 8.9 million Austrians — have been banned from leaving their homes with the exception of work or to buy essential supplies and food. There are currently no restrictions on time or distance allowed for being outdoors.

All non-essential businesses have been closed, including restaurants, bars, hairdressers, theatres and other shops deemed non-essential. However, restaurants are permitted to offer take-out and non-essential shops can offer curbside pickup sales.

After locking down the nation for the fourth time since the pandemic began, Austria announced it will make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for every citizen effective February 2022.

The original lockdown was to be put in place for only ten days, however, that was extended on November 30 by an Austrian parliamentary committee for an additional 10 days.

Tens of thousands of Austrians protested in Vienna within days of the original lockdown carrying signs with slogans “no to vaccination”, enough is enough” or “down with the fascist dictatorship”, The Guardian reported.

“We are unhappy with our government’s measures,” said one protester who declined to give his name, along with many of the others who spoke with the media.

“One would think we live in a democracy but now this is a coronavirus dictatorship,” said another woman amongst the protestors in passing.

The Local, an English news publication out of Austria, reported as of Monday, a total of 129,428 people are currently COVID-19 positive, while 2,465 are in hospital and an additional 664 are in intensive care (ICU).  

To date, vaccination rates among the population have increased to 72% with at least one dose and 67% are considered fully vaccinated.

Protesters have been clashing with authorities for weeks, opposing the harsh lockdowns and the government’s planned mandatory vaccinations for the country.

“This has been going on for two years and there’s no end in sight,” said a woman who attended a November 20 protest.

“Something new is announced every day and we don’t know what we can believe anymore.”

Many in Austria are skeptical of the vaccines and, according to the Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BAGS), 1,360 Austrians have been treated in hospital for suspected side effects due to the corona vaccines. As well, 184 deaths have been reported “close in time” to a vaccination.

Compared to neighbouring countries, Austria sits in the middle of the pack for reported daily COVID-19 cases.

Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 Data

A draft of the coming vaccine mandate law will reportedly apply to those aged 14 and older with fines comparable to approximately $860 Canadian dollars (CDN). Fines can be issued every three months to a total of $3,450 CDN. Failure to pay the fines will result in a larger levy of $5,181 CDN. It’s believed money raised from the fines will go to fund hospitals.

Those with exemptions and who are pregnant will be excluded from the mandates, as will those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 but only for 180 days post-infection.

Although a number of newspapers have reported they’ve seen a copy of the draft law, Austria’s Ministry of Health said it will be releasing an official first draft later this week.

It’s been reported three doses will be required under the coming law — the second dose between 14 and 42 days after the first and a third dose between 120 and 270 days after the second. The country currently recognizes Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The country-wide vaccine mandate makes Austria the nation with the most strict COVID-19 measures to date.

Protesters have been clashing with authorities for weeks opposing the harsh lockdowns and the government’s planned mandatory vaccination for the country. Over the weekend, five arrests were made of the over 40,000 protestors who gathered in Vienna.

The World Health Organization (WHO) regional director Dr. Hans Kluge told the BBC if measures aren’t tightened across Europe, half a million more deaths could come by next spring.

In the meantime, until recently Australia was considered to have the strictest COVID-19 measures in place, but is now moving towards a reopening plan in the coming days and weeks after hard lockdowns were imposed in early July.

Although mainstream media has been fairly quiet with reports out of Australia, social media has been inundated with posts out of the locked-down nation over the past few weeks. Large protests have been held throughout the country in opposition to the heavy lockdowns and restrictions put in place over the summer.

According to 9News out of Australia, the Queensland domestic border will open December 13, four days earlier than planned for fully vaccinated interstate travellers with a negative COVID-19 test. Quarantine will not be required for those fully vaccinated.

“If you are not fully vaccinated, you must arrive by air only and hotel quarantine for 14 days,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

International travellers will need to be fully vaccinated to enter the country and will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

As part of Australia’s reopening plan, as of December 17 those unvaccinated will not be permitted to enter restaurants and bars.

According to the Australian government’s website, COVID-19 vaccines are considered voluntary at this time.

Germany, another nation considered to have harsh COVID-19 restrictions, announced last Thursday the country was introducing a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated.

Those who are not considered fully vaccinated are now banned from most businesses with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies.

Like Austria, leaders in Germany are looking at plans for mandatory vaccinations in the New Year.

Angela Merkel, who served as German chancellor for 16 years, along with her new successor, Olaf Scholz, are both in favour of mandatory vaccinations across the country and if voted in by parliament, could come into effect as early as February.

On December 2, Germany announced it is now mandatory to be fully vaccinated to get euthanized.

Restrictions in Germany continue to tighten as COVID-19 cases surge throughout Europe.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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