Israel presents new robotic combat vehicle raising questions about AI security

Medium-sized autonomous vehicle expected to minimize loss of human life in case of conflict, but tech blogger warns fully automated tanks could be susceptible to hacking by hostile actors

A new medium robotic combat vehicle (MRCV) developed by the Defense Ministry along with the country’s defense industry was unveiled on Monday at a defense exhibition in France.
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  • The MRCV vehicle operates autonomously and is able to detect and destroy incoming threats along with fire control and emission management systems. It can also operate a drone and has a built-in system for transporting and receiving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The vehicle doesn’t transport people, which allows it to be much smaller than a regular tank, but is still able to carry heavy loads.
    Field tests are expected to start next year. The vehicle is expected to save many Israeli lives in case of a military conflict with Lebanon as tensions with the northern neighbor have been on the rise over a maritime dispute.
    During the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel lost 121 soldiers, many of whom were killed during attacks on IDF tanks by Hezbollah .
    “How many times in 2006 did Israelis receive a message that Israeli soldiers were killed because their tanks were unable to maneuver in those very difficult mountain terrains of southern Lebanon?” he said.
    “If this tank is hit and taken out of service, that’s too bad but it's only money, no lives are lost."
    Experts, however, express doubt that a robot could operate better than an experienced commander on the ground. “Is there anything better than the eyes of people on the ground? I’m not sure,” he said.
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    MRCV vehicle
    (Photo: Defense Ministry/YouTube)
    Mike Waizman, tech blogger and IT journalist, noted that the Israeli concept of tanks was always aimed at saving lives before saving the technology and the new vehicle was serving this cause.
    “We are seeing a new generation of geeks planning and driving tanks with the simulators. It is so much easier to do now somewhere in the distance,” Waizman said. He warned, however, of cyber security risks involved in the operation of fully automated tanks that could be hacked by hostile actors.
    On Sunday, Israel also presented a new radar system at an international arms exhibition capable of tracking thousands of targets simultaneously, including a small drone at a distance of 7.5 miles (12 kilometers).
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