WASHINGTON – The Russian Ministry of Defense said it formed a department dedicated to developing weapons that use artificial intelligence.

The announcement was made Aug. 17 by Alexander Osadchu, the head of Russia’s military’s innovative development department, at the Army 2022 summit, according to the state-owned news agency TASS.

“In order to intensify work on the use of artificial intelligence technologies in the interests of creating models of weapons for military and special equipment, a department for the development of artificial intelligence technologies has been created,” he said in a statement.

The program could serve to counter the Pentagon’s top AI authority, the newly formed Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, which is tasked with expanding the use of AI throughout U.S. the military. The CDAO launched in February and reached full operational capability in June.

Mikhail Osyko, a member of Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, announced plans to create an AI military department in May 2021. According to Osyko, the department will have its own budget, TASS reported.

As the U.S. and China make large investments in AI and machine learning technologies, Russia has similarly sought to compete in the AI field.

In 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that AI is “the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind,” according to a report carried by the state-funded media organization RT.

“It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict,” he said at the time. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Also at the Army 2022 summit, being held this week in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko noted that Russia will launch its National Center for AI in September.

The center will focus on searching and analyzing AI across fields, from business and science to government, according to TASS. It will also facilitate the expansion of AI programs at different organizations, such as research institutes and technological corporations.

Catherine Buchaniec is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where she covers artificial intelligence, cyber warfare and uncrewed technologies.

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