Australia’s new fighter jets could be armed with controversial robot-controlled missiles that critics claim can “make decisions to kill without human interference”.
The Joint Strike Missile is close to final development by Norway’s Kongsberg Gruppen. It’s a $1.3 billion bet by the country to make it the standard weapon for the F-35.
Back in June, Australia was one of the first countries to express interest in arming its F-35 fleet with the JSM. It’s also been pitched to Japan and South Korea but now it’s close to completion, it’s looking increasingly likely to become the missile of choice worldwide for the controversial fighter.
In Norway, as more details of the technology on-board the JSM are revealed, MPs and activist groups are concerned to the point where they believe the weapon could perform attacks that contravene international law.
They’re dubbing the JSM a “killer robot” and say it has a partially autonomous ability to identify targets and make its own decisions to strike known as Autonomous Target Recognition.
Officially, it’s most impressive features are its small profile and ability to use topographical data to evade destruction right up to impact point.
It has a 280km range and can also communicate with other JSMs in the air.
The F-35 will be able to carry two internally (read: “hidden”) and an as-yet unspecified amount externally, but it’s the fact it is the only powered anti-ship missile that can fit inside the F-35 bays that makes it such an attractive option worldwide.
Norwegian Peace League member Alexander Harang has made several futile attempts to get Norway’s Parliament to discuss the moral implications of rolling out the JSM. He and UN special investigator Christof Heynes believe its development signals the time is past due for guidelines to be put in place on just how autonomous weapons should be allowed to get.
“We have seen during the last decade that the distance between the soldier and the target increase,” Heyns told The Local.
“But what we see now is that the weapon becomes the warrior.”
Testing on the JSM will begin next year. It’s expected to become fully operational in 2025.