Emirati Air Power: Leveraging AI in Defense

Photo credits: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb (Public Domain)

Air power has been a cornerstone of the UAE's military capabilities, also reflected in the upcoming event of the Dubai Air Show 2023. This emphasis on air power has contributed to the UAE's drive for defense indigenization and independence. The country's early embrace of artificial intelligence (AI) in 2018 demonstrates its commitment to cutting-edge technologies in pursuit of its strategic goals.


The UAE Armed Forces are interested in accessing 5th and 6th-generation fighter capabilities and expanding cooperation on unmanned aerial vehicles. To achieve these goals, they must overcome integration challenges in terms of concepts, technology, and the transition phase of old and new assets.

Unlocking the Power of AI in Defense: The Defense Metaverse Approach

AI, as a solution to these challenges, could transform defense capabilities. However, to fully harness AI's potential, the UAEAF must define its purpose and metrics for AI applications. The Defense AI Observatory's country case studies reveal that many armed forces struggle with this initial step, hindering their journey into defense AI.


The alternative approach proposed here involves using AI to create a defense metaverse, which offers a three-dimensional digital twin of the battlefield and a self-learning multi-agent AI red team. This metaverse allows the UAEAF to test concepts, design ideas, and future defense systems against a range of AI-based challenges, enhancing tactical versatility.


Compared to traditional analytical simulation, the defense metaverse integrates strategic, operational, and tactical levels of analysis and offers more transparent results, addressing the limitations of existing simulation methods. AI-enabled intelligent red teams enhance the scenario envelope by introducing dynamic, context-aware challengers.

Pioneering the Defense Metaverse for Advanced Military Tactics and Air Defense

The development of this defense metaverse is not science fiction. GhostPlay, a defense capability and technology project built by a German consortium of 21strategies, Hensoldt Sensors, and “Bundeswehr” University Hamburg, has demonstrated its feasibility and promising results in air defense and swarming, two critical areas for the UAE's defense investment priorities.


The defense metaverse serves as a critical trust-builder, offering valuable insights into the potential of AI tactics on the battlefield and helping identify design flaws in defense systems. However, translating metaverse results into reality requires a cultural shift, an emphasis on training, and infrastructure investments.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Air Forces are challenged to cultivate an organizational culture that encourages experimentation and embraces technological solutions. Training should expose forces to non-conventional tactics, fostering a learning dynamic based on adversarial surprise and initiative. The defense metaverse also demands suitable software and hardware infrastructure, facilitating a system that learns how to learn.


While the defense metaverse is a powerful tool, it is essential to apply its insights to real-world scenarios. The defense metaverse is not just a concept but a promising reality that can help the UAEAF address integration and coordination challenges and enhance its military capabilities for a more secure future.


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