‘Smart machines’ could treble bomb and shell production capacity in less than a decade Robots could treble China’s bomb and shell production capacity in less than a decade according to a senior scientist involved in a programme that is using artificial intelligence to boost the productivity of ammunition factories. Xu Zhigang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shenyang Institute of Automation and a lead scientist with China’s “high-level weapon system intelligent manufacturing programme”, told the South China Morning Post last Wednesday that about a quarter of the country’s ammunition factories had replaced many workers with “smart machines” or begun to do so.

Home-grown aircraft carrier tops list of major additions to China’s navy in 2017 The robots, with man-made “hands and eyes”, could assemble different types of deadly explosives including artillery shells, bombs and rockets, he said. They could also make more sophisticated ammunition such as guided bombs, equipped with computer chips and sensors, that could carry out precision strikes.

They were five times as productive as a human worker, Xu said, but logistical factors such as the supply of raw materials meant the overall productivity boost would fall between 100 to 200 per cent “at a minimum” once all China’s ammunition factories were upgraded in the next decade, Xu said. “It’s not like our nation is gearing up for a war and filling its armouries at breakneck speed,” he said.

China has embarked on an ambitious military modernisation drive that is developing new fighter jets, strategic bombers and warships. Designed to protect Chinese investment and influence around the globe, it will require a modernised ammunition supply chain.

But Xu said a more basic reason for the use of robots was that ammunition factories were running out of workers. “However high the salary offered, young people are simply not interested in working in an army ammunition plant nowadays,” he said. Read more from scmp.com…

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