Iran Announces Integration Of Artificial Intelligence Into Drone Fleet

Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, describes new military capabilities of supposed artificial intelligence-directed drones during a 4 October 2023 conference of medical students.

“Anyone who wants to harm our country… will be eliminated.”

Iranian drone development could threaten the blue water navies of its adversaries at extended ranges. According to a statement by General Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), published by the state-run Fars News Agency, Iran has successfully integrated artificial intelligence into its drone fleet.[i] While the statement appears aspirational, Iranian tactics have indeed evolved from the pinpoint use of drones to the use of drone swarms.[ii] Simultaneously, Iran has increased drone range by switching from line-of-sight to global positioning system navigation. Iranian strategists realize adversaries will likely apply the same long-range swarming tactics the IRGC now utilizes. In response, the IRGC is seeking a way to counter this innovation by having drones “decide” which enemy drones and other targets to destroy without human input. Given technological advances, and the global proliferation of artificial intelligence applications, it is only a matter of time until Iranian aspirations about artificial intelligence-infused drones become fully realized. When this happens, it will change the maritime operational environment in the region. While the Iranian Navy has invested in new ships, its blue water capacity remains limited.[iii] For their part, long-range, autonomous drones will be able to leapfrog over this naval deficit to project power hundreds of miles offshore where more advanced navies can operate but Iranian power is minimal. As such, artificial intelligence-infused drone operations could ultimately rectify a major Iranian capability gap.


“Sardar Salami: Pehpadha-ye ma Qadarand dar Fasleh Chand Hazar Miley Shanavarha ra Hadef Qarar Dehand (General Salami: Our Drones are Capable of Targeting Vessels Several Thousand Miles Away),” Fars News Agency (news agency closely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 4 October 2023.

“Our country is progressing, but our enemies don’t want us to build the future of our country with the blossoming minds of our youth.” Today, our country is equipped with new technologies, artificial intelligence and a variety of emerging phenomena in biochemistry, biophysics, and genetics and so on. We have something to say and we are growing…. Many people tell us that the enemy is just an illusion of the mind, but it is not an illusion; it is reality. Our youth must build the future of our country, Western countries have no rights in our country. Anyone who wants to harm our country and our youth will be eliminated….”The Commander-in-Chief [of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami] continued, “In the unmanned arena, you see that with the help of Artificial Intelligence, today we have the capability that our drones can target any moving vessel a few thousand miles away and even assess the extent of destruction.”


[i] For previous discussion of the Iranian military claiming to enhance its arsenal with artificial intelligence, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Claims Development Of Cruise Missiles Guided By Artificial Intelligence” OE Watch, 08-2023.

[ii] For background on Iranian drone developments and strategies, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, August 2020.

[iii] For background into the Iranian Navy’s problems operating in the open ocean, see: Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Orders Investigation into Naval Accident” OE Watch, June 2020.

Image Information:

Image: Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, describes new military capabilities of supposed artificial intelligence-directed drones during a 4 October 2023 conference of medical students.

Chinese Seeking To Use AI Disinformation Database for Cognitive Defense

Rumor Crusher.

Rumor Crusher.

“The models built by AI still need further language training. For example, some users’ share [rumors] with irony, sarcasm, or as a metaphor, and machines find it difficult to judge whether they are true expressions of emotion or not. Therefore, we should focus on improving the public’s media literacy so that they are more serious about interacting and sharing content ….”

According to the excerpted article from PLA-owned strategic communications journal Military Correspondent, the PLA is exploring an early warning mechanism for monitoring and combating digital disinformation utilizing the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC)’s[i] “AI Rumor Crusher.”[ii] While the article is not a definitive accounting of how the CAC will use artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and counter digital disinformation, it does provide insight into a methodology employed across China’s information environment to control flows of information. The author, Li Beibei, a researcher at China’s National Defense University’s College of Politics, suggests that an ideal approach for countering disinformation would include a multipronged strategy that includes expansion of China’s legal framework, improvement of data-sharing among social media platforms and the government, and improved media literacy.

Li explains AI Rumor Crusher’s operational methodology as an eight-step iterative process composed of recognition, word separation, comparison with a rumor database, determination of credibility, analysis of rumor and non-rumor features, and finally supervised and reinforcement learning. In the first two steps, AI Rumor Crusher identifies the source of a piece of information and analyzes the disseminator. Next, it analyzes the information against preexisting rumor samples and tracks sources for their credibility (website, publisher, professionals, etc.). Finally, the key arguments are labeled and cross-referenced with authoritative knowledge databases[iii] to verify the veracity of the information. Li argues that AI, when compared to human counterparts, possesses a superior ability to work around the clock, identify and eliminate rumors in a timely way, track disseminators of disinformation, judge the veracity of information, and even determine the disseminator’s motivation for sharing rumors. Li further advocates for a multipronged approach to digital disinformation governance that would include the expansion and strengthening of China’s relevant legal regulations and public media literacy to reinforce social values and ensure both originators and disseminators (witting or unwitting) do not exacerbate the issue.[iv]


“利用人工智能技术治理网络谣言探析 (An Exploration of the Uses of Artificial Intelligence in Governing Digital Rumors),” Military Correspondent (PLA-owned strategic communications journal ), 23 February 2023.

Management of digital rumors has become an urgent issue. We can establish an early warning mechanism for digital rumors based in artificial intelligence technologies. With AI “Rumor Crusher” we can build a data-sharing platform for disinformation to monitor the trajectory of digital rumors and prevent them from spreading in order to effectively combat digital disinformation.

With the promotion of new media interactive platforms, the difficulty of Internet rumor management is gradually increasing, and users’ behavior and speech on the Internet are difficult to be effectively and timely restrained, making rumor suppression a more complicated and difficult task.

The most central factor in the formation and dissemination of digital rumors is the openness and ambiguity of incoming information. People are most likely to generate and spread rumors in the absence of reliable information. … people use their virtual identities to send and receive information over their various accounts without temporal, spatial, or moral constraints … resulting in many online rumors leading to serious consequences. Since August 2020, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC)’s Reporting Center has organized more than 10 website platforms such as Weibo, Douyin and Baidu to carry out digital rumor tagging and labeling work. This ensures that digital rumor samples are promptly exposed, thereby minimizing the space for digital rumors to survive. However, despite the active measures relevant government departments have taken to control digital rumors, there is still a long way to go. In particular, the legal punishment for digital rumors should be strengthened so the disseminators of rumors can be punished according to the degree to which the rumor is malign and causes a negative impact.


[i] Cyberspace Administration of China’s Reporting Center (网信办举报中心, literally, “Illegal and Harmful Information Reporting Center, 违法和不良信息举报中心). As early as 2004, under the Internet Society of China, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center was established with the stated goal of standing up for “virtue and right thinking” while opposing pornography, violence, and fraud. See: Sumner Lemon, “Chinese website lets users report illegal content,” Computer World, 15 June 2004.

[ii] “Rumor (谣言)” is both a colloquial and legal term in the PRC. Colloquially, it connotes a similar meaning to the term “rumor” in English. According to the Cyberspace Administration of China (国家互联网信息办公室,简称:网信办), internet rumors网络谣言 refers to “false information that intentionally fabricates facts to cause harm to society and others.” This definition partly aligns with Western conceptions of disinformation (often translated as 虚假信息, lit. fake information). For further exploration of the PRC’s unclear use of similar terms in legal matters, see: 谣言型犯罪中“谣言”该如何理解 (How Should “Rumor” be Understood in Rumor Crimes), The Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China, 12 February 2022.

[iii] While not explicitly stated, these would likely include both open source, commercial, and classified government databases accessible by government, military, and commercial personnel. Much of the labeling and tagging until recently has been conducted by human regulators working on behalf of social media companies like Alibaba, Baidu, ByteDance, and Tencent.

[iv] Many of these same issues are addressed in China’s preexisting legal infrastructure managing cyberspace including the Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law, Personal Information Protection Law, and Cybersecurity Review Measures. For more on China’s vision for global cyberspace governance, see: Thomas Shrimpton, “Beijing’s Vision for Global Cyberspace Governance,” OE Watch, 1-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Rumor Crusher.
Attribution: Public Domain

A Chinese Perspective on the Pitfalls of Military Intelligentization

“The growing use of intelligent weapons and equipment increases the risk of losing control in a crisis.”

Chinese military strategists are increasingly focused on developing practices of military “intelligentization,” the next generation of warfare expected to improve the military’s combat efficiency.[i] Intelligentization, also referred to as intelligent warfare, is the Chinese concept of applying machine speed and processing power of artificial intelligence (AI) to military planning, operational command, and decision support.[ii] The rate of developing intelligent weapons and systems is progressing at such a rapid pace, however, that it comes with potential risks, according to the following article published in the People’s Liberation Army’s official newspaper PLA Daily. According to the article, the anti-jamming ability of current intelligent systems is too weak, making intelligent systems more vulnerable. For example, drone command and control relies on communication links that connect the drones to rear personnel. If the communication link is jammed, the operator will lose control of the drone. Therefore, improved anti-jamming capability is necessary to ensure communications links are not disrupted. The article also explains that the reliability of today’s AI technology is questionable. While the AI systems’ level of intelligence is superior to that of a human, there is not yet a reliable test to ensure they will not fail in a complex combat scenario.

The article also warns that using intelligent weapons and equipment increases the risk of losing control in a crisis. For example, military operations that rely on intelligent weapons and equipment could surpass the speed of political decision making. This could weaken the decision-maker’s ability to control the situation. The article further warns that the use of intelligent weapons and equipment in large-scale combat could increase tension between countries as well as lead to changing the psychology of combatants, potentially causing them to become more desensitized to killing because of their greater distance from the battlefield and gradually reducing caution in decision-making.

The article notes that countries are increasingly pouring money into AI technology to gain military advantage, and this struggle for predominance could lead to a dangerous arms race. With current AI technology, for example, the algorithms used to distinguish civilians from combatants are not yet reliable, thereby potentially putting the lives of civilians at risk. Based on the article, there is still a long way to go before China has perfected the software to not only drive AI weapons and equipment, but also to test them to ensure they are ready to meet all the demands of the battlefield.


Luo Zhaocheng, “关注智能化武器装备运用风险 (Pay Attention to Risks in Using Intelligentized Weapons and Equipment),” PLA Daily (Official newspaper of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army), 5 January 2023.

… Currently, the world’s major countries are vigorously pursuing the development of military intelligentization of weapons and equipment across the different operational domains. While the new technology greatly enhances combat capabilities, it also could pose some great risks.

…the anti-jamming capability of intelligent weapons and equipment is weak. This could cause a loss of operational control over systems. The intelligent weapons and equipment currently used by various countries often require command and control to be conducted by rear area personnel who rely on communications links. As these links are jammed, it will be difficult to return them to operational effectiveness… Iran’s successful capturing of U.S. drones through jamming technology is a typical example…

Artificial intelligence technology in certain fields is shown to far exceed human intelligence. However, its reliability and interpretability are questionable… Presently, countries have conducted repeated simulation tests and even actual combat using intelligent weapons and equipment. However, there is still no reliable testing method to ensure its dependability should it run into a complex battlefield environment.

Wide-scale application of intelligent operations could trigger an arms race, leading to the risk of disposition for unsafe AI systems…

The use of intelligent weapons and equipment can impact the international strategic balance and increase the risk of war breaking out. The use of smart weapons and equipment increases the risk of “firing the first shot.”

The growing use of intelligent weapons and equipment increases the risk of losing control in a crisis…

…Intelligent weapons and equipment put participating personnel further away from the battlefield. Participants’ apathy will grow as distance increases…


[i] For other Chinese insights on intelligentization, see Cindy Hurst, “China: ‘New Concepts’ in Unmanned Combat,” OE Watch, October 2020. and Peter Wood, “A Chinese Perspective on Intelligent Warfare and Future Urban Operations,” OE Watch, November 2020.

[ii] For an example of intelligent warfare, see Cindy Hurst, “The ‘Blade of Victory’: A Chinese Perspective on Drone Swarms,” OE Watch, March 2020.

China’s PLA Explores “Battlefield Metaverse” Training Base To Simulate Future Warfare

“In the face of the surging wave of new technological revolution, military construction can continue to develop and advance only by adhering to integrity and innovation. Keeping an eye on the frontiers of scientific and technological development, constantly absorbing the latest scientific and technological achievements, and applying them to the practice of military reform and preparation for military struggle in a timely manner are the only way and effective measures to win future wars.”

According to a recent article in the official People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper, the PLA has been reforming its training methods to enhance combat capabilities and create realistic combat environments for troops, in part to overcome a lack of combat experience.  The PLA believes that a “battlefield metaverse” simulating future combat environments can be created where troops can experience a future multi-domain space approaching actual combat conditions.  Such a complex, dynamic, and harsh battlefield environment requires the use of advanced technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, brain-computer interface technologies, “super bionic” technology, and the Internet of Things.  

The PLA describes a metaverse as a highly technologically developed virtual world existing in parallel and reacting to the real world.  The battlefield metaverse can simulate the effects of new concept weapons such as meteorological weapons creating harsh environments or an unmanned “blue army” to prepare troops in a complex immersive environment.

Creating such a battlefield metaverse to simulate future warfare would not only increase unit combat capabilities.  It would also improve tactics and test emerging technologies required to prepare for and win future military struggles.  The PLA currently employs Battle Labs for testing tactics and new technologies, but short of actual combat, a truly immersive experience would better prepare troops to win future conflicts.


“Create a realistic and applicable ‘battlefield metaverse’ (打造逼真适用的“战场元宇宙),” PLA Daily (official People’s Liberation Army newspaper), 14 April 2022,

In recent years, with the development of information network technology, various new terms, new concepts and new things emerge one after another. After big data, cloud computing, Internet of things and blockchain, the “meta universe” has attracted more and more attention.In fact, “metaverse” is not a new term. It originated from a sci-fi concept in the novel “Avalanche” 30 years ago, and now refers to the Internet applications and social life forms that are formed by technologies such as extended reality, digital twins, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Although it is not known how the “metaverse” will develop in the future, it at least provides us with an idea: with a series of advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, etc., it is possible to create a “battlefield element” that simulates future wars. “Universe” provides a super space-time environment that combines virtual reality and Internet of Things for training and preparing for war.

Chinese Military Uses AI To Develop World’s Smallest and Most Powerful Coilgun

“Artificial intelligence can outperform humans in designing futuristic weapons…”

A group of Chinese researchers from the Naval University of Engineering in Wuhan, China, used artificial intelligence (AI) to develop the world’s smallest and most powerful coilgun.  The coilgun, which is about the size of a pistol with a 4.5-inch barrel, contains three battery-powered coils that generate an electromagnetic field.  As described in the following excerpts, published in Hong Kong-based English-language daily South China Morning Post, the kinetic energy of the bullet flying through the barrel has more than twice the energy needed to fire a fatal shot.  The researchers claim the weapon is ideal for counterterrorism and stability operations.  The advantage of the coilgun over a conventional gun is its “adjustable speed and very short response time.”

AI is playing a key role in developing China’s electromagnetic weapons.  The article describes the coilgun as more sophisticated than a typical firearm and too complex for traditional weapons software to handle.  AI, however, can continuously improve an imperfect design through self-learning.  According to the article, “it would have been impossible to achieve this level of performance without using AI in the design process.”  Chinese researchers have also been using AI to develop large-scale electromagnetic weapons, such as railguns, which have a range of “hundreds of kilometers.”  The Chinese navy now has a test facility in which AI is used to develop smart railgun munitions capable of enduring extremely high pressure and intense magnetic fields.


Stephen Chen, “Chinese Researchers Turn to Artificial Intelligence To Build Futuristic Weapons,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong’s most prominent online English-language daily), 5 December 2021,

Artificial intelligence can outperform humans in designing futuristic weapons, according to a team of Chinese naval researchers who say they have developed the world’s smallest yet most powerful coilgun.

The prototype weapon developed by professor Zhang Xiao and her team at the Naval University of Engineering in Wuhan has a 12cm (4.5-inch) barrel, about the size of a pistol, which contains three battery-powered coils that generate an electromagnetic field.

This electromagnetic field means that, unlike a conventional gun, the bullet does not touch the sides as it passes through the barrel.

Researchers found the bullet’s kinetic energy as it was could reach almost 150 joules, more than twice the energy needed to fire a fatal shot.

The bullet speed can vary depending on factors such as size and weight, and the scientists said one of the major advantages of using a coil gun was that, unlike a conventional gun, it could be adjusted to fire deadly shots or non-lethal ones.

In a paper published in the Transactions of the China Electrotechnical Society last month, Zhang said the gun had the advantage of “adjustable speed and a very short response time”, adding that it had great potential to be used for counterterrorism and maintaining stability.

The researchers say it would have been impossible to achieve this level of performance without using AI in the design process.

The Chinese Way of War: How Has it Changed? (Timothy L. Thomas)

The Chinese Way of War: How Has it Changed? (Timothy L. Thomas)

(Click image to download book.)

The Chinese way of war has changed dramatically from what it was 20 years ago, but that does not mean everything is new. Some components of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) historic thought (deception, stratagems, etc.) remain as important elements and are being integrated into technologies. However, China’s intelligentization of operations and focus on joint and all-domain capabilities (to include some domains not currently under consideration in the US) create new challenges. Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to help design warfare and provide control over conflicts, ensuring that the PLA has a future deterrent force to confront other nations. It appears that China will remain a formidable opponent for many years to come.