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China’s ‘AI Ship Designer’ Works At Unprecedented Speed; Performed A Year’s Work Only In 24 Hours!


Nov 4, 2011

China’s ‘AI Ship Designer’ Works At Unprecedented Speed; Performed A Year’s Work Only In 24 Hours!​

ByTanmay Kadam
March 12, 2023

A team of Chinese researchers funded by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently claimed to have used artificial intelligence (AI) to design an electrical layout of a warship with 100 percent accuracy and at an unprecedented speed.

A team of researchers from the China Ship Design and Research Center, headed by Luo Wei, a senior engineer with the ship design center, published a paper in the Chinese-language journal Computer Integrated Manufacturing Systems on February 27.

The researchers claimed in the paper that their AI designer took only a day to complete work that humans would need nearly a year to achieve with the most advanced computer tools.

Considering the scale and complexity of modern warships, mistakes are sure to happen during the design process, and it can take several hours to discover and rectify them. However, when the researchers put the AI designer to the test, with more than 400 challenging tasks, they found that the AI could accomplish 100 percent accuracy.

According to the researchers, while there is still room for improvement, their AI designer was “ready for engineering applications” in China’s shipbuilding industry to increase the rate of warship manufacturing.

Luo’s team said that the Chinese military funded their AI designer project because the design process was the main area hindering the speed of production of warships rather than shipyard delays.

Chinese AI Compared To That Of Google

Luo’s team compared their AI designer to those developed by companies like Google to increase the speed of computer chip design. There were some critical differences between the two, according to the team.

Firstly, the team notes in the paper that there is no room for error in warship design, and the AI chip designer can make a few mistakes.

Furthermore, the team said that while an AI chip designer could produce many products, computing resources could be assigned to train it, and the company could still realize a profit margin.

Whereas their AI warship designer was only working on one vessel without the resources of a Big Tech company.

Also, unlike an AI system that learns and makes decisions independently without human intervention, the warship designer created by the team is a machine that operates with human guidance.

The AI designer starts by consulting a database of Chinese ship design knowledge and experience from past decades, and then it comes up with a design, which it checks against the database. According to Luo’s team, this approach significantly reduced the computing resources needed and eliminated errors.

The team also noted that the AI designer’s effectiveness had only been proven for the layout of electrical systems. However, it also carried out these design tasks much faster and more accurately than humans, and it could be used easily with a small computer system.

“Other countries may have developed similar systems, but they have not disclosed them publicly due to the military sensitivity,” the team added.

China Could Surpass The US

China already boasts the world’s largest navy numerically after overtaking the US Navy between 2015 and 2020. If the recent claims by Luo’s team are anything to go by, the US military planners have much to fear.

The US is already concerned about China’s expanding naval fleet and its capacity to produce warships at a very high pace.

The US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told reporters in Washington last month that US naval shipyards cannot match the output of Chinese ones.

“They have 13 shipyards. In some cases, their shipyard has more capacity – one shipyard has more capacity than all of our shipyards combined. That presents a real threat,” Del Toro said.

China intends to build a fleet of more than 400 warships by 2025. The US naval fleet is currently under 300 ships, and the Pentagon aims to have 350 manned vessels by 2045, according to the US Navy’s Navigation Plan 2022 released last summer, which is still way behind China.

In January, a senior American naval expert, Sam Tangredi, a former US Navy captain and the Leidos Chair of Future Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College, warned that the US Navy might lose to China’s PLA Navy, which enjoys a substantial numerical advantage over the US, saying, “the side with the most ships almost always wins.”

In a January issue of the US Naval Institute’s (USNI’s) Proceedings magazine, Tangredi looked at 28 naval wars in history, going back to the Greco-Persian Wars of 500 BC, and found that superior technology defeated more significant numbers in only three instances.

“Using technological advantage as an indicator of quality, historical research on 28 naval wars (or wars with significant and protracted naval combat) indicates that the side won 25 with the larger fleet,” wrote Tangredi, while noting that in cases where fleet size was roughly equal, superior strategy and substantially better trained and motivated crews carried the day.

“Only three could be said to have been won by a smaller fleet with superior technology,” according to Tangredi’s findings.

On the issue of a potential future conflict with China, Tangredi says that a naval war against China in the western Pacific in this decade would see a smaller US Naval force against a gigantic PLA Navy, and that too in waters near China, inside the range of PLA’s air and rocket forces.

“US leaders must ask themselves to what extent they are willing to bet on technological—without numerical—superiority in that fight,” wrote Tangredi.



Nov 4, 2011

AI warship designer accelerating China’s naval lead

Chinese military study claims AI designs naval ship electrical systems in a day what it would take human designers nearly a year
MARCH 19, 2023


China is using AI for a naval edge. Image: Screengrab / Twitter

China is set to supercharge its naval shipbuilding program with AI, accelerating production rates and potentially cementing its quantitative lead over the US.

This month, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that a research team from the China Ship Design and Research Center used AI operating on a small computer system to design a warship’s electrical systems in one day.

This task would reportedly take human designers 300 days using the most advanced computer tools, the source says. SCMP notes that the research team published their findings in the Chinese-language journal Computer Integrated Manufacturing Systems last month.

According to Luo Wei, a senior engineer with the ship design center, the AI accomplished 400 tasks with 100% accuracy, noting that although the AI showed areas for improvement, it could accelerate China’s shipbuilding program, as reported by the source.

SCMP says that the AI works by consulting a database of Chinese ship designs from past decades and then comes up with a design that is checked against the database, with this approach drastically reducing computing resources and eliminating errors.

However, the source also says that while the AI made mistakes in the design process, it does not work autonomously but rather functions with human guidance. SCMP also notes that the AI project received military funding, as the design process was the main obstacle to speeding up warship production rather than shipyard capacity.

The technology can further cement China’s shipbuilding lead over the US. Asia Times reported last month that the US could not match China’s shipbuilding output, as China has 13 naval shipyards, each with more capacity than all seven US naval shipyards combined.

China’s massive shipbuilding capacity has contributed to having the world’s largest navy at 340 ships, compared to the US at 280 as of 2022.


China now has more naval vessels than the US. Image: Xinhua

China has also been using AI to design weapons other than warships. Asia Times reported on March 2022 that China had developed AI that can independently design hypersonic weapons.

The Chinese researchers behind the project claimed that the AI could identify most of the shock waves produced in hypersonic wind tunnel tests making thousands of images per second that would be too tedious and costly for human researchers to analyze.

China’s AI tool for designing hypersonic weapons can assist researchers in developing new designs that can fly faster and are even more difficult to intercept than current models.

Aside from weapons, China has been applying AI technology to strategic capabilities. For example, Asia Times reported in April 2022 that China had used AI to turn commercial imaging satellites into potent spy satellites, effectively exploiting the dual-use nature of space-based imaging.

The AI upgrade to China’s low-cost civilian Jilin-1 satellite achieved a 95% precision rate compared to 14% for traditional satellite AI in analyzing small objects such as planes in the air or cars on the street.

Apart from the Jilin-1, China has also upgraded its Beijing-3 commercial imaging satellite with AI, allowing it to perform an in-depth scan of San Francisco in 42 seconds at an altitude of 500 kilometers, producing images clear enough that military vehicles on the streets and the weapons they carried could be identified.

Apart from weapons and strategic capabilities, China is using AI to assist in shaping its operational environment in the physical and cognitive domains.

This month, Asia Times reported on China’s use of AI to gain a decisive edge in the South China Sea. Its AI developed an extensive logistics network in the contested body of water. The AI developed a logistics network spanning 17 to 80 features in the region.

The 80-feature scenario cost US$2.9 billion to build new harbors, warehouses and cargo ships, and maintain regular fights between China and 20 island airports. This logistics network also enables China to send personnel and equipment to any feature within six hours after a typhoon or other contingency.

In addition to weapons and capabilities, AI plays a crucial role in China’s military strategy. This January, Asia Times reported on China’s AI-powered “smart deterrence” strategy for a Taiwan contingency.

China aims to become a leader in “intelligent warfare,” exploiting the military edge offered by technologies such as AI, cloud computing, Big Data analytics and cyber offense and defense.

This strategy assumes that the side that can outsmart the enemy without a fight will prevail, with China’s “intelligentized warfare” concept emphasizing the seizure of the information domain to deter or manage a conflict by depriving adversary access to information.

For example, in a Taiwan contingency, China uses AI to manipulate public opinion and wage psychological warfare to erode the self-governing island’s will to resist through propaganda and disinformation.


Tourists look on as a Chinese military helicopter flies past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest points to Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan. Photo: Twitter / JIJI

However, the increasing use and weaponization of AI may have unforeseen consequences.

Branka Marijian notes in a March 2022 article for Scientific American that the use of AI in weapons systems is immature and error-prone, as it needs to be clarified how these systems make decisions.

Moreover, Marijian notes that some AI-powered weapons will inevitably hit the wrong targets, AI can carry its creators’ biases against specific groups of people and an AI arms race between major military powers may result in the rushed deployment of such before the technology is mature.

Asia Times noted in May 2022 that this overreliance on AI could lead to “flash wars,” wherein unmanned systems from opposing sides react against each other, leading to an uncontrolled chain reaction of escalation.

Flash war triggers, such as unavoidable incidents and accidents due to the fog of war including friendly fire, civilian casualties and bad military judgment, can spark an escalation that can reach catastrophic proportions before humans can intervene.

Despite that, states have been reluctant to enact norms governing the use of AI as they are unwilling to relinquish any absolute gain and military advantage given by the technology.


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