Emerging Technologies: Considerations for Integration in the Canadian Military


by Edward Allen-Rawding

Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies are reshaping the nature of modern warfare. It is important that the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recognize these trends, and adapt and integrate emerging technologies in ways that leverage their operational benefits while mitigating the new risks they present.  


  • We are currently at a pivotal moment in human history: increasingly, every decision we make is guided by AI, based on AI, influenced by AI, or made by AI; content generated by AI is now generally indistinguishable from human-made content.
    • Moreover, the importance and influence of AI will only increase as development and innovation continue to grow exponentially.
  • The war in Ukraine has seen the rapid integration of new drone, anti-drone, electronic warfare, and AI technologies by both sides of the conflict.
    • The war in Ukraine has shown the importance of strategic and tactical agility on a modern battlefield, and how leveraging new technologies is able to help modern forces achieve more integrated and efficient battle spaces.
    • Geopolitical competition and conflict are a driving force for the development and implementation of these technologies, as well as a complicating factor in international governance discussions concerning their responsible use. Reaching agreements between allies on the regulation of these technologies’ military application is much easier than with competitor states.
  • Increasing profile of AI technology on the battlefield and within cyber warfare.


  • Emerging technologies have expanded the battlefield and reshaped frontline operations:
    • FPV drones have radically altered the scope and range of frontline precision anti-personnel and anti-tank operations.
    • Advancements in drone, cyber, and electronic warfare have rendered the frontline more transparent by speeding up targeting and enabling real-time monitoring of troop positions, supply, and movements
  • Although current discussions around AI are largely focused on weapons, states are also increasingly employing AI decision-support systems and tools for targeting.
    • Integration of AI into command and control structures offers several benefits: enhanced situational awareness and battlefield flexibility, more timely and efficient decision making at-pace, and the ability to shorten and streamline the decision-making cycle (“kill-chain”).
    • As AI-assisted decision-making and targeting tools are increasingly adopted by militaries, and space and time condense within conflicts, there are concerns about ensuring sufficient and meaningful oversight and understanding of how these systems operate, including their potential to malfunction.
  • Currently, militaries, especially smaller ones, e.g., Ukraine, predominantly view AI as a force multiplier.
    • AI is also a threat multiplier, amplifying the capabilities of both hostile state and non-state actors for disruptive and destructive action.
    • The use of AI within misinformation and disinformation operations has implications for the modern battle space, and is increasingly recognized as a significant challenge for militaries operating in the contemporary information environment.


  • In light of the CAF’s current issues with recruitment and retention, integrating AI technology is an appealing way to offset the effect of these issues on operational readiness and efficiency. Leveraging emerging AI tech, where it is suitable, can help reduce the impact of labour shortages while also providing current CAF personnel with more efficient tools.
  • Integration of emerging tech and AI into the CAF will require increased investment, and a whole-of-organization vision to ensure all parts of the force are working towards the same, clearly articulated, goal.
  • Conversely, the imperative of a comprehensive and clear vision for AI integration within the CAF is complemented by the importance of an incremental approach towards achieving this goal.
    • An incremental approach will ensure that integration of new technology and AI will remain rooted in the concrete needs of the CAF and its personnel.
    • Incremental approach also facilitates accurately assessing the human and financial capital, expertise, and partnerships necessary to achieving this goal.
    • Institutions that are looking to implement and leverage emerging AI technology need to start investing now to begin building up processes, resources, and capabilities. In order to develop effective and efficient military applications it is necessary to begin from the ground up and develop systems to support AI integration and application.
  • As AI technology is integrated into the CAF, there is a need to ensure that personnel using AI technology and tools understand how they work and their potential limitations.
    • Need to inculcate awareness of automation bias, and the ways in which AI systems can be designed to push operators towards certain decisions.
    • Need for clarity on what a sufficient level of human involvement in AI-assisted decision making processes should be. This clarity is currently lacking from Canada within international discussions.

Concluding note

As they continue to change how modern warfare is conducted, emerging technologies present an important operational, structural, and cultural challenge for militaries. Although necessitating increased investment, their well-planned integration is critical in order for the CAF and Canada to be able to meet the geostrategic challenges of today, and the future.

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