AI in Weapon Systems Committee
Proceed with Caution: Artificial Intelligence in Weapon Systems

Report of Session 2023-24 - published 1 December 2023 - HL Paper 16



List of abbreviations

Chapter 1: Introduction

Box 1: Artificial intelligence

Box 2: Automation and autonomy in weapon systems

The domestic policy landscape

Figure 1: Autonomy spectrum framework

Box 3: The Ministry of Defence’s Five Ethical Principles for AI in Defence

The international policy landscape

Background to this inquiry

Structure of the Report

Chapter 2: Automation, Autonomy and AI

Defining AWS

Definitions by other states

Box 4: Definitions of autonomous system, Autonomous
Weapon Systems (AWS) and Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) by other countries

Capturing the characteristics of AWS

Challenges in creating a single definition

The value of a definition

Capabilities of AI systems

Box 5: Machine Learning

Predictability and reliability

Data sets

Transparency and Explainability

Testing, evaluation, verification and validation

Meaningful human control and accountability

Box 6: Targeting Directives

Chapter 3: AWS and the Battlefield of the Future

Box 7: Potential battlefield benefits and risks of AWS

Changing paradigms of conflict


Sabotage and counter AWS

Use of AWS by non-state actors

Box 8: Open-source software

Arms control

Escalation and an AI arms race

“Arms race afoot”?

Stuck on the escalator?

AI in nuclear command and control

Box 9: Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act

Nuclear escalation

Technological risks

Chapter 4: International Law

AWS and international law

Box 10: Basic Principles of international humanitarian law

Compliance of AWS with IHL

Meaningful human control

IHL obligations during weapons development

Enforcement and accountability

Individual accountability

Does the regulation of AWS require new international law?

Box 11: Guiding Principles agreed at the 2019 Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the CCW Convention

Chapter 5: UK Domestic Policy on AWS

Translating strategy to operational practice

Procurement, Innovation and Talent


Democratic control

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest

Appendix 2: List of witnesses

Appendix 3: Call for evidence

Appendix 4: Examples of AWS and AI-enabled weapons

Appendix 5: Glossary

Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074).

Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence

© Parliamentary copyright 2023