China's Robots Will Triple Bomb and Ammunition Production Capacity by 2028

Soldiers load bombs onto a fighter plane used to break up ice floating on the Yellow River, in Ordos, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, on March 22, 2011. China’s artificial intelligence robots will triple the country’s bomb and shell production capacity by 2028, according to a senior scientist with the weapons program. Getty

China's artificial intelligence robots could triple the country's production of bombs and shells by 2028, according to a senior scientist involved in the program to boost ammunition productivity.

Xu Zhigang, lead scientist with China's weapon systems intelligent manufacturing program, told the South China Morning Post last Wednesday that smart machines—five times more productive than a human—have begun replacing ammunition workers in a quarter of the country's factories.

The smart robots have been fitted with man-made "hands and eyes," he told the paper. With these anthropomorphic qualities, they are able to assemble deadly explosives, including artillery shells, bombs and rockets, according to Xu.

China has recently turned to robot automation to populate ammunition factories because the country is running out of human workers. According to Xu, robots have been brought in to address the safety and labor issues that have intensified over the past few decades.

"However high the salary offered, young people are simply not interested in working in an army ammunition plant nowadays," he said.

According to South China Morning Post, this is in part because of the danger involved in the job, with numerous deadly accidents having occurred at ammunition factories in recent years.

Over the past six decades, 20 to 30 factories were set up in China. However, most of them are situated in remote locations due to safety concerns. The location of the factories coupled with the nature of the work means employees are difficult to find.

The robot bomb-makers are also more efficient and accurate than their human counterparts. According to Xu, they are able to measure the dangerous explosives more precisely and apply the perfect pressure to powder on warheads to produce the highest possible detonation yield.

"And the machines never get tired," he added.

Professor Huang Dexian, from Tsinghua University's department of automation, told South China Morning Post that robots can now be programmed to come up with more efficient bomb-making techniques by analyzing the working habits of skillful, experienced human employees.

"The robots can free workers from risky, repetitive jobs in the bomb-making process. It will create new jobs such as control optimization, hardware maintenance and technical upgrades. It will give us a stronger, healthier, happier defense workforce," he said.

China has recently increased efforts to rejuvenate the country's military and defense force by modernizing its missiles, bombers and warships.

In November, the country tested the DF-17, a new ballistic weapon with a hypersonic glide vehicle (GHV) and a range of between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers.