China's ammunition factories will soon reportedly be run by artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robots, which could help Beijing triple its bombs and weapons production within the next decade. China has begun replacing factory workers with robots in efforts to overcome staff shortage issues and the risks associated with such work.
However, in addition to safely and effectively manufacturing weapons, China's new ammunitions robot force could also be used to develop next-generation bombs and warheads to boost the country's military and defence. Specially designed robots could reportedly be used to develop explosives, including bombs and rockets, as well as build more sophisticated weapons, such as bombs with computer chips embedded in them and sensors capable of carrying out precision strikes.
According to Xu Zhigang, lead scientist with China's "high-level weapon system intelligent manufacturing programme", robots could also soon be used to develop sensitive photoelectric spy devices as well as develop massive high-powered diesel engines for China's air force and military vehicles.
Xu told the South China Morning Post that one-third of China's ammunition factories have already begun to replace workers with "smart machines". Xu predicts that once all of China's ammunitions factories have been upgraded within the next 10 years, it will boost weapons production by around 100 to 200%.
Already, one bomb assembly line in the country, which once employed over 100 workers, is now almost entirely run by robots, with only three human workers reportedly overseeing the production. However, contrary to the idea of robots costing jobs, according to experts, the move could allow for the young Chinese workforce to be spared the risks of weapons production work.
"The robots can free workers from risky, repetitive jobs in the bomb-making process," Professor Huang Dexian from Tsinghua University told the South China Morning Post. "It will create new jobs such as control optimisation, hardware maintenance and technical upgrades. It will give us a stronger, healthier, happier defence workforce."
Over the past few years, China has launched an ambitious plan to modernise its military and defence by developing new missiles, bombers and warships. Most recently, Beijing tested a new hypersonic missile – named DF-17 – which is one among seven other hypersonic weapons China has tested in the past few years, which could reshape weapons technology.