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Military applications of quantum physics

Countries race to exploit emerging Quantum revolution into defense and security

Technology is increasingly important for military and national security. On the one hand, advances in cyber, medical, materials science, and robotics technologies offer potential for our security and prosperity. At the same time, reliance on these technologies creates vulnerabilities to attack. Quantum technology translates the principles of quantum physics into technological applications. Quantum applications rely on a number of key concepts, including superposition, quantum bits (qubits), and entanglement. Superposition refers to the ability of quantum systems to exist in two or more states simultaneously.


Quantum technology  field comprises four domains: Quantum Communication, where individual or entangled photons are used to transmit data in a provably secure way; Quantum Simulation, where well-controlled quantum systems are used to reproduce the behavior of other, less accessible quantum systems; Quantum Computation, which employs quantum effects to dramatically speed up certain calculations, such as number factoring; and Quantum Sensing & Metrology, where the high sensitivity of coherent quantum systems to external perturbations is exploited to enhance the performance of measurements of physical quantities.


A classical computer encodes information in bits that can represent binary states of either 0 or 1, whereas a quantum computer encodes information in qubits, each of which can represent 0, 1, or a combination of 0 and 1 at the same time. Thus, the power of a quantum computer increases exponentially with the addition of each qubit.  Quantum computers will play an important role in data encryption including the optimization of computational algorithms for modeling systems, big data, and artificial intelligence. They would be able to crack the codes underlying internet security in just a few minutes, however, full-scale quantum computers are still potentially decades away.


In contrast, devices that exploit quantum phenomena to encrypt codes, rather than break them, are starting to appear on the market. Quantum technology could also enable a secure communication system known as “quantum key distribution,” or QKD.


Quantum technologies will lead to major advances in precision timing, sensors and computation, destined to have a major impact on the finance, defence, aerospace, energy, infrastructure and telecommunications sectors. Several nations are heavily investing in quantum research to gain economic and military advantage. The dual-use nature of quantum computing means that private companies and universities will also play key roles in inventing and adapting these new technologies.


These transformations consist not only of making possible functions that are not possible by other means, but also in enabling improvements in the size, weight, power requirements, speed, or ease of use – in some cases, by orders of magnitude – over functionality provided by conventional technologies. . Moving from the laboratory to industry to widespread adoption presents engineering and manufacturing challenges, may be disruptive and will require market confidence and the development of supply chains.


By 2024, the estimated global market for quantum technologies will reach $10.7 billion, Therefore achieving quantum  supremacy has become a geopolitical priority for countries like Europe, China, Canada, Australia and the United States. The advantage gained by acquiring the first computer that renders all other computers obsolete would be enormous and bestow economic, military, and public health advantages to the winner. Indian researchers have not demonstrated quantum entanglement experiments like many leading countries.


China has poured billions of dollars into its quantum programs. Other countries accelerating their investments include Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, and several Asia-Pacific nations including Japan. India has also announced a $1 billion investment into quantum technologies. In 2018, US Congress passed the National Quantum Initiative Act to garner leadership in the areas of quantum technologies and computing.


The January 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate conceded the United States’ lead in science and technology had been significantly eroded, mainly because of Chinese gains. Scott Aaronson is the David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin, and director of its Quantum Information Center. In an email to Moor Insights & Strategy, he said, “I think that China is ahead of the US right now in quantum communications, simply because they decided to invest a lot in that area while the US decided not to. I think that the US retains a strong lead in quantum computation with other important centers being Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, Singapore, Israel.”


Russia is also investing in quantum computing, at the Russian Quantum Center, but it has not committed the same level of resources as other nations and remains behind China and the US.  President Vladimir Putin has, however, reportedly raised national spending on research and development (R&D) to 1% of Russia’s gross domestic product, with R187bn (US$3bn) earmarked for fundamental scientific R&D in 2018.


On January 21, 2020, President Macron formalized the French strategy on quantum technologies by presenting an investment plan of €1.8 billion over five years. Annual spending in favor of this sector will thus move from €60 million at present to €200 million, placing France in third place after the United States and China.


More specifically, the French plan aims to allocate nearly €800 million to computers alone, whether these are the first machines to be developed (simulators and partially quantum machines, €350 million), or many of those which will be developed in the longer term (fully-fledged quantum computers, €430 million). The other funds will be devoted to sensors (€250 million), post-quantum cryptography (€150 million), quantum communications (€320 million) and related technologies which facilitate the development of quantum equipment (cryogenics, for example, €300 million). Part of France’s spending will initially be to create a platform that will allow traditional computers to access quantum processing power. Quantum computers are expensive and extremely complex to build, so a remote platform is critical for providing the defense industry with access to quantum tools.


The bulk of the sums of this quantum plan will be directed towards research work. The government takes its inspiration from the measures implemented for two years by the Artificial Intelligence plan. What’s more, the training of more than 150 young researchers will be funded every year.


Collectively, European nations are also investing substantially and making significant advances. The European Commission’s quantum-technologies flagship programme will be a large-scale research initiative in the order of €1bn (US$1.1bn) over a ten-year period. It is intended to focus on four main areas of quantum technology: communication, computation, simulation and sensing.


French President Emmanuel Macron signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia’s then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in May 2018 on a joint venture between the two countries to develop and commercialise a quantum silicon integrated circuit. This joint venture will combine the efforts of the Australian company Silicon Quantum Computing and the French research institute Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives. Finally, in September 2018, Germany announced new funding for quantum-technologies research worth €650m (US$771m) for the period 2018–22.



Quantum technologies impact on Defense and Security

The possibilities afforded by advanced quantum information technologies may affect some of the most important national security tools and tasks, such as intelligence collection, solution optimization, encryption, stealth technology, computer processing, and communications. Indeed, the diversity of quantum applications across the national security domain warrants some immediate concern, both for how we can harness quantum systems and for how those quantum systems may undercut our security.


Three applications of quantum technology hold the most promise for military applications are quantum sensing, quantum computers, and quantum communications. Defence and national security are likely to be among the first domains to adopt these emerging technologies: particularly quantum-enabled clocks, quantum navigators, quantum gravity sensors and quantum imaging. There are important potential applications, but this needs to be tempered by the fact that many quantum technologies are either still at a theoretical stage, or are still in early development.


Quantum gravity sensors, quantum navigation, and quantum imaging are available and transitioning to consumer products; quantum secured communications is available commercially, but with limitations in terms of distance and usability. Meanwhile, fully capable quantum computing is still some years away, but the theory which will make this possible is developing rapidly, and forms of quantum computing and quantum simulation are already available in early forms.


Quantum Computers

The speed at which quantum computers will be able tackle some complex problems can offer new possibilities. Quantum computers could be used by defense planners to do large-scale simulations of military deployments, by scientists to model complex chemical reactions to design new materials, or even by computer scientists to crack cryptography or advanced artificial intelligence tools.


While traditional computers will likely remain the most economical way of performing computational tasks, quantum computers “have the potential to outperform their classical counterparts on certain classes of problems related to machine learning and optimization, the simulation of physical systems, and the collection and transfer of sensitive information,” commissioners said in the draft report. Quantum computers could more efficiently optimize military logistics operations or help discover new materials for weapon platforms, the study noted.


The ability of quantum computers to solve complex optimization problems can help solve many existing national security problems such as logistics/flow to theater optimization or wargaming. Longer-term potential benefits could include opening new frontiers for technology, improving artificial intelligence, and leading to new discoveries in science.


For example, some analysts have suggested that quantum computers could enable advances in machine learning, a subfield of AI. Such advances could spur improved pattern recognition and machine-based target identification. This could in turn enable the development of more accurate lethal autonomous weapon systems, or weapons capable of selecting and engaging targets without the need for manual
human control or remote operation. AI-enabled quantum computers potentially could be paired with quantum sensors to further enhance military ISR applications.


The practical applications of quantum computers will likely be realized only after improvement in error rates and development of new quantum algorithms, software tools, and hardware. Dozens of engineering teams, from big companies like Google, IBM and Amazon to universities and startups, are racing to build a full-scale working quantum computer. China is reportedly spending $10 billion on the effort, building a center devoted to quantum computing and artificial intelligence; the U.S. government has committed $1 billion; and corporate and military budgets likely hold many millions more—for instance, Google and IBM are each thought to have spent in excess of $100 million.


The term ‘quantum supremacy’ refers to the ability of a quantum computer to perform tasks beyond the capability of today’s most powerful conventional supercomputers. Google announced a 72-qubit processor in 2018 – surpassing IBM’s record the previous year of 50 qubits – and said that its new chip might achieve quantum supremacy within a year.  The advances in quantum computing any and all previously encrypted sensitive communications (from government and military secrets to bank transactions) can potentially be compromised.


Google achieved what it called “quantum supremacy” when its quantum computer performed a calculation faster than a conventional computer could. “Our machine performed the target computation in 200 seconds, and from measurements in our experiment we determined that it would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to produce a similar output,” wrote Google’s John Martinis and Sergio Boixo in a blog post. And in Dec 2020, a team under the direction of Pan Jianwei at the University of Science and Technology in China (USTC), in the journal Science, said its quantum computer succeeded in performing a calculation 100 trillion times faster than a conventional computer could—surpassing Google’s achievement by a factor of 10 billion, according to the Xinhua.


While the promise of quantum computing may be large, there is no exact timeline for commercial availability of a general-purpose universal quantum computer. Due to complexities of science and engineering, it is difficult to predict when the first fully functional quantum computer will be available, but steady progress is being made, and some argue it could be within the next few decades.



Quantum Computer threat to cryptography

However, the use of quantum computers will also likely require the development of new encryption techniques, as many existing techniques may be susceptible to algorithms run on quantum computers.


Current military-grade, Advanced Encryption Standard 256-bit encryption would theoretically require billions of years for modern computers to crack the code through brute-force methods (i.e., ‘trial-and-error’ of all possible solutions). Quantum computers, however, while providing exponential speed up and threaten many current cryptography.  Their estimates suggest that a quantum computer with around 20 million qubits would be required to break current encryption methods; however, the most advanced quantum computers today generally have no more than 100 qubits. Optimistic estimates of quantum computer development suggest that achieving this feat could be only about 10 years away.


The promise of quantum cryptanalysis is so alluring that some countries are already beginning to collect encrypted foreign communications with the expectation that they will be able to extract valuable secrets from that data in the future. When quantum cryptanalysis does become available, it will significantly affect international relations by making broadcast (or intercepted) communications open to decryption. For countries that extensively rely on encryption to secure military operations, diplomatic correspondence or other sensitive data, this could be a watershed event.


DOD scientists and civilian partners are working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop new cryptographic standards that ensure information stays private even under threat from quantum computers.


If future quantum computers threaten the security of today’s encryption methods, another side of the quantum coin – quantum cryptography – can permit unbreakable encryption. In fact, quantum cryptography could offer complete security based on physics, invulnerable to computing power.


Quantum communications or QKD

Quantum cryptography is an emerging technology in which two parties may simultaneously generate shared, secret cryptographic key material using the transmission of quantum states of light. A unique aspect of quantum cryptography is that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle ensures that if Eve attempts to intercept and measure Alice’s quantum transmissions, her activities must produce an irreversible change in the quantum states that are retransmitted to Bob. These changes will introduce an anomalously high error rate in the transmissions between Alice and Bob, allowing them to detect the attempted eavesdropping. As the very process of intercepting (or ‘eavesdropping’ on) a qubit irreversibly changes it, QKD offers a valuable means of knowing if communications have been intercepted and examined (e.g., through a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack).


The guaranteed secrecy of QKD systems threatens to make it impossible to spy on communication channels use by adversary countries. Whether these are channels that are already tapped, or ones that would be useful to tap in the future, improvements in communication security can potentially cut off information that might be useful in statecraft or to gain advantage in a military crisis. This does not mean QKD is impenetrable. It still requires that the stations where the sender and receiver operate be secure, and it may still be vulnerable to jamming and certain types of attacks on both the quantum setup or classical encryption, but it does add another layer of protection to extremely sensitive data.


Quantum communications could theoretically enable the secure networking of quantum military sensors, computers, and other systems, thus improving performance over that of a single quantum system or classical communications network. Networking could additionally strengthen the robustness of such systems at range, thus expanding the potential e nvironments in which they could be deployed (i.e., outside of the laboratory settings generally required to sustain fragile quantum states). This could significantly expand the military utility of quantum communications.


Military is also transitioning to Quantum cryptography to takes advantage of the properties of matter in addition to the principles of mathematics to create a cryptosystem that cannot be broken with unlimited computing power (even with a quantum computer). Most immediate uses will focus on using QKD and other methods to secure sensitive government communications such as in nuclear command and control on from shore to submarines, but long-term uses may center on creation of networks of quantum computers.


To date, QKD has been successfully tested using fiber optics and in satellite communications and has even hosted the first quantum-encrypted videoconference. Today, many of a nation’s most sensitive secrets, such as nuclear launch codes or sensitive intelligence, are protected via symmetric encryption where both sender and receiver share a key. This can be a nearly unbreakable form of encryption, but it does require the physical exchange of new code sheets or digital keys, often via truck, helicopter, or hand courier. QKD offers one way to speed up the exchange of those keys over long distances while remaining secure, making it well suited for protecting sensitive national security communications.


Beijing is striving to become a world leader in quantum technology through large-scale state-guided investments, which may total tens of billions of dollars in the years to come. Under its 13th five-year plan, introduced in 2016, China has launched a “megaproject” for quantum communications and computing, which aims to achieve major breakthroughs in these technologies by 2030, including the expansion of China’s national quantum communications infrastructure, the development of a general quantum computer prototype, and the construction of a practical quantum simulator. China is also building the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, which, with over $1 billion in initial funding, could emerge as a key center of gravity for future research and development.


In 2017 China achieved what no other country has been able to then or since in quantum communications. In a world-first long-distance secure quantum communication, Chinese physicists connected Beijing with Shanghai – a distance of over 1,900 kilometers. They were able to demonstrate a secure key, distributed using quantum bits of light, or photons, from earth to their satellite and back down to earth. And in another world-first they were able to transmit a video signal encoded from this quantum secure key to make a secure video call from China to Austria. It was only possible because of the world’s first quantum satellite, known as Micius. The Micius satellite has now successfully completed QKD from orbit to ground stations in Xinglong, China, and Graz, Austria. These two milestones were celebrated worldwide, primarily by scientists, and highlighted to the scientific and military establishments in the US and Europe just how far in front China has developed their quantum technologies. And quantum cryptography could give China an edge in securing military communications.


The UK’s first quantum network was launched in June 2018 in Cambridge, enabling ‘unhackable’ communications, made secure by the laws of physics, between three sites around the city. The ‘metro’ network provides secure quantum communications between the Electrical Engineering Division at West Cambridge, the Department of Engineering in the city centre and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd (TREL) on the Cambridge Science Park.


In Sep 2020, Verizon  reported to have conducted a trial in the Washington D.C. area deploying a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) network. The successful trial positions Verizon as one of the first carriers to pilot QKD in the U.S. Current technological breakthroughs have proven that both the quantum channel and encrypted data channel can be sent over a single optical fiber.


While there may be great potential for quantum encryption to protect a government’s or a company’s sensitive secrets, quantum communication’s real use may emerge as an enabler for quantum computing. Given the small number of quantum computers likely to exist in the foreseeable future, connecting multiple such computers together could not only improve performance but also increase access to these important quantum tools.  While such a network of quantum computers is likely some time off, as it would require the development of new forms of quantum communication far more advanced than today’s QKD, it could introduce entirely new uses for quantum computing, much as the internet did while connecting classical computers.


Quantum Sensors

The second quantum revolution does not end with computing and communications but extends to a variety of measurement activities as well. While we may not give it too much thought, many of our everyday tasks rely on some form of precise measurement: Taking a picture requires measurement of light, while using GPS to get directions requires precise measurement of time. So, quantum’s ability to improve such measurement tasks can be a real game-changer.


Many scientists believe that quantum will enjoy its first real commercial success in sensing. That’s because sensing can take advantage of the very characteristic that makes building a quantum computer so difficult: the extraordinary sensitivity of quantum states to the environment. Quantum Sensors could be  transformative, enabling autonomous vehicles that can “see” around corners, underwater navigation systems, early-warning systems for volcanic activity and earthquakes, and portable scanners that monitor a person’s brain activity during daily life.


Quantum sensing could provide a number of enhanced military capabilities. In addition, quantum sensors could potentially be used in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role. Quantum metrology can help create new forms of cameras, radars, and other systems. These can provide more capable means of detecting everything from stealth aircraft (quantum RADAR) to submarines (quantum ghost imaging) to underground facilities (quantum gravimetry). Successful development and deployment of such sensors could lead to significant improvements in submarine detection and, in turn, compromise the survivability of sea-based nuclear deterrents.


Quantum sensors could also enable military personnel to detect underground structures or nuclear materials due to their expected “extreme
sensitivity to environmental disturbances.” The sensitivity of quantum sensors could similarly potentially enable militaries to detect electromagnetic emissions, thus enhancing electronic warfare capabilities and potentially assisting in locating concealed adversary forces.


Sensors, in particular, far more accurate gravity sensors, able to detect hidden objects or voids below ground. Applications to navigation, particularly places where GNSS is not available, and to provide resilience against loss or jamming of GNSS. For example, it could provide alternative positioning, navigation, and timing options that could in theory allow militaries to continue to operate at full performance in GPS degraded or GPS-denied environments.  Quantum imaging, able to detect gases, detect objects round corners. through buildings, fog, smoke or dust, or build images with very low light.


The Chinese military and China’s defense industry have also taken a keen interest in quantum technology.   People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may hope to use advances in quantum radar and sensing to offset the U.S. military’s superiority in stealth technology, which could be vulnerable to this new type of detection. In November 2018, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), China’s biggest defense electronics company, unveiled a prototype radar that it claims can detect stealth aircraft in flight.


CETC’s work is part of a long-term effort by China to turn itself into a world leader in quantum technology. The country is providing generous funding for new quantum research centers at universities and building a national research center for quantum science that’s slated to open in 2020. It’s already leaped ahead of the US in registering patents in quantum communications and cryptography.


Quantum Radar  LIDAR

Take quantum radar or light detection and ranging (LIDAR), for example. Classical radar and LIDAR emit radio waves or light particles and measure their return off an object; then, by comparing the measurement to what was expected, they gather information about the speed and distance of that object.


A new high definition radar system that could change the nature of warfare has been demonstrated for the first time. The result, quantum radar, is a high definition detection system that provides a much more detailed image of targets while itself remaining difficult to detect. Quantum radars could provide users with enough detail to identify aircraft, missiles, and other aerial targets by specific model. According to the MIT Technology Review, researchers at Austria’s Institute of Science and Technology used entangled microwaves to create the world’s first quantum radar system.


Under a principle known as quantum entanglement, two particles can be linked together regardless of distance, forming what scientists call a quantum entangled pair. When something happens to one particle it can be noticed in the other particle. This in turn leads to a process called quantum illumination, where information about one particle’s environment can be inferred by studying the other particle. Quantum radars involve pairing photon particles together, shooting one downrange while keeping the second captive for observation. The downrange particle will act in a certain manner as it bounces off certain objects, behavior that can be observed in the captive particle. The result is much more detailed information about the target than seen in previous radars. Another benefit of quantum radars: they emit very little energy and are thus difficult to detect.


But a pair of entangled quantum particles contains twice the mutual information of a pair of perfectly correlated classical particles (the mutual information of two variables A and B is defined as the amount of information that one obtains about B from the measurement of A). That is, perfect quantum correlations are “stronger” than perfect classical correlations. This means that a quantum radar or LIDAR can use fewer emissions to get the same detection result, allowing for better detection accuracy at the same power levels even for stealth or low observable aircraft, or allowing the radar/LIDAR to operate at much lower power levels that are much harder to detect and jam by an adversary.


A Chinese company, Electronic Technology Group Corporation, claims it has developed quantum radar. Like most quantum applications, quantum radar is still experimental. Once fully developed, quantum radar could threaten the US lead in stealth technology. That translates into the increased vulnerability of US stealth aircraft such as the B-2 Spirit, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and allied stealth aircraft. Quantum radar might also be able to determine the type of aircraft or the weapons the plane is carrying. It could also compromise US domination over the electromagnetic domain in combat environments. Chinese scientists  recently tested quantum radar technology  on board warships.


The same principle can help improve imagery. Many forms of quantum imagery use entangled particles to measure everything from photons to disturbances in magnetic or gravitational fields. By harnessing the greater information that entangled particles can bring, these methods can be used to help find underground bunkers or submarines hiding in the depths of ocean. These gravitational principles can also be used as quantum gyroscopes, laying the foundation of very accurate inertial navigation systems that don’t require jammable external signals from GPS satellites. Many of these use cases are possible using classical methods. There are classical inertial navigation systems or magnetic anomaly detectors, but the use of quantum particles just makes them more sensitive or more effective in a wider array of scenarios.


Taking advantage of the same properties as blue-green photons, quantum LIDAR could also revolutionize underwater warfare. Currently, submarines detect obstacles and other submarines via sonar (an acronym for sound navigation and ranging). Pings from active sonar are the most accurate detection method but give away a submarine’s own position. Quantum LIDAR could allow submarines to detect underwater mines and navigate obstacles silently, making submarines much harder to detect and track.


Quantum submarine detection

Several quantum technology applications could aid detection of submarines. These include magnetometers, gravity gradiometers and quantum clocks. Simultaneously, quantum navigation could aid the submarine to hide better.


The PLA Navy is looking to develop a quantum compass for its submarines that would enable them to navigate without the help of BeiDou (China’s counterpart to GPS), enabling independence from space systems that could be compromised in a conflict scenario. Scientists at the Chinese National Academy of Science announced the development of a quantum submarine detector based on an array of sensors known as SQUIDs (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device). SQUIDs are very sensitive. They can monitor the brainwaves of a mouse or detect electron emissions from deep space hydrogen molecules. A fully functional SQUID array is estimated to have the ability to detect a submarine five or six kilometers away. A Chinese language website, Sina.com, called an airborne version of this technology the “Submarine Star of Death.”


Australia leads the world in some areas of quantum technologies. Institutions like Macquarie University, along with the University of Technology Sydney, UNSW and Sydney University are leading the way. Government understands the importance of this technology and in March of this year, the then NSW Minister for Innovation Matt Kean backed a proposal for a Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA), which will see researchers from these four universities collaborate to advance quantum technologies (primarily in quantum computing) and link them to industry.



A gravimeter is a very sensitive sensor which can detect change in the gravitational field – sensing things that cannot be detected via any current sensory system. It is a passive system that probes, not sending out a signal, just receiving the field that is observed by the gravity everywhere around it. A gravimeter will even detect things that don’t emit any kind of electromagnetic signal. These gravimeters could be deployed on aircraft (or, in the future, satellites) to detect deep underground bunkers, missile silos, or indeed any cavity –without the adversary knowing it has been detected.


Prof Brennen Professor Gavin Brennen, Director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Quantum Engineering
explains the gravimeter he is working on “could sense the change in the gravitational field of a human being walking a metre away.”


In the military sphere, this has obvious applications for collateral damage estimation (CDE). Currently, data-intensive CDE methodology is both sophisticated and accurate, but only in relation to what it can detect. Namely, by sensing the number and size of buildings, the likely material components of those buildings, and other objects and explosives around an intended strike site, and by applying this to the blast radius of the intended munition, CDE methodology can determine both a collateral effects radius and the severity of damage within that radius. From there, the system detects and includes (or is fed data estimates on) the number of people within the radius to produce a relatively accurate final assessment of collateral damage (including incidental injury to civilians).


However, in cases where chemicals, explosives and other collateral effects-inducing objects are concealed or otherwise not taken into account, the CDE methodology will underestimate the true level of collateral damage that actually occurs from an attack. Gravity sensors will go some way to addressing this information gap, enabling those who are planning an attack to take into account underground objects, which may include heavy metallic items or even pipes liable to release dangerous forces, such as gas. It should be noted that the current situation of imperfect knowledge does not affect the legal assessment of proportionality, which hinges on the ‘expected’ and not the actual collateral damage caused. Nonetheless, being better-informed about underground objects that may increase the CDE assessments will undoubtedly improve the decision-making of commanders, and it gives them the opportunity to avoid PR disasters from heavy civilian casualties.


One more fascinating application of Quantum technology is ‘ghost imaging’ . Put simply, this combines pictures of a target object (along with all the heat- and smoke-based distortions generated by military action) with light beams reflected directly from the target. Correlating those measurements derives an artificially-generated, but vastly improved holographic image of an object that might be two or so miles away on a smoky battlefield. Essentially, the system is computing the paths that light takes to the target and back to the sensors, and it corrects for distortions on the actual image. Undoubtedly, this will allow machines to more accurately classify persons as either combatants or civilians (as well as objects as being of a civilian or military nature) on a battlefield, thereby enabling it to fulfil the distinction task more effectively (all else being equal).


US Thrust on Quantum technologies

The US is another possible leader in the race to realise quantum applications for defence. In December 2018, President Trump signed H.R. 6227 to fund the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI). The law authorizes $1.2 billion to be invested in quantum information science over five years. NQI funding will go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF) Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education and to the Department of Energy Research and National Quantum Information Science Research Centers.


After President Trump signed the NQI, he followed up with an executive order to establish a National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee composed of 22 experts from industry, research and federal agencies. The committee will meet at least twice a year to provide advice on our quantum activities. A few days after the executive order was signed, the Department of Energy announced $80 million in funding for quantum research. The integration of quantum technologies currently represents one of the most anticipated advances for armed forces, yet their precise impact remains difficult to predict.


In August 2018 , the Department of the Army issued a request for information on quantum technologies for Threat Military Applications. A global race has ensued to exploit and operationalize quantum technologies for the use of military effects. The race to conquer the quantum domain is among the most fiercely competitive in today’s world of technology. The U.S. Army’s Threat System Management Office (TSMO) desires a comprehensive evaluation of current adversarial, non-adversarial, and commercial capabilities utilizing quantum technologies as a strategic means of delivering or supporting operationalized effects (e.g. Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Anti-Access Area Denial, etc.) against U.S. Military and Coalition forces.


This Request for Solutions is issued to identify and evaluate the current state of quantum technology applications, identify and evaluate peer and near-peer quantum/Electronic Warfare (EW) convergence implementations to ensure the Government remains current with adversarial quantum-based threat systems. The Government’s domains of interest regarding quantum and adversarial Electronic Warfare are: Radars,  (Secure) Communications,  Sensing, Navigation (inertial sensors – navigation without GPS), High Precision Weapons,  Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) and Cyber (Testing & Training).


Several countries view quantum technologies as a key area for providing new and innovative capabilities to their forces. However, current state of the art technologies across all domains are assumed to be at a low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1 to TRL 5. This project is based on the militarization of innovative disruptive technologies for adversarial defense purposes. These technologies are assumed to have a low-to-medium TRL but pose as potentially serious threats to Tri-Service Systems, U.S. Forces, and Coalition Partners.


Quantum sensors are another exciting future possibility that could be used for such things as missile and aircraft tracking, as well as more advanced gyros and accelerometers,  Lopata said. “We’re just starting to understand the possibilities,” he said. An application where quantum science is used today is in powering the atomic clocks used by GPS satellites, which must be precisely synchronized. Paul Lopata principal director for quantum science in the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering said that’s important because military systems such as aircraft and missiles need to have a great deal of precision, navigation and timing.


In the U.S., the department is leveraging academia and the private sector to advance quantum science, Lopata said. DOD’s efforts are concentrated in each of the service’s research laboratories and engineering departments, as well as organizations that include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There’s a wide range of basic scientists, applied scientists and engineers looking to understand how the department can take advantage of quantum science and apply it to current and new systems, he said. “DOD is a top tier place to be a quantum scientist because of the broad possibilities for research, the opportunity to pioneer new technologies, and the ability to serve our country,” he said.


Commissioners, in a draft final report, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recommended that government offer access to quantum computers through the National AI Research Resource. “Publicly announcing specific government use cases of quantum computers will signal that a market exists for national security applications and encourage further investment by the private sector,” the group members said. “Incentivizing the domestic design and manufacturing of quantum computers via tax credits for relevant expenditures, loan guarantees and equity financing would help to avoid the situation in which the U.S. government currently finds itself regarding access to trusted and secure microelectronics.”


UK DSTL’s “Quantum Technology Landscape 2014”

In 2013, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, released a report: “UK Quantum Technology Landscape 2014” as a contribution, to the national effort to realise the benefits of quantum technologies as seen through the lens of defence and security.


The United Kingdom’s Defence Science Expert Committee has highlighted the potential importance of improved gravity sensors (quantum gravimeters), which could detect moving masses under water, such as submarines as well as underground movements. Superconducting magnetometers that use quantum technology to measure miniscule changes in magnetic fields could also be used to locate enemy submarines, while quantum radar could be used to detect even low-observable aircraft. Of course, this could mean the deterrent effect of the UK’s submarines and torpedoes could disappear, unless of course a counter-measure of some sort is discovered.


“Our vision is that quantum technologies will become game changing differentiators for UK defence and security over a 5-30 year time scale, and that their development will become a multi-billion pound industry that will benefit the UK economy over the same period.” We see principal areas of opportunity for the defence and security community in the short and medium term as being timing and clocks, sensors and navigation, and enabling technologies such as quantum optics.


There are many commercial applications of these technologies so many of our priorities are shared with the civil sector. Molecular and solid state advances in quantum technology, such as power generation and recovery, and ultra-efficient lighting, could provide immense economic benefit throughout the economy and has the potential to penetrate almost every aspect of our lives in future decades.

It recommended following priority areas for applied quantum technology development:

a. Quantum clocks and associated communication networks (big ticket)
b. Ubiquitous, affordable chip scale clocks (large markets)
c. Integrated quantum optics for wide applications e.g. handheld QKD, sensors etc. including plasmonics (small ticket / extensive commercial markets)
d. Gravity and inertial sensors and “imagers” (big ticket), principally using matter waves
e. Quantum sensors such as matter wave EM field sensors, chip scale Rydberg sensors for millimetre wave and THz radiation, etc.; molecular scale sensors for medical applications
f. (Commercial) photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, ultra-efficient lighting etc
g. Special purpose quantum computers e.g. for simulation or optimisation (big ticket)
h. Alongside near term exploitation, continued efforts towards practical and scalable quantum computing technologies


Quantum computing and quantum information processing is expected to have lesser impact in the short and medium term but immense impact in the longer term, including much that is not yet foreseen. Quantum computers will be able to perform tasks too hard for even the most powerful conventional supercomputer and have a host of specific applications, from code-breaking and cyber security to medical diagnostics, big data analysis and logistics.


Quantum computers could accelerate the discovery of new materials, chemicals and drugs. They could dramatically reduce the current high costs and long lead times involved in developing new drugs. “Black Swans” such as room temperature superconductors or designer materials could produce immense disruption and so technology watch is essential.


Israel advances in Quantum Computing

Israel has gained the attention of major players in the tech sector, including giants such as Intel, Amazon, Google, and Nvidia. The Startup Nation got its nickname due to a large number of startups compared to the population, with approximately 1 startup for every 1,400 residents. In a list of the top 50 global cities for the growing tech industry, Tel Aviv, Israel comes in at #15. Israel is wrapping up the year of 2019 with an astonishing 102% jump in the number of tech mergers and acquisitions as compared to the previous year, with no signs of slowing down.


Habana Labs and Annapurna Labs, both created by entrepreneur Avigdor Willenz, were recently acquired by Intel and Amazon respectively to further their development in the realm of quantum computing and more powerful processors. Google, Nvidia, Marvell, Huawei, Broadcom, and Cisco have also invested billions of capital into Israeli prospects.


However, similar to other parts of the world, Israel has a shortage of the necessary engineers to drive development. In 2018 Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Israel Science Foundation announced a multi-year fund that would dedicate in total $100 million to the research of quantum technologies in hopes that this secures Israel’s global position as a top contributor to new technologies.


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