Exploring the disruptive impact of lethal autonomous weapon system diffusion in Southeast Asia

PhD Thesis

Wyatt, Austin. (2020). Exploring the disruptive impact of lethal autonomous weapon system diffusion in Southeast Asia [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University Faculty of Education and Arts https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyv7
AuthorsWyatt, Austin
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

The capacity to generate and project power is central to state relations in what is an inherently anarchic environment. The emergence of a major military innovation acts as a sort of circuit breaker between competitor states. By shifting the paradigm of conflict, a major military innovation can disrupt the conventional superiority of the dominant hegemonic state, giving a rising challenger who becomes a successful adopter a distinct advantage over their opponent. This is already apparent with LAWS, with China openly pursuing increasingly autonomous systems as part of a plan to leap-frog the United States, which in turn adopted the Third Offset Strategy and is investing heavily in related technologies.

The political, ethical and legal challenges raised by development toward LAWS has prompted a growing body of research. While valuable, there has been a clear focus major states, particularly the United States and China, leaving a gap in understanding of the role of middle powers. Therefore, this thesis focuses on exploring how the diffusion of increasingly autonomous platforms will impact the nature of power projection in the context of Southeast Asian rising middle powers.

The key goal of this thesis is to make a substantive contribution to the emerging understanding of how middle states can interact with early generation autonomous weapon systems and the impact of their initial proliferation. This thesis utilises a composite theoretical framework, which builds on Adoption Capacity Theory as the basis for its evaluation of the adoption capacity of Singapore and Indonesia. This thesis will demonstrate how the levelling effect of increasingly autonomous weapon systems will impact relations of power. This thesis concludes by demonstrating how the adoption of autonomous unmanned platforms could assist Singapore and Indonesia to maintain their careful balancing in the event of worsening hegemonic competition between China and the United States.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyv7
Page range1-397
Final version
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online29 Apr 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Apr 2021
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