The Pentagon has started to assess the possibility of developing an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered fleet of drones and autonomous systems that officials argue will allow the U.S. to compete with and counter threats from China. 

"We’re not at war. We are not seeking to be at war, but we have to be able to get this department to move with that same kind of urgency because the PRC isn’t waiting," Kathleen Hicks, the deputy secretary of defense, said during an interview earlier this week with The Wall Street Journal. 

Hicks spoke about the potential uses of such an AI fleet during a speech on Wednesday, revealing the department would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the project, aiming to produce thousands of systems for use over land, air and sea ready for first deployment within two years. 

China has focused heavily on AI research and development, producing its own platforms and models separate from those produced in the U.S., with virtually unregulated use in its military as part of a plan to rush development and implementation. Multiple military officials in recent years have labeled China the U.S.' top "pacing challenge" due to the incredible rate of expansion and military buildup Beijing has rolled out.

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