Department of Defense Report on Military Applications for Quantum Computing
(USNI.org) The Defense Science Board (DSB), an independent Department of Defense (DOD) board of scientific advisors, has concluded that three applications of quantum technology hold the most promise for DOD: quantum sensing, quantum computers, and quantum communications. The DSB concluded that quantum radar, hypothesized to be capable of identifying the performance characteristics (e.g., radar cross-section, speed) of objects—including low observable, or stealth, aircraft—“will not provide upgraded capability to DOD.”
Quantum sensing uses the principles of quantum physics within a sensor. According to the DSB, this is the most mature military application of quantum technologies and is currently “poised for mission use.” Quantum sensing could provide a number of enhanced military capabilities. 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. In addition, quantum sensors could potentially be used in an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role.
According to NAS, “quantum computers are the only known model for computing that could offer exponential speedup over today’s computers.” While quantum computers are in a relatively early stage of development, advances—many of which aredriven by the commercial sector—could hold implications for the future of artificial intelligence(AI),encryption, and other disciplines.For example, some analysts have suggested that quantum computers could enable advances in machine learning, a subfield of AI.
Quantum communications—excluding quantum key distribution ([QKD]—are in a nascent stage of development. 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 strengthenthe robustness of such systems at range, thus expanding the potential environments in which they could be deployed(i.e., outside of the laboratory settings generally required to sustain fragilequantum states).This could significantly expand the military utility of quantum communications.