China is reportedly developing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies to support its next generation, modular cruise missiles.

A senior designer involved in the project, led by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, told China Daily that the plan is to adopt a ‘plug and play’ approach which will enable military commanders to tailor missiles to different combat conditions and specific requirements over both land and sea.

The commanders will be able to control future cruise missiles in real-time, and will have the option to place it under ‘fire and forget’ mode. They will also be able to add multiple tasks to missiles already in-flight.

A researcher at the Beijing Hiwing Scientific and Technological Information Institute, commented, on condition of anonymity, that this modular approach to missile systems would allow for a reduction in development and storage costs.

‘It is a promising approach in terms of the design of next-generation missiles, but we should also consider its technological complexity and production costs,’ he noted.

Earlier this year, China announced a slight increase in military research funding and is looking to strengthen its stealth fighters and aircraft carriers. It has also placed a heavy focus on modern missile development, including of anti-missile missiles and anti-satellite missiles.

President Xi JinPing confirmed this push to modernise the country’s army, stating: ‘We should put together economic and defence development, modernise the army to make it contemporary and standardised… We should comprehensively promote the military reform to create an army that will be disciplined and able to win.’

The security concern has also seen China launch the first-ever quantum satellite this week in a bid to help develop an ‘unhackable’ communications system. According to state-backed Xinhua news agency, the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) spacecraft transmits ‘uncrackable’ keys from space to the ground, and will provide insights into the strangest aspects in quantum physics.’