Is dual-use tech a solution for the Armed Forces recruitment problem?


The UK’s Armed Forces face a recruitment crisis due to changing youth culture, rising costs, and modern warfare complexities. A net loss of 5,790 personnel highlights the issue. Emerging technologies like AI, spatial computing, and the metaverse can streamline recruitment, enhance training, and attract a diverse, tech-savvy generation to ensure a future-ready military force.

3 min read

In the face of changing youth culture, rising costs, and the complexities of modern warfare, the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces find themselves grappling with a recruitment crisis. General Patrick Sanders, head of the UK army, has raised concerns about the size of the British Army and hinted at the possibility of conscription in the event of a major war with Russia. As the world becomes more unstable, and conflicts escalate in regions like Israel and the Red Sea, the need for a robust and well-staffed military is more critical than ever.

The armed forces’ struggle with recruitment and retention is evident in the latest figures, revealing a net loss of 5,790 personnel in the year to September 2023. This trend is not new, as recruitment targets for the army and navy have been consistently missed since 2010. The shortage has demonstrable practical implications, having prevented Britain from deploying aircraft carriers for operations against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Royal Navy’s engagement in conflict for the first time in two decades underscores the urgency of addressing recruitment challenges.

A significant factor contributing to the manpower shortage is the mismatch between the military’s composition and wider society. The Defence Secretary has expressed concerns that the armed forces’ demographic makeup does not reflect the diversity of the nation, emphasising the need to attract and retain more women. The same applies to highly skilled STEM graduates and professionals who find faster development opportunities and higher salaries in the private sector.

In this context, emerging technologies like AI, spatial computing, and the metaverse offer innovative solutions to reshape the recruitment landscape, bolster the Armed Forces, and ensure a future-ready military force. Leveraging these technologies can not only enhance the efficiency of recruitment processes but also make military service more appealing to a diverse and technologically savvy generation.

AI-powered algorithms can streamline candidate matching, identifying individuals with the right skills, aptitudes, and backgrounds for specific roles within the armed forces. They can also be primed to offer continuous support throughout a service member’s career, providing personalised training plans, skill development opportunities, and even assisting with career progression decisions, at the pace that works for each individual. This personalised approach not only enhances individual performance but also fosters a sense of investment in the long-term growth and well-being of each member.

Spatial computing can provide immersive training experiences, allowing recruits to familiarise themselves with complex, realistic, and dynamic scenarios in a virtual environment before facing real-world challenges. This would allow them to develop critical decision-making skills in a risk-free environment, improve combat readiness, and prepare them to handle the unpredictable nature of contemporary conflicts.

The metaverse also opens up new avenues for engagement, enabling the armed forces to connect with younger generations. These virtual spaces could serve as interactive hubs where users engage with military personnel, explore various career paths, and gain insights into the day-to-day life within the armed forces. Moreover, these virtual environments can be tailored to accommodate diverse cultural backgrounds and preferences, making military service more relatable and appealing to a broader audience.

Want to explore further how novel dual-use technologies like Large Language Models (LLMs) can reshape industries? Read more here.