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Autonomous weapons are weapons capable of accomplishing a mission with limited or no human intervention. These systems are capable of self-propulsion, independent processing of the environment, and independent response to the environment.

Autonomous weapons range from semi-autonomous to fully autonomous depending on the degree of involvement by a man-in-the-loop. In addition, they vary in lethality. Some autonomous weapons operate fully autonomously in a non-lethal manner, such as surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. These systems do not possess the capability to engage targets without the consent or control of a man-in-the- loop. Future AW designs will be able to operate and lethally engage targets autonomously without a MITL. Examples include the U.S. Navy's Unmanned Underwater Vehicle's capability of autonomous underwater de-mining; the U.S. Air Force's Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle and Autonomous Wide Area Search Munition; the U.S. Army's Future Combat System; and the U.S. Marine Corps' Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

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