And he said threats to the security of the United Kingdom were “more acute now than they have been for decades”.
Captain Jerry Kyd was speaking as he handed over command of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s largest ever vessel, after bringing it to New York, painted a terrifying picture of the future.
He said: “We are on the cusp of a new revolution in military affairs,” adding that warfare in the coming decades is “going to be quite interesting”.
Captain Kyd added: “I think the coalescence of militarisation, quantum computing, of automated fighting elements whether it is in the air, the surface or subsurface, the ability for computers and machines to make fast decision making loops – I think will fundamentally change the character of warfare.
“The nature of warfare won’t change – which is to dominate and kill the enemy.
“I think it is a exciting but deeply frightening future where I think the ethics and morals of war will be tested, and where we will see, I am sure, robots engaged in killing other human beings.”
Speaking as the aircraft carrier prepared to sail into New York, he predicted there will be an increase in other forms of warfare – not just biological and chemical, but also genetic.
He added: “I think we will see all sorts of vile methods.
“Viral warfare, and also attacks fundamentally against civilian populations through bringing down infrastructure, power grids, cyber warfare – a full spectrum of activity against the population which will be deeply frightening.”
Highlighting how the last major conflict was the Second World War, he said in the seven decades since deterrence has been key – a role HMS Queen Elizabeth and the F-35B Lightning jets help fulfil.
With the Autumn Budget looming and continuing calls to increase Britain’s defence spending to above three percent of GDP, Captain Kyd said as a military officer he would always want more money.
Stressing how it is important to be on the front foot when it comes to technology, he added: “But we have to live within our means.
“Which is why we have to make very careful balanced decisions that provide a suite of armed forces that can do the job.”
Captain Kyd said the nerve agent Novichok attack in Salisbury against former Russian spy Mr Skripal is a “classic reminder that the veneer of security is very thin”.
He added: “I think the threats to the United Kingdom are more acute now than they have been for many decades.”
Captain Kyd’s words echo those of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson when he gave a speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) earlier this year at which he stressed the importance of the Royal Navy in keeping Britain safe in an uncertain world.
Mr Williamson said: “Look at Russia’s resurgence under President Putin, its submarine activity has increased ten-fold in the North Atlantic.
“But that’s not all. In 2010, the Royal Navy had to respond once to a Russian Navy ship approaching UK territorial waters.
“Last year we had to respond 33 times.
“Threats against us are multiplying, coming not just from Russia, not just from a rising China, but from non-state actors using drones to drop bombs, ballistic missiles to attack airports and anti-ship missiles to threaten our narrow shipping lanes as well as the new and evolving threats from cyber-attacks.”