A drive to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the battlefield has begun as Porton Down begins its recruitment of hundreds of top secret scientists.

While the high-security site in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside is renowned for being the oldest chemical warfare research centre in the world, where its scientists have handled some of the most dangerous substances in existence, there will now be a move towards working with AI and the cyber domain.  

Having worked with the plague, Ebola, anthrax, and the nerve agent Novichok, scientists from the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will now be turning some of their attention to other means in which they can counter future threats from adversaries.

As part of this drive, the Ministry of Defence will look to recruit people for 300 new jobs across Porton Down and other Dstl sites around the country, including a new technology hub in Newcastle, which launched in April this year.

A Government source told The Telegraph: "The next four years are absolutely critical for this country if we’re going to secure our tech advantage over the big threat countries – China, Russia, Iran and others.

"Science and new technologies are going to be under the forefront of that fight. Dstl is really bolstering its ability to deliver on this in the Government.

"It is coming out of the shadows to recruit the best people."

As part of the recruitment process, coders and data analysts will be sought, so that they can focus on how AI can be used to the best of its ability in the field. Engineers who will work with kit on the ground, such as lasers and missiles, will also be recruited. 

Dstl said it is looking for people who are inquisitive and have technical expertise, particularly those who have previously worked in the science and technology field who might never have considered working in defence and security before.  

Last month General Sir Patrick Sanders, Head of Strategic Command, told The Telegraph that the military would be focusing on recruiting gamers as opposed to traditional soldiers in order to fight the wars of tomorrow. 

On Monday, NATO leaders pledged to provide a collective response to attacks in space as part of its ability to invoke Article 5 which states an attack on one is an attack on all.

Meanwhile, in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defence and security think tank, Lindy Cameron, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which is part of GCHQ, said it was crucial the UK continues to build its cyber resilience to stop attacks from reaching their targets.

 Jeremy Quin, Minister for defence procurement, said the investment in research and development is "central to the evolution of defence and security", adding: "This will ensure MoD science and technology programmes upgrade and adapt our forces to meet a range of future threats.

"The Dstl recruitment campaign paves the way for the next generation of highly skilled scientists to work on sophisticated projects designing and engineering pioneering military equipment."