AI is now flying Air Force jets

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Posted on: June 29, 2020 6:05 pm EDT

The Air Force is testing unmanned fighters that run off artificial intelligence

For anyone who saw the movie “Stealth,” this may sound familiar. The US Air Force has been working on a design for autonomous, unmanned aircraft that can take down a jet fighter in air-to-air combat. According to Air Force Magazine, the goal is to put the two against each other in July 2021. The head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Jack Shanahan, said the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is pushing down the boundaries of what the military can build and do with artificial intelligence (AI).

That’s how the team launched its first attempt of a fighter jet completely driven by AI, which was promised to have a show within the next 18 months. According to a report from Inside Defense, the process to take off this “big moonshot” announced in May 2018 started with machine learning technology being implemented into less advanced places, like an F-16 before attempting to have AI-driven newer jets like F-35 or F-22.

This is an important step for the Air Force, which, if this AI-powered project is successful, will be part of other systems that the Air Force wants to add to its inventory. So far, the biggest advancement researchers have made in this field is the Skyborg wingman drone concept. Now, the Air Force is trying to push AI and machine learning algorithms to do many things for the organization; from maintenance practices to battle planning software. This project wants to improve the warfighter trust in combat autonomy where aerial within a visual range will be automated while using realistic aircraft.

“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” said Rogers to Inside Defense. “What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time?”