US Air Force: AI-driven fighter plane to face human-driven plane

In July 2021, the US Air Force should experiment air combat between a fighter plane piloted by a human and its equivalent evolving thanks to an artificial intelligence. A project that risks cutting the wings of many pilots in the future …

In the next  Top Gun , Tom Cruise’s fighter plane,  aka Maverick, will be faced with drones . In a few years, this fiction may well become a reality. Not sure that the cream of combat pilots and their thousands of hours of experience make up for a virtual pilot who has accumulated millions of hours of training … It was in July 2021 that L’US Air Force intends to organize a real dogfight, in other words a swirling aerial combat, between a piloted fighter plane and another totally autonomous combat aircraft .

The project launched two years ago by the American  Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is led by researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory  (AFRL). Rather than using a real  combat drone , the team intends to install in the pilot’s seat of an F-16 an autonomous system based on artificial intelligence . Thereafter, the center wishes to develop the AI ​​so that it can become the ace of aces on the F-22 or the most technologically advanced American aircraft, the F-35 .

The brake is the pilot

According to Steve Rogers, the director of the AFRL, the artificial pilot will be able to make decisions quickly by processing gigantic amounts of data in real time. Another asset, unlike a human, he will not be disturbed by his physical and emotional sensations in a hostile sky. Finally, as with any current combat drone , the fact of ridding the pilot’s plane makes it possible to dispense with armor, dashboard, ejection seat, flight controls … In the end, the plane can win enormously in weight and therefore in autonomy . It can also be placed within flight limits of the airplane which would be physically unbearable for a pilot.

According to AFRL, these autonomous fighter planes should fulfill missions equivalent to those piloted by humans. For the researchers, these planes could also evolve in training guided by a human, in order to operate collectively. This intention is also the subject of a project called Skyborg. According to the JAIC, like autonomous cars , piloted fighter planes will not disappear overnight.