AI fighter defeats human pilot in combat simulation

An AI fighter pilot, known as Alpha, has won in a combat simulation against an experienced human pilot. It also managed to protect a fleet of four aircraft from two enemy jets, without any losses. 

AI fighter defeats human pilot in combat simulation

In a paper published by researchers from the University of Cincinnati and defence company Psibernetix, reported by the BBC, Alpha is described as “a deadly opponent to face”.

When former United States Air Force air battle manager Colonel Gene Lee took control of the opposing side, he was unable to score a single kill against the AI system, and was shot out of the air every time.

Lee described Alpha as “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI [he’s] seen to date”.

The AI behind Alpha is based on “fuzzy logic”, which boils down to the system weighing up a large number of options before choosing what to do. The idea is that this less prescriptive logic reflects the moment-to-moment decision-making needed in an air combat scenario.

“Here, you’ve got an AI system that seems to be able to deal with the air-to-air environment, which is extraordinarily dynamic, has an extraordinary number of parameters and, in the paper, more than holds its own against a skilled and capable, experienced combat pilot,” said Doug Barrie, a military aerospace analyst at think tank IISS, to the BBC. He added that Lee’s defeat is “like a chess master losing out to a computer”.

In the paper, the researchers describe the potential of using Alpha in conjunction with manned squadrons. Alpha-controlled jets “would happily volunteer to take risky tactics and have the manned craft perform safer support roles”. It certainly sounds like a deadly combination, although “volunteer” perhaps gives a human quality to what is, in essence, a killing machine.

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