The US Air Force is preparing for a man vs AI showdown



Air Force researchers are converting old F-16s into autonomous aircrafts that can take down a manned aircrafts in air-to-air combat

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The US Air Force has been exploring how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play an integral role in combat missions since the early 2010s. In 2010, the US Air Force and Boeing’s QF-16 programme began converting old F-16 fighter jets into autonomous aircraft which can fly present routes. 

In a separate program, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) launched research for unmanned AI-empowered combat jets in 2018. AFRL is a research body within the US Air Force that uses AI to draw, perform and analyse experiments at a faster pace than traditional scientific research methods. And after 18 months of research and development, looks like the team Is ready to show, rather show-off, their achievements. 

The researchers announced that with the new machine-learning algorithm in these ‘soldiers’, they can take down a manned plane in an air fight - which will be showcased in a Man vs Machine combat in early-June 2021. This was first reported in the Air Force magazine, a monthly journal of the Air Force Association. As the machine-learning technology is in its nascent stage, the experiments have continued to use old F-16s, which were one of the first aircraft to have an on-board computer to assist pilots. As the technology progresses, they will graduate to newer models such as F-22 and F-35. 

While the details are scarce, given that it is a highly classified military project, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan did warn the community and the media, “There is no level four, fully autonomous vehicle out on the roads today,” and that as such, not all tech advances are out-and-out success stories.”


Image Source: AFSC

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