Unleashing the Future: The Rise of AI Fighter Pilots in the US Air Force

The US just announced that it turned over control of the most maneuverable F16 and its arsenal to an artificial intelligence fighter pilot. And according to reports, it successfully flew no fewer than a dozen simulated air combat missions this past December.

Let’s talk about America’s newest dog fighting AI. I’m Alex Hollings and this is. Air power. What? Not what? So I’ll level with you guys. I had a whole script put together diving into all three intercepts that took place last weekend and bring complete explanations for each. But then this story came across my desk, and it’s just too big to put off. But if you guys are really interested in hearing my take on those intercepts, let me know and I’ll try to post a slightly abbreviated version early next week. But for now, let’s dive back into this AI news because over a two week span this past December, a heavily modified F1616D Fighting Falcon took to the skies no fewer than a dozen times with an empty cockpit.

In artificial intelligence at the stick, the AI fighter pilots in this aircraft came from two different efforts. The first from DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution or ace program that you probably have heard of before. And the second from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Autonomous Air Combat Operations Program, or AACO. With these AI algorithms at the stick, this very cool thrust vectoring F16 flew in a variety of air combat operations, including close quarters within visual range dogfights and beyond visual range engagements.

This successful series of tests marks a huge leap towards the advanced AI teaming that we’ve come to be part of, the next generation of fighters with the US and a number of foreign allies and competitors alike, all aiming to couple their next stealth jets with scores of specially equipped drone wingmen. And while it really seems as though the Air Force just proved this concept is not only possible, but downright feasible. The truth is, the implications extend way be the term drones often encompasses everything from semi autonomous data collectors to advanced remotely piloted aircraft. And they’ve been around for almost as long as aircraft themselves.

English inventor Doctor Archibald Lowe is often credited with fielding the world’s first power drone, an aerial target that first flew in 1917, just 14 years Starlight over Kitty Hawk. And while drones of various sorts have played a variety of roles and conflicts dating all the way back to the First World War, there’s a really reasonable argument to be made that the era of drones began on July 1st of 1995, when the General Atomics MQ1 Predator first entered operational service in a real way. The predator seemingly ever present. Eyes, ears and firepower in the sky over conflict zones out of the realm of dystopian science fiction and plunged it straight into the hard boiled reality of America’s multi theater global war on terror. Equipped for 24 hour operations inside the uncontested airspace of places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Their targeting system made up of an infrared sensor, a color and monochrome daylight TV camera, an image intensified TV camera, a laser designator and a laser illuminator all provided predator crews with all the data they need to collect valuable Intel or when called for to deliver holy hell from on high via. It’s two laser guided AGM ONE FOURTEEN, Helen.