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AI defeats human Air Force pilot in combat simulation



Recently, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) known as ALPHA went up against a highly experienced United States Air Force Colonel in a series of high-fidelity air combat simulations and won every time. ALPHA, which can be run from a smart phone, even had its aircraft handicapped in speed, turning, missile capability and sensor use and could still not be beaten. Not by any humans or even any other AI’s at the Air Force Research Lab where the test took place.

The US Air Force Colonel who took on ALPHA is Colonel Gene Lee who is now retired. He is now an instructor who has trained thousands of US Air Force pilots. Additionally Gene Lee is an Air Battle Manager and has experience with fighting AI opponents in combat simulations since the 19080s. “An experienced pilot can beat up on it (the AI) if you know what you’re doing,” said Lee. “Sure, you might have gotten shot down once in a while by an AI program when you, as a pilot, were trying something new, but, until now, an AI opponent simply could not keep up with anything like the real pressure and pace of combat-like scenarios”.

ALPHA was developed by Nick Ernest, a University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate, who founded the company Psibernetix which intends to develop ALPHA further. ALPHA uses an algorithm too make decisions. It is known as a genetic fuzzy tree system, which is a subtype of fuzzy logic algorithms. Ultimately this means that ALPHA can calculate strategies based on its opponents movements 250 times faster than you can blink.

Gene Lee said ALPHA was the most aggressive, responsive and dynamic AI he has seen. "I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was. It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed," said Lee.

While it is possible that this kind of AI could eventually take over the skies in air combat, the development team sees ALPHA more as a valuable asset to a fleet of human pilots. "ALPHA could continuously determine the optimal ways to perform tasks commanded by its manned wingman, as well as provide tactical and situational advice to the rest of its flight,” says University of Cincinnati Aerospace Professor Kelly Cohen.

Psibernetix will continue to develop ALPHA and are also looking at implementing the same technology in other fields such as pharmaceutical research and self-driving cars.

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