The AI flight combat system dubbed ALPHA developed by a doctoral graduate of the University of Cincinnati was recently assessed by subject-matter expert and retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee who holds extensive aerial combat experience as an instructor and Air Battle Manager with considerable fighter aircraft expertise in a high-fidelity air combat simulator.
“I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was,” Lee told UC Magazine. 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.”
“ALPHA would be an extremely easy AI to cooperate with and have as a teammate,” UC researcher Kelly Cohen explained. “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.”
The details of Col. Lee’s showdown were published in the University of Cincinnati Magazine and the ALPHA AI itself was developed by UC offshoot Psibernetix, Inc. as an autonomous wingman to a human pilot. After ALPHA shot down a range of other AI opponents, Col. Lee jumped into the simulator against a “mature” version of the ALPHA code last October. Lee, who has trained thousands of Air Force pilots and has been taking on AI opponents since the early 80s, was unable to score a single kill against ALPHA on multiple tries. In fact, he was shot down every time.
In the long term, teaming artificial intelligence with U.S. air capabilities will represent a revolutionary leap. Air combat as it is performed today by human pilots is a highly dynamic application of aerospace physics, skill, art, and intuition to maneuver a fighter aircraft and missiles against adversaries, all moving at very high speeds. After all, today’s fighters close in on each other at speeds in excess of 1,500 miles per hour while flying at altitudes above 40,000 feet. Microseconds matter and the cost for a mistake is very high.
Eventually, ALPHA aims to lessen the likelihood of mistakes since its operations already occur significantly faster than do those of other language-based consumer product programming. In fact, ALPHA can take in the entirety of sensor data, organize it, create a complete mapping of a combat scenario and make or change combat decisions for a flight of four fighter aircraft in less than a millisecond. Basically, the AI is so fast that it could consider and coordinate the best tactical plan and precise responses, within a dynamic environment, over 250 times faster than ALPHA’s human opponents could blink.
(via Engadget, ScienceDaily)