The Evolution of AI in Military Air Combat: Transforming Warfare in the Sky

In the realm of military technology, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized air combat strategies, particularly in the domain of aerial warfare. The advancement of AI has not only reshaped the dynamics of air battles but has also paved the way for a new era of autonomous and decentralized combat systems.

AI’s pivotal role in military applications is recognized as a game-changer, with many nations elevating its development to a strategic national priority. This technological breakthrough has transcended traditional combat paradigms, shifting the focus from human-to-human and weapon-to-weapon confrontations to the realm of human-machine and machine-machine engagements.

The impact of AI in air combat is profound, driving a fundamental shift in the way aerial battles are conducted. From redefining command structures and intelligence processing methods to enhancing the autonomy and intelligence of weapon systems, AI is at the forefront of transforming the landscape of aerial warfare.

As AI technology continues to progress, its role in air combat evolves from a supportive function to a leading force, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The implications of AI’s dominance in air combat extend beyond technical advancements to encompass legal and ethical considerations that shape the future of warfare.

The concept of autonomous air combat introduces a paradigm shift characterized by unmanned operations, decentralized decision-making, and the potential for autonomous evolution. These developments are set to revolutionize the battlefield ecosystem, heralding a new era of aerial warfare that blurs the lines between man and machine.

The integration of AI in military air combat embodies a transformative force that promises to redefine the principles of warfare in the sky. As technology continues to evolve, the future of aerial battles lies in the hands of AI, shaping a new chapter in the narrative of military innovation and strategic advancement.

In late April, the U.S. Newsweek website reported that the U.S. military announced a “groundbreaking test” in which a heavily modified two-seater F-16D X-62A fighter jet (also known as the X-62A fighter jet) controlled by artificial intelligence A variable-stability flight simulator test aircraft) competed head-on with another manned F-16 fighter jet. This was part of an exercise carried out at Edwards Air Force Base in California last September, but the US military refused to disclose the results of the air combat.

On May 3, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Air Force Secretary Kendall took a test ride on the artificial intelligence fighter. After the hour-long flight, Kendall told an Associated Press reporter: “Not having it (artificial intelligence fighter) is a security risk. At this point in time, we have to have it.”

Artificial intelligence is recognized as the disruptive technology most likely to change the world, and has entered a period of rapid development. Many countries have elevated the development of artificial intelligence technology to a national strategic level, providing strong support from the levels of policy orientation, strategic planning, and capital budgets. Artificial intelligence has broad application prospects in the military field, which will lead to future war styles changing from confrontation between people and weapons against weapons to confrontation between people and machines, and machines against machines.

In terms of air combat, artificial intelligence is driving a new round of military changes. For example, it subverts the command and intelligence processing model of the air battlefield and greatly improves the autonomy and intelligence of weapons and equipment operations. The generalized application of new intelligent air combat auxiliary decision-making systems and intelligent robots in the entire process of air combat weapons and equipment design, manufacturing, and maintenance has triggered profound changes in the military industry’s R&D and production model.

With the advancement of technology, artificial intelligence is no longer content to play an “auxiliary” role in air combat and is gradually coming to the forefront. In August 2020, the US “Air Force” magazine reported that in the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “AlphaDogfight” simulated air combat, the artificial intelligence system developed by Heron Systems defeated more than 2,000 robots with a score of 5:0. hours of F-16 flying experience for District of Columbia Air National Guard pilot Banger.

The X-62A fighter jet scheduled for the air combat experiment was developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skonker Factory and Carlspan Corporation. In February last year, it was reported that the aircraft was equipped with a set of artificial intelligence entities. The test flight was carried out successfully. The video released by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency shows the two aircraft entangled in the sky at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour (approximately 1,930 kilometers per hour), and the artificial intelligence-driven aircraft conducted defensive and offensive exercises. , the closest distance to a manned aircraft is only 2,000 feet (approximately 610 meters).

As a result, the whole world has seen that autonomous air combat with artificial intelligence is no longer a fantasy, and the traditional air combat model may also usher in changes.

The first thing autonomous air combat brings is the unmanned aerial combat. Unmanned warfare is the full precursor of human intelligence in the combat system, and is a concentrated expression of the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligence. This transformation from “people in the loop” to “people outside the loop” may be the most intuitive way to subvert people’s traditional understanding of air combat.

Some studies believe that in addition to zero casualties, artificial intelligence has unique advantages in air combat. On the one hand, when human pilots are flying at 1,500 mph (2,415 km/h) at an altitude of 40,000 feet (approximately 12,200 meters), the cost of making mistakes is high, and artificial intelligence can significantly reduce the error rate. Artificial intelligence can consider and coordinate the best tactical plans in dynamic environments and respond with precision 250 times faster than humans.

Because human pilots are flesh and blood, there is a limit to the overload value, but artificial intelligence has no such concerns and can maximize the overload time and achieve higher maneuverability than manned pilots. In addition, unmanned fighter jets can reduce the size and weight of the aircraft, thereby significantly increasing payload, range, speed and other indicators.

At the same time, autonomous air combat will lead to the gradual development of future air combat in the direction of decentralization. Air combat in the era of intelligence is cognitive-centered warfare. The supporting combat system is mainly disruptive technologies such as unmanned control, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, quantum communication, and blockchain. The emphasis is on cognitive decision-making. Distribute real-time killing. The center in the era of intelligence is different from the center of mechanization and informationization. It is a general concept. Any air weapon platform on the battlefield can become the center, which is uncertain and transferable. In this way, the entire combat system becomes centerless. Even if one or some nodes are damaged, the entire combat system will not be greatly affected.

Furthermore, as intelligent technology continues to mature, the air combat system will have characteristics and functions similar to those of living organisms. It can quickly formulate strategies and strategies based on changes in the environment, threats, opponents, etc. through numerous models and advanced algorithms built. Take action, and continuously learn to realize self-correction, optimization and improvement and independent evolution during the war, becoming an evolvable ecological and game-like system. In the future, autonomous evolution may run through all aspects of reconnaissance, perception, decision-making, accusation, strike, support, etc., playing the role of doubling, surpassing and motivating, enabling the air combat system to have game confrontation and competitive capabilities under more complex conditions, thereby comprehensively reconstructing The battlefield ecosystem radiates incredible combat power.

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