Skynet Soars As AI Bot Destroys Top Gun Pilots In Dogfight Simulations With Raspberry Pi Level Horsepower

It’s been said that strapping human pilots into supersonic aircraft will soon become a thing of the past. Between the use of drones and advanced AI that can autonomously fly aircraft without having to deal with G-limits or fatigue, why would the military even bother risking putting human pilots at risk?

Well, the folks on the side of Skynet have some more ammunition thanks to ALPHA, which was developed by University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate and Psibernetix President and CEO Nick Ernest and David Carroll, programming lead at Psibernetix. ALPHA is a thoroughly modern genetic-fuzzy system. It uses Genetic Fuzzy Tree methodology (you can read up these systems with this supplemental text). What’s most impressive is that ALPHA had no trouble defeating veteran pilots in repeated fashion, but that it did so without the need for supercomputer-level brains. Instead, ALPHA’s brains are comparable to what’s available in a $35 Raspberry Pi home-brew computer.

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Retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee going up against ALPHA (All images courtesy University of Cincinnati)

ALPHA’s incredible artificial intelligence (AI) is capable of not only throttling other flight AI systems out there, but it also proved its mettle against pilots with decades of experience and ongoing training under their belts. One such pilot is retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee. He is an Air Battle Manager and also serves as an aerial combat instructor — in other words, he knows how to handle a modern fighter aircraft and has likely logged thousands of hours both in the air and in simulators over the past three decades.

Lee describes ALPHA as “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I’ve seen to date.” Lee when on to state, “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.”

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He added that previous and current AI simulators were easily overcome by seasoned pilots, but that is definitely not the case with ALPHA. “Sure, you might have gotten shot down once in a while by an AI program when you, as a pilot, were trying something new,” explains Lee. “Until now, an AI opponent simply could not keep up with anything like the real pressure and pace of combat-like scenarios.”

In case you were wondering, Lee didn’t score a single victory over ALPHA. Not only did ALPHA handily beat Lee, but it also fended off other human pilots, even with one hand tied behind its back — in this case, that means being handicapped with respect to outright speed, maneuverability, or sensor load out.

ALPHA’s skill and speed in aerial combat situations is so immense and overwhelming that we’ll leave it to the University of Cincinnati Creative Services to describe the implications:

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.

So what’s the end game for ALPHA? Given its low-cost hardware footprint, ALPHA has incredible potential in future aerial platforms. But ALPHA won’t be taking over all piloting duties anytime soon. Instead, it’s being billed as an AI wingman over the battlefield.

“ALPHA would be an extremely easy AI to cooperate with and have as a teammate. 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,” writes UC aerospace professor Kelly Cohen.

So who would you prefer as a wingman if you were at 40,000 feet with bogeys on your six? The cocky Iceman or ALPHA?