AI fighter pilots dogfighting with humans in the skies over China

Chinese fighter pilots have been training against, and training, AI fighter pilot software.

The quality of the computer combat pilots are compared to that of China's elite 'Golden Helmet' squadron, similar to the United States Blue Angels or Thunderbirds, and their ability to learn is impressive.


Fang Guoyu, a People's Liberation Army Air Force brigade flight team leader and pilot recognized for his skills, was recently "shot down" by an AI adversary in an air-to-air combat simulation, according to People's Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese military.

He said that early in the training it was easy to defeat the AI adversary. But with each round of combat, the AI reportedly learned from its human opponent. After one fight that Fang won with a bit of skillful flying, the AI came back and used the same tactics against him, defeating him.

"It's like a digital 'Golden Helmet' pilot that excels at learning, assimilating, reviewing, and researching," Fang said, referring to the elite pilots who emerge victorious in China's Golden Helmet air-combat contests. "The move with which you defeated it today will be in its hands tomorrow."

Good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living? Thats something else, say the Americans.

Chinese media didn't offer specifics on the simulator, which they said was developed by the military in cooperation with research institutes, so there are still questions about whether the AI adversary provides sufficiently realistic training to prepare pilots to dogfight manned aircraft.

"If it does, that's pretty good," retired US Navy Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass, a former TOPGUN instructor and an expert in artificial intelligence, told Insider.

"If it doesn't," he continued, "you're really just training human operators to fight AI, and that is probably not what they are going to be going up against," since there are no autonomous AI-driven fighter aircraft they would need to be prepared to fight.

"There could be a divergence between real capability in a dogfight or aerial battle versus what the AI is presenting," he said. If that's the case, it could be a wasted effort.