Defense AI: ALPHA
ALPHA is an Artificial Intelligence that controls flights of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles in aerial combat missions within a high-fidelity simulation environment. Psibernetix was hired to create ALPHA by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
Just as UAVs represented a revolutionary capability for the USAF in the mid-1990s, Manned-Unmanned Autonomous Teaming in an air combat environment will certainly represent a revolutionary leap in capability of airpower in the near future. Air combat, as it is performed by human pilots today, is a highly dynamic application of aerospace physics, skill, art, and intuition to maneuver a fighter aircraft and missile against an adversary moving at high speeds in three dimensions. Today’s fighters close on each other at speeds in excess of 1,500 MPH while flying at altitudes above 40,000 feet. The selection and application of air-to-air tactics requires assessing a tactical advantage or disadvantage and reacting appropriately in microseconds. The cost of mistakes is high. Future aircraft are likely to employ a high level of coordinated autonomous offensive and defensive capabilities, requiring reaction times which surpass that of a human pilot, in order to survive in such hostile environments.
Trained by our EVE learning system, ALPHA has been able to achieve immense success against a baseline controller AFRL had previously been utilizing to control the red forces. However, ALPHA’s ability to defeat AI-flown enemies is only one measure of success; it must also be able to defeat highly trained and experienced fighter pilots. ALPHA was assessed by an air combat subject matter expert, Colonel (retired) Gene “Geno” Lee. As a former USAF Air Battle Manager, Mr. Lee is a United States Air Force Fighter Weapon School graduate and Adversary Tactics (Aggressor) Instructor, and has controlled or flown in thousands of air-to-air intercepts as a Ground Control Intercept officer, as a Mission Commander on AWACS, and in the cockpit of multiple fighter aircraft.
When Geno took manual control of the blue aircraft against the reds controlled by the baseline controller AFRL had previously been utilizing, he could easily defeat it. However, even after repeated attempts against ALPHA, not only could he not score a kill against it, he was shot out of the air by the reds every time after protracted engagements. He described ALPHA as “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI (he’s) seen-to-date.”
Distribution approved for public release; 88ABW Cleared 12/15/2015; 88ABW-2015-6028