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AI Fighter Pilots Defeat Humans

A new report by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said artificial intelligence pilots have fared “better than humans” in the field. These AI systems, designed to “sharpen the sword” for PLA Air Force pilots, managed to shoot down their human counterparts in simulated dogfights. The Chinese military’s foray into AI technologies for its air force is the latest step in China’s mission to create a modern flying force.

The AI pilots were deployed to help human pilots hone their decision making and combat skills. It added that aside from just pilot training, AI will become an integral part of future Chinese aircraft and help pilots with combat decisions. Furthermore, the AI pilots can also learn from each engagement, and have already performed better than human opponents. PLA Air Force flight brigade team leader and fighter ace Fang Guoyu found himself shot down by one of the AI pilots during one instance, according to the Chinese military’s official newspaper.

Fang showed off his flying skills and won one round of combat. But the AI managed to turn the tables during the next round by using the skilled fighter pilot’s same technique against him, emerging triumphant. The ace pilot explained that while the AI-piloted aircraft was easy to defeat in the early stages of training, it eventually learned from its human opponent. “The move with which you defeated it today will be in its hands tomorrow,” he said. Fang compared the AI pilots to the extraordinary human pilots who win the Golden Helmet air combat contests in China. He said: “It’s like a digital ‘Golden Helmet’ pilot that excels at learning, assimilating, reviewing, and researching.”

Meanwhile, brigade commander Du Jianfeng told the PLA Daily that AI systems are increasingly being integrated into training. He also praised the AI’s ability to handle aircraft skillfully and make tactical decisions flawlessly. “The AI has shown adept flight control skills and errorless tactical decisions, making it a valuable opponent to hone our capabilities,” Du said. The brigade commander added that the AI pilots serve to “sharpen the sword” of Chinese fighter pilots as it forces them to become more innovative with their technique.

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