A U-2 Dragon Lady assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing prepares to land at Beale Air Force, California, Dec. 15, 2020. This flight marks a huge leap forward for national defense, as artificial intelligence took flight aboard a military aircraft for the first time in the History Department. defense. The AI algorithm, developed by the U-2 Federal Laboratory of the Air Combat Command, trained the AI to perform specific tasks in flight that the pilot would otherwise perform. The flight was part of a scenario specifically constructed pitting AI against another dynamic computer algorithm in order to demonstrate both the ability of the new technology, and its ability to work in coordination with a human being. (United States Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)
(CNN) artificial intelligence helped co-pilot of a U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane during a test flight on Tuesday, the first time artificial intelligence is used in such a way aboard a U.S. military aircraft.
Mastering artificial intelligence or ” AI ” is considered increasingly critical to the future of war and Air Force officials said Tuesday’s training flight represented an important milestone.
“The Air Force flew artificial intelligence as a working crew member aboard a military aircraft for the first time, on December 15,” the Air Force said in a statement, saying the flight signaled “a huge leap forward for national defense in the digital age.”
The Artificial intelligence algorithm, known as” ARTUµ”, was developed by researchers at the U-2 Federal Laboratory of the Air Force Air Combat Command.
The AI system has been ” trained … to execute specific tasks in flight that would otherwise be performed by the pilot,” the statement said.
During Tuesday’s training flight, the artuµ algorithm was associated with a human Air Force officer who was piloting the plane, with the AI system “responsible for employing sensors and tactical navigation.”
“Together, they flew a reconnaissance mission during a simulated missile attack. ARTUµ’s primary responsibility was to find enemy launchers while the pilot was searching for threatening aircraft, both sharing the U-2’s radar,” the Air Force statement said.
Air Force officials touted Tuesday’s training flight as a major achievement.
“Putting AI in charge of an American military system for the first time is entering a new era of Man-Machine teamwork and algorithmic competition. Not realizing the full potential of AI will mean ceding the decision advantage to our adversaries,” said Dr. Will Roper, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and logistics, in the statement announcing the test.
A Pentagon report released earlier this year said that “China sees AI as critical to its future military and industrial power” and that Beijing “is making strategic investments around the world in AI to reap national security and economic benefits.”
“Over the past five years, China has made achievements in AI-enabled unmanned surface vessels, which China plans to use to patrol and reinforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has also tested unmanned tanks as part of research efforts to integrate AI into ground forces equipment,” the report added.
In two separate speeches earlier this month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said that artificial intelligence and robotics will play an important role in the future of military conflicts in the next 10 to 15 years.
“Artificial intelligence: that’s an incredibly powerful technology that’s coming very, very fast, not only in civil society in the commercial world, but it’s going to have tremendously powerful applications in the military,” Milley said in a speech at the Brookings Institution.
“Maybe (in) 10 to 15 years at most, you will see the widespread and ubiquitous use of robots in most armies of the world,” Milley said in a second speech.