The deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in the air force can deliver faster and safer military performance using fewer resources.
AI can promote situational awareness, provide decision support, identify data patterns, and enable predictive maintenance and pilot training through simulation environments.
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Applications of artificial intelligence in air defence
Militaries across the world are conducting research activities to identify the various applications of artificial intelligence in air defence, with many of these technologies either already being deployed or currently under testing. Some of the applications of AI for the air force industry are discussed below:
- AI-enabled aircraft
AI-enabled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used in air patrol or ground alert interceptor roles to develop an integrated air defence system. The UAVs can be deployed for short-range intercept missions and work in conjunction with crewed aircraft to deliver the required data and intelligence.
The human crew will be responsible for developing the engagement strategy and selecting targets while AI can be deployed to perform other tasks such as manoeuvring the aircraft and dogfight tactics.
AI-enabled co-pilots or virtual pilots can help human pilots in manoeuvring an aircraft in challenging environments by analysing and processing data faster and delivering key insights. They can also help in improving efficiency and effectiveness during search and rescue operations.
Researchers at the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory developed an AI algorithm known as ARTUµ that flew along with a pilot on board the U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft. The algorithm was trained to execute in-flight tasks such as sensor employment and tactical navigation that would have been otherwise executed by the pilot.
Ireland has set up research teams to explore disruptive solutions including an AI co-pilot to improve the fire extinguishing capability of rotary-wing aircraft.
- Digital twins
AI has the potential to recreate real-life environments and scenarios in real-time using digital twins, which can be used to identify the best approach in a high-risk situation. The digital-twin approach can help in capability development by designing, testing and running mission simulations.
- Computer vision
AI-based computer vision algorithms can analyse images and data collected by drones in real-time to perform safety and inspection missions and identify hostile activity. If a target is identified as hostile, computer vision can be used by targeting systems that use guided missiles and anti-aircraft missiles can operate with more accuracy using computer vision systems.
- Maintenance and performance checks
AI can help in reducing the workload of engineers and maintenance personnel who perform routine checks of aircraft by enabling them to visualise damages in 3D with a high level of accuracy.