The US Air Force (USAF) says “AI is akin to the development of stealth aircraft and precision-guided munitions” in its 2019 artificial intelligence strategy.

The documents, released on the 12th September, outline the USAF’s priorities for artificial intelligence, saying that “AI is no longer limited to science fiction”.

The USAF’s key priorities for AI are to drive down technological barriers to entry, recognise and treat data as a strategic asset, democratise access to AI solutions, recruit, develop, upskill, and cultivate its workforce, and increase transparency and cooperation with international, government, industry and academic partners.

The USAF outlines the importance of AI, saying: “The air force cannot effectively execute missions in today’s complex security environment without embracing these technologies and delivering capabilities to our airmen.”

The document concludes: “The global air force enterprise will embrace all aspects of AI to advance our understanding of the complexity that a data-driven digital age brings to the battlespace.”

It adds that the adoption of AI across the USAF is not something that can be achieved just by commanders but that “everyone is responsible to purposefully consider and attempt to include AI in everything we do”.

USAF Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein co-signed the document saying: “The air force is charged to provide the nation with air and space superiority, global strike, rapid global mobility, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and command control.

“Al is a capability that will underpin our ability to compete, deter and win across all five of these diverse missions. It is crucial to fielding tomorrow’s air force faster and smarter, executing multi-domain operations in the high-end fight, confronting threats below the level of open conflict and partnering with our allies around the globe.”

The USAF’s AI priorities are closely aligned with priorities outlined by the US Department of Defence (DoD), which plans to put AI at the centre of the US military.

The USAF says that AI will “cause an exponential transformation of the entire spectrum of human life and experience”. The DoD is increasingly looking at AI as a solution to increase response times and data-flows between the US military services and to provide increased efficiency in the back-office.

The DoD is investing heavily in AI across the department to keep the US at the forefront of the military adoption of artificial intelligence. At a recent press briefing at the Pentagon, the head of the US Joint AI Centre Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan described how China was a rising power in the AI field.

The USAF document stresses the importance of the US maintaining the edge in AI adoption saying: “In the age of artificial intelligence, second place will be of ever-diminishing value.”

The USAF push is largely focused on deploying AI on a basis of decreasing response times and understanding of the wealth of data it holds. However, it is also pursuing military programmes. One of the USAF’s combat projects ‘Skyborg’ aims to deliver an autonomous wingman, capable of acting as a support for the advanced F-35 fighter jet.