The first aerial showdown between a human fighter pilot and an autonomous aircraft is slated for July 2021, according to a fascinating interview with the outgoing Director of the US Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC).
Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies as part of its Aerospace Nation interview series, Lt. General John Shanahan spoke passionately at length about his work building the JAIC from the ground up, the challenges facing the US armed forces at the dawn of the AI era, the challenges inherent in bringing next-gen technologies through the notoriously conservative bureaucracies of the military, and the ethics at the heart of any weaponized artificial intelligence program.
As an aside to the nearly hour-long interview, Shanahan mentioned an email conversation he’d been having with Dr. Steven Rogers, Senior Scientist for Automatic Target Recognition and Sensor Fusion at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
“Cap Rogers and I exchanged emails just this weekend,” said Shanahan, “on the work he’s doing trying to field, in July of next year, an autonomous system to go up against a human, manned system in some sort of air-to-air. Bold, bold idea.”