Former Navy Pilot Says AI That Won Dogfight Would’ve ‘Crashed and Burned’ in Real Combat

A former U.S. Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor told Business Insider this week that the combat simulation in which an artificial intelligence beat an experienced human pilot gave the computer an advantage.

Guy “Bus” Snodgrass said that he “was not surprised by that outcome,” after the AI won. John “JV” Venable, a former Air Force pilot, added that he expected the same.

“This was gamed to a point where you can’t beat it,” Venable said, noting that the AI algorithm seems to have been given information that it wouldn’t have had access to in the real world, and that the simulated environment was made for the program.

“You have an artificial intelligence program that has been perfectly trained in that environment to conduct a simulated fight, and you have a US Air Force fighter pilot who you are forcing to wear VR goggles,” Snodgrass said, adding that the human pilot was “playing the AI’s game.”

Snodgrass, who has a background in computer science and the AI research being done by the Defense Department, noted that “if you give [AI] a very narrow, specific job to accomplish, once it’s been trained, once it has had exposure to a very static environment, it does phenomenally well.”

The retired Navy commander noted that “The AlphaDogfight trials were a significant step toward one day providing an unmanned aircraft that can perform dogfighting, but what it does not demonstrate is that we’re there now.”

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