Report: Lockheed showcases potential of AI in air combat - M5 Dergi
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Report: Lockheed showcases potential of AI in air combat

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Lockheed Martin’s renowned Skunk Works advanced projects division has partnered with the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) to demonstrate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in air-to-air intercept scenarios.

As noted by the company, this collaboration marks a significant milestone for Skunk Works’ Tactical AI team, showcasing the potential of AI in real-world military applications.

In the recent successful flights, AI directly controlled and executed tactical exercises using one of OPL’s L-29 Delfin jets. The AI managed the aircraft’s heading, speed, and altitude, conducting simulated-to-real transfer test objectives against a virtual adversary in both offensive and defensive postures.

Eight test cases were conducted per flight, evaluating the AI agent in various scenarios, from standard head-to-head encounters to missile support and defeat situations. The AI agent demonstrated intentional and decisive actions, successfully transferring learned behaviors from simulations to live flight.

“This was the first live exercise of the new flight interface. It’s thrilling to see the separate components successfully integrate on the L-29 to demonstrate new capabilities. The complete system performed even better in live flight than in simulation,” said Dr. Tom “Mach” Schnell, OPL professor at Iowa Technology Institute.

“Live flight tests are crucial for advancing our expertise in AI and autonomy. These flights are powerful demonstrations of our ability to quickly and affordably develop and test operationally relevant AI capabilities,” added Matthew “Gabe” Beard, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works autonomy/AI and machine learning engineering manager.

These flight tests are part of a broader initiative to rapidly develop and test AI-driven autonomy for air-to-air missions. Further tests are planned for this year, building on these achievements by increasing the complexity with additional aircraft and engaging in offensive counter air and battle management scenarios.

Lockheed Martin continues to elevate AI mission performance in operationally representative simulated environments, using open mission systems standards to ensure broad compatibility and rapid transition with future platforms. The company provides AI and machine learning solutions that enhance human performance by processing, fusing, and analyzing large volumes of data, delivering actionable intelligence and strategic advantages.

Aligned with the U.S. Department of Defense’s guidelines on the ethical and safe use of autonomous systems, Lockheed Martin ensures that humans maintain the final decision-making authority in its AI and machine learning systems. This partnership with the University of Iowa demonstrates the potential of AI in enhancing the capabilities of future air combat operations, paving the way for more advanced autonomous systems.

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