TWIFT | Digital | Pilot Aside: in the USA, AI Became the Co-Pilot

Pilot Aside: in the USA, AI Became the Co-Pilot

On December 15, 2020, an artificial intelligence called ARTUμ became the co-pilot of the U-2 Dragon Lady during its maiden military flight. The installation itself was created according to the chess game algorithms, so it is jokingly called the “chess pilot”.

This strategy for the development of military aviation has already been recognized as the most progressive and innovative. Further development of such devices was included in the list of the most important programs of the US Department of Defense in Virginia.

Besides, the US Air Force has already suggested that artificial intelligence will be modified to apply it to other fighter aircraft.

AI Copilot: Air Force achieves first military flight with artificial  intelligence > U.S. Air Force > Article Display

The Pentagon has confirmed that these programs will soon be developed more actively.

This process has become a real breakthrough in the defense sphere. Since in mid-December, instead of tasks as an ordinary pilot, the world saw a smart computer at the helm. So far, it has been assigned the role of co-pilot, but it performed perfectly.

To many, this news seemed part of the cinematic reality. One has only to remember the film “Star Wars” by George Lucas. It is quite realistic that the American smart launcher on the U-2 reconnaissance AI aircraft was named R2-D2 in honor of the co-pilot in the flight of the main character of the saga, Luke Skywalker.


In the version of the American developers, the name of the robot sounds slightly abbreviated. The smart pilot is often referred to as R2 or ARTUμ.

On its maiden flight, the new technology, which replaced the co-pilot aboard the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, was allowed to operate the sensor systems and was put in charge of the onboard radar.

For the U-2 aircraft, it was a training flight, which included reconnaissance targets in parallel, since the device is a military one. It was organized in California at the US Air Force Bill Special Air Base.

During the training flight, the pilots practiced one of the training tasks ‒ to find and identify the missile launchers of a possible enemy aircraft. The task was complicated by the fact that the pilots did it in the circumstances of simulating a missile strike.

At the same time, the US Air Force reported that the robot’s task was not an easy one. It was personally assigned to control the sensors and monitor tactical navigation immediately after takeoff of the reconnaissance aircraft.

Major “Voodoo” the pilot of this reconnaissance vehicle joined the 9th reconnaissance wing. This flight was unusual for everyone, especially the Pentagon. Where they now evaluated their real chances and advantages over opponents. The flight has already been called a breakthrough in the world of military aviation.

The very sequence and protocol of artificial intelligence actions were developed by the Federal Laboratory U-2 by the command of the battles.

It is worth noting that computer intelligence has been tested alongside another dynamic computer protocol. This process was needed to show all the possibilities of robots’ work in their delicate coordination with living people. The new technology has proven itself at a fairly high level. Also, the flight itself was part of a special scenario, which will continue to evolve in the future.

The well-coordinated work of the chief pilot (human) with the co-pilot of the robot enabled the developers to conclude that the capabilities of modern American aviation have considerable potential.

Having become a member of the crew of a military aircraft and having completed several successful maneuvers, having completed all the tasks, artificial intelligence acquired the right to be called a successful innovative development of the Air Force, on which the Americans spent several years.

It is worth noting that in an era of constant technological innovations and digital progress in the face of the struggle of the main giants of the economy and the competition of their capacities, the emergence of artificial intelligence in America has become one of the important stages in the development of military aviation and its new period of dawn. Now the tasks with which the pilot coped can be performed by the robot, and at best, several of them.

In an interview, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Logistics, Technology, and Procurement, William Roper, said that this positive outcome was the result of the painstaking work of the entire development team of the new digital force, which lasted three years.


William Roper added:

“Our developments and the pioneering journey of the U-2 Dragon Lady ushered in a new stage in the communication of the human world and the world of machines, which are aimed at fulfilling a single task. The AI’s ability to do its job safely gives us the authority to develop the sphere to make certain tasks easier for pilots.”

“However, if the robot still fails to cope with some of the tasks or its potential for some reason cannot be used, this will mean that we will give the enemy an advantage in choosing solutions.”

An interesting detail is that while flying, the chess pilot was responsible for navigating and coordinating the sensors, while his human counterpart controlled the aircraft itself and controlled other sensors. This was their common joint piloting, the purpose of which was a reconnaissance in the process of the circumstances of the missile strike proposed in the training situation.

In addition, while the human pilot monitored the presence of enemy aircraft, his smart partner meanwhile looked for enemy launchers. They had a common U-2 radar at their disposal. This joint work has proven that the effectiveness of intelligence can be improved significantly.

The flight became part of a scientific process that proved the value of the latest development.

“For us to effectively and quickly defeat our enemy in possible conflicts, our side needs a digital advantage in the form of intelligent development and digital technology,” shared Charles K. Brown, Jr. General and Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“I am very proud of our achievements, as now artificial intelligence will help us achieve the advantage of our aviation in the shortest possible time. And I can already see our superiority, because now Russian pilots are crossing the boundaries of what seemed impossible before,” added the General of Staff.

Immediately after the fighter lifted off the ground, control passed into the hands of R2 computer technology. It was the robot who skillfully controlled the sensor at this moment. All thanks to long-term training and the integration of all the information that he received earlier. It is noteworthy that this took about 500 thousand computer operations.

Thanks to this process, the ARTUµ robot received large baggage of new information that it can use in the future. Besides, well-coordinated work showed how to use this experience in the future and in what ways it can be improved.


This development of the Federal Laboratory U-2 will be used in the future for new algorithms and technologies.

“This flight has become a piece of history for the team that has been developing artificial intelligence for so long. I’m sure. We have given a clear and worthy response to the National Defense Strategy for the desire to invest in such autonomous projects, and this will affect not only the air but also the outer space,” said Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

Also, the U-2 laboratory is an association of buyers, developers in one operational structure. The organization has been confirmed and approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Thanks to this, the federal government has already created 20 accreditation programs for laboratories, which concerns information support of systems in a secure environment. The well-known Dragon Lady fighter is also part of Squadron 99. This expeditionary unit of the Air Force, according to media reports, claims to be the so-called Silicon Valley Air Force. Everything to recreate new progressive methods of defense.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the so-called Dragon plane began its flights about 70 years ago. This aircraft is rightfully called one of the rarities of the US Air Force.

This device continues to be used by U-2 pilots, even though its service life is quite long. A fighter can fly so high into the sky that aviators are forced to use carefully protective spacesuits for takeoff. Furthermore, according to DefenseNews. pilots take on tablets and smartwatches from the Garmin D2 brand. In the very first flight with artificial intelligence, the pilot’s task is to find enemy vehicles and contact his colleague ARTUμ. The pilot himself is usually called “Voodoo”, this requirement helps to comply with all safety standards.

However, representatives of the US Air Force argue that artificial intelligence has its drawbacks. And a step towards understanding them will likely become a breakthrough in the field of air wars.

This is how it will be possible to enter the list of legendary discoveries or remain fiction forever.


The pilot himself is often called a chess player. Since the ARTUμ apparatus was created on the principle of the µZero game, these are the very algorithms needed to win chess.

Information is that the US authorities are trying to recreate and develop the country’s digital potential, to make it more powerful. It is no secret that the United States has competitors who are working to develop equipment, systems, and technologies. This is what motivates America’s defense system not to lag, but on the contrary to keep the lead in the air defense system. However, according to data from open sources, cases of the loss of America’s technical advantage in this area have been noticed more than once.

But despite these facts, the government continues to take care of this sector of the economy. Thus, according to the Defense Subsidies Act, in 2021 the US budget was allocated taking into account additional millions for the development of innovative technologies for aviation. At the moment, official Washington sets itself the task of developing technologies that are recognized as advanced in the field of American national defense.

Among the areas in which additional government investments are directed are quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and hypersonic weapons.

At the same time, the US Department of Defense plans to remain the state-leader in the development of robotic pilots and all technologies related to artificial intelligence. A significant amount of money is allocated to accelerate all the necessary scientific developments.

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