AI and the Future of Air Combat in India

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration into military systems, particularly in air combat, signifies a pivotal shift in warfare comparable to historical transitions like gunpowder to nuclear weapons. This article explores AI's implications in air combat, drawing from Israeli fighter ace Giora Even-Epstein's experiences with the F-16 Fighting Falcon, noting the prominence of computer control. With AI increasingly embedded in military platforms such as autonomous weapons and surveillance drones, discussions on future military power distribution have gained traction globally.

Instances of AI superiority over professional pilots in simulations and successful dogfights against human pilots underscore AI's transformative potential in air warfare. This shift suggests a diminishing reliance on conventional manned military capabilities over time. The prospect of stealthy drone swarms disrupting enemy airspace and the proliferation of unmanned platforms foretells a future where both manned and unmanned aircraft operations become routine.

Examining conflicts like the Russo-Ukrainian War highlights AI's role in enhancing battlefield capabilities, with nations like Ukraine and Russia leveraging AI-enabled drones for precision strikes. Major powers like the US, China, and Russia are increasingly integrating AI into military applications for competitive advantage.

In India, while strides have been made in advanced fighter jet development, concerns linger over the pace of AI integration in defense. Facing pressure from neighboring nations like China, India must accelerate AI research, foster private sector collaboration, and bolster aerospace capabilities to navigate the evolving geopolitical landscape effectively. Addressing challenges like brain drain and resource constraints, India has an opportunity to establish itself as a key player in shaping the future of AI-driven warfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
JournalJournal of Defence Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


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