Re: They are getting part of a clue
> Last I'd appreciate it if you didn't base all your arguments on SF.
I'm going to be awkward and respond to this one first ;)
In the first instance, I didn't base all of my arguments on sci-fi; I provided actual historical evidence of jamming/spoofing activities from WW2 and the UN intervention in Serbia.
Secondly, what we're talking about is currently sci-fi: we're several generations away from anything which could be considered true autonomous AI. We're entirely in the mode of speculating and extrapolating from the current day!
And I have to admit, I've not read Bruce Sterling's stuff for a decade or two; I found his writings to be a bit dry and a bit too similar to the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes american-high-technology approach, even if he did take a more cyber/grimdark approach to his stories.
Beyond that, I don't think Banks was that handwavium. Unlike Neal Asher, whose early Polity stuff had some interesting stuff, but has since moved into pure "science is magic" realms. And as earlier mentioned, I do like Keith Laumer's Bolo stuff, not least because Baen got a load of other writers to create stories in that universe, which led to some interesting alternative takes on how military AI units would work (or fail). And then of course, there's Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series...
Anyhow, back to where we were...
> You're putting words in my mouth I didn't use.
You've been saying things like "on a hot battlefield if it's flying and it's not yours, it's good to shoot". Which implies full autonomy - and also carries a dangerous assumption: what if it's a medivac chopper? Or a red cross plane carrying emergency civilian supplies?
There's plenty of scenarios where "shoot first and ask questions later" is the wrong approach, and public opinion - even or especially that of your enemies - is still a critical part of war. After all, it helps to encourage people to buy war bonds if you can prove that the enemy is deliberately killing civilians; just ask the German leaders during WW1 about how well things went after a submarine sank the RMS Lusitania...
> You can bring in the "loyal wingman" concept the USAF is thinking about: a pilot orchestrating a swarm.
So... they're not autonomous, then? ;)
Honestly, I think they're going to struggle to make the wingman principle work. Despite what the movies claim, humans can generally only focus on one thing at a time, so a human "pilot" is only going to be able to issue general orders which the drones will then have to figure out how to implement. And that also then means that your swarm is restricted to the speed of human reaction times - plus any latency inherent in the comms system, especially if the pilot is comfortably sat in a bunker several dozen miles away.
So fundamentally, your drones are going to be at a significant disadvantage against an enemy which gives their drones more autonomy. But that again leads to the fact that you're both taking human decision making out of the loop, and trusting the AI to do the "right" thing.
And as we've seen with things like ChatGPT and it's hallucinations, that's not guaranteed.
> But I specifically stated they should be optimized for air-to-air, nothing else
So... the enemy can just drive a wedge of tanks straight under your drones?
The problem is that any AI unit needs to be part of an integrated battle system. And each element of it needs to have both offensive and defensive capabilities; as the British found out with the very first ever tank assault in WW1, tanks are a great force multiplier, but proved to be pretty much useless without infantry support, both to defend the tanks and to hold the ground which they've taken.
Similarly, in WW2, British Matilda tanks proved to be surprisingly effective in Africa... apart from the fact that their guns were underpowered.
> Weight and cost considerations for the sensors are nice, except a meatbag aircraft has: a pilot, a cockpit and an ejection. Those all add weight and give minimal dimensions. Plus the the same sensors. And a hard 9G limits on turns.
A F-22 Raptor weighs up to 32 tonnes when fully laden; I'd be surprised if the pilot's support system comes to more than a tonne of that. So I suspect that the actual weight difference will be fairly minimal, once you've finished bolting in all the extra sensors, comms equipment, computer hardware, plus all the backup systems thereof, plus physical/EMP shielding, etc.
Equally, there's the fact that while a drone can potentially handle extra G, the airframe, fuel systems, etc will all need to be upgraded to support that. Which will further add to the weight, cost and maintenance overheads.
> And if you have a truly autonomous AI for the duration, you don't need to worry near as much about jamming. It just needs to find its way back home in a GPS-degraded environment. That's certainly solvable with terrain following radar.
The problem there is that radar is both easily jammed *and* trackable. Flying low and waving a bright radar beam around is a prime way to get a guided missile sent directly to your exhaust ports...
To be fair, it's a problem that's at least somewhat solvable via passive sensors and dead reckoning, but it's yet more stuff that the AI needs to be capable of doing. And it needs the sensor capabilities to be able to do it!
> So taxpayers funding gen 5 and gen 6 jets need to worry if we are hitting a battleship moment.
I think we are approaching that sort of moment, but I do wonder quite what the shape of things will be.
Fundamentally, military equipment has been getting exponentially more expensive over time, thanks to the eternal arms race between offensive and defensive capabilities.
E.g. a WW2 spitfire cost around £800,000 to build (accounting for inflation). A Eurofighter Typhoon costs up to £120 million!
And any truly capable/AI-autonomous drone is going to need to be given just as much defensive capabilities as a human-piloted drone would have. If not more, since by it's nature, it's going to need a lot more active sensors and comms capabilities.
Which in turn means that they're going to be incredibly expensive to produce and maintain.
Or you can go the other way, and opt for quantity over quality, with cheap, mass produced drones.
Which takes us back to the WW2 and the different approaches taken by the Allies (quantity) and Germany (quality).
Or even this little experiment which was recently discussed on Ars Technica:
The answer will probably lie somewhere inbetween, but it'll be interesting to see how we get there!