Artificial Intelligence (AI) Defeats US Air Force Top-Gun Human Pilot in Simulated Dogfight for First Time

A computer program easily beat a top U.S. fighter pilot in five rounds of simulated F-16 flight combat during a competition. The AI program won all five rounds in under two minutes, showing the technology’s promise.  The human pilot, “Banger” (name withheld), a recent graduate of the Air Force’s F-16 Weapons Instructor Course is an operational fighter pilot with more than 2,000 hours in the F-16.

The “AlphaDogFight Trials” were sponsored by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, more commonly known as DARPA, which is exploring the use of AI for a variety of military applications.


In the simulated dogfight, the F-16 aircrafts exceeded speeds of 500 miles per hour and pulled 9 Gs as they twisted and turned through the virtual airspace. Each craft was armed with simulated machine guns. The combat appeared on a video screen with small blips for each aircraft. The human pilot wore a virtual reality headset that gave him a view of the combat as if he were in the cockpit of a real plane.

Artificial Intelligence pilots have a significant advantage over human pilots, as they are not affected by the extreme G forces that occur when maneuvering at high speeds. They are also able to aim and fire to a superhuman level, though until now artificial intelligence has lacked the tactical thinking that humans are capable of. This AI system was developed through deep reinforcement learning in order to overcome this and defeat the human pilot.

Darpa said the AlphaDogfight Trials is a precursor to its ACE program, which ultimately aims to use AI algorithms to fly real aircraft.

The human pilot said that he was unable to match twisting techniques adopted by the AI pilot that he had not witnessed in human-to-human air combat. “Standard things we do as fighter pilots are just not working,” he said.

“Do you want Skynet? Because this is how you get Skynet.” ~Grey Team

Best Job in the Marine Corps

Firing 50 rounds a second with the GAU-17 Gatling gun, as the door-gunner for a UH-1Y “Venom” helicopter (Huey), is undoubtedly something that very few people on this planet will ever experience.


US Marine Door-gunners are the only users of that weapon system in an offensive capability, although other variants of it have been used since Vietnam. These attack helicopters are armed to the teeth and typically fly alongside an AH-1Z “Viper” attack helicopter (Cobra), as part of a team of six Marines — two Cobra pilots, two Huey pilots, and two-door gunners — commanding tremendous firepower in battle.

UH 1Y USS San Deigo
A UH-1Y Huey helicopter attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’

There is an entire buffet of offensive and defensive capabilities between the two aircraft, making the Marines capabilities in battle, tremendously lethal.

Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Fitzgerald

Gunnery Sgt. Fitzgerald is a seasoned crew chief with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s “Gunrunners” (HMLA-269) who has served for 12 years. On September 14, 2012, the North Carolina native was brushing his teeth before bed when small arms fire raked his building and explosions shook the ground at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan .

Fitzgerald rushed outside into what he describes as his “most intense combat experience ever”. “It was chaos. Taliban insurgents disguised in Army fatigues had infiltrated the base. The fuel pits had erupted in flames, and the enemy was pouring fire of all kinds onto the base, everything from bullets to rocket-propelled grenades.”

“My unit was under a ferocious attack,” Fitzgerald recalled. “We actually had to submit a request for air support on ourselves for ourselves.”

While he fought with Marines on the ground, embracing the concept that every Marine is a rifleman, others from his unit took to the sky in a few of the undamaged helicopters. “When our helicopters started attacking and suppressing the Taliban infiltrators by providing close air support, those of us on the ground started cheering,” Fitzgerald said.

The Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in the fall of 2012 was stopped after a brutal four-hour firefight, but not before two Marines were killed, 17 British and US personnel were wounded, and nine aircraft were damaged or destroyed.

For Fitzgerald, being both a helicopter crew chief and door-gunner who normally wages war above the battlefield, his fighting that night on the down below forever changed his understanding of his service. “That was the first time I was ever actually on the ground seeing the impact that my unit has downrange.


“There was a saying among the Taliban leadership that got back to us,” Fitzgerald said. “They would say, ‘Fight the Americans. Fight the infidels. Fight them hard, but if you ever see their tiny gray helicopters, don’t shoot them. They will kill you.'”

Heir to Walmart was Green Beret in Vietnam and Awarded the Silver Star

US Army Specialist 4 John Walton, or as you may remember him, John Thomas Walton of the Walmart empire, was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group or the notorious MACV-SOG back in 1968. He was stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) 1 in Phu Bai, where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. As a member of a Special Forces Reconnaissance Team, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Sp4 Walton was routinely conducting missions deep in hostile territory.

US Army Specialist John Thomas Walton

On August 3rd, 1968, in the A Shau Valley, his six-man recon team’s patrol was attacked by a numerically superior enemy force firing automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Surrounded and overrun by enemy NVA soldiers, the firefight became so intense that the team leader called an F-4 airstrike directly on their own position to break the contact. One of his team members was severely wounded and as the team’s medic, Sp4 Walton fought off the enemy while rendering life-saving medical treatment to the casualty. Later, when a grenade exploded inside the team’s defensive perimeter and temporarily incapacitated the team leader, Sp4 Walton assumed the job of directing airstrikes on the attackers. Although under constant and ravaging enemy fire, Sp4c Walton then administered aid to the casualties suffered as the battle continued.

CH 34 VNAF13
South Vietnamese Air Force H-34 KingBee

Three rescue choppers were alerted to extract the group. The first to arrive was an H-34 KingBee rescue helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Airforce Captain Thinh Dinh, to pick up the most seriously wounded. Walton carried the wounded team members through continuing enemy fire to the waiting ship. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. After loading it up and watching it successfully lift off under heavy gunfire, Walton was told over the radio that the second and third helicopters were not coming as the landing zone (LZ) was too overrun by the enemy (hot). Captain Thinh, after hearing of the cancellation of the other rescue ships, dove his chopper back down and landed it back to within mere feet of Walton, who was fighting for his life in the clearing. The last remaining team members climbed aboard while the enemy ran towards their helicopter, firing with automatic weapons. With the entire team loaded, the weight was too much to take off so Thinh lifted the back wheel off the ground and started rolling his helicopter downhill, gaining as much speed as possible. At the last possible moment, Thinh nursed the aging KingBee over the trees. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor. Specialist Fourth Class Walton’s gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built experimental plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas. 

Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire (at one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, worth an estimated $18.2 billion), his legacy is also forever tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his unfortunate death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up Thinh Dinh and his family, whom he had stayed in touch with after serving together over three decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.

The Most Lethal Recruit to Ever Set Foot onto Parris Island

When Marine Recruit Austin Farrell arrived at the Chosin Rifle Range, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, he anticipated performing well on the range but never expected to walk away with the highest rifle score ever recorded in the history of the depot. He scored an almost perfect 248 out of 250 on Table One of the Department of Defense’s toughest basic marksmanship challenge, the Marine Corps rifle qualification test.

The Marine Corps Table One rifle qualification includes shooting from the prone, kneeling, and standing positions at distances of up to 500 yards with the M16A4 Service Rifle, using the Rifle Combat Optic.

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When asked how he was able to break the Depot’s record, Ferrell responded: “Practice, before I got here, was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… and after I shot a 248, everyone was congratulating me except when I got back to the squad bay. My drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” said Ferrell with a laugh.

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Ferrell’s father George Ferrell said that his son has always given his all into whatever he put his mind to and that he knows Austin is going to have a promising career in the Marine Corps because of his dedication to success. “I’m always so proud of him, but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.” Ferrell is scheduled to graduate Sept. 4, 2020, with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.


Air Guardsmen Spot ‘SOS’ Written on Pacific Island Beach, Leading to Rescue of 3 Missing Men

Three men have been rescued from a tiny Pacific island after writing a giant SOS sign in the sand that was spotted from above. The men had been missing in the Micronesia archipelago for over three days when their distress signal was spotted Sunday on uninhabited Pikelot Island. Guardsmen from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard and the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania ANG deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, were the first to locate the three missing mariners during the search-and-rescue mission in the Federated States of Micronesia southwest of Guam.


The men had apparently set out from Pulawat atoll in a 7-meter (23-foot) boat on July 30 and had intended to travel about 43 kilometers (27 miles) to Pulap atoll when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel. The men were found about 190 kilometers (118 miles) from where they had set out.

Searchers in Guam asked for Australian help. The military ship, Canberra, which was returning to Australia from exercises in Hawaii, diverted to the area and joined forces with U.S. searchers from Guam. Once located by the US Air National Guard, the helicopter crew from the Canberra delivered supplies to the stranded mariners, while a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules from Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, airdropped a radio and message block informing them the FSS Independence was en-route to rescue and return them home.

“Partnerships” said U.S Coast Guard Capt. Christopher Chase, Coast Guard Sector Guam, commander. “This is what made this search-and-rescue case successful. Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families.”

Good Things Come In Small Packages

US Army Pfc. Alton Knappenberger

On Feb1, 1944, Pfc Knappenberger (AKA Knappie) pressed himself to the cold ground on the outskirts of Cisterna di Latina, Italy. A few inches of snow lay on the open field, just enough to cover it. His outfit, Company C of the 30th Infantry Regiment…

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Two Marines In The Path Of A Truck Bomb – Gen. John Kelly

“Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle-class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond, they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

Grey Team Tribute To General John Kelly

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alleyway—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded are commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “ … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore into the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence, Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.”

To learn more about General John Kelly, please visit the U.S. Department of Defense