Could AI Fill the Role of Chief of Air Force?

By Wing Commander Keirin Joyce, CSC

Could the future Chief of Air Force be a computer?

Probably not. War is a human affair after all.

But could we say “Any Aviator, paired with the Chief’s computer”?

The role of the RAAF is to generate first class Air and Space Power. To do this requires two activities; Raise, Train and Sustain (RTS) (fixed wing) air and space capabilities, and run their capability life cycle (CLC). This is achieved successively by Air Force 2-stars.

Subsequently , the requirements for the Chief can be derived as follows: They must lead RTS and CLC activities, as well as be the Defence Aviation Authority (DAA). In addition, the Chief must lead the Air Force Board (AFB), perform representative and ceremonial functions, and front Government as the face of Air Force (as seen by most in the regular appearances at Senate Estimates hearings).

This leads to the next key question: What experience does CAF need to do those things? They must intrinsically understand airworthiness, have the ability to lead, mediate and guide the 2-stars, be a good public speaker, not bad at drill, and have an elephantine memory in order to answer questions on notice about anything and everything Air Force.

However, it’s easy to see that no one meets the memory requirement; that’s why CAF takes a stack of massive flagged binders into Senate Estimates. So, remove this, and you have our Air and Space Power Leader.

Do any of these attributes require someone performing the role of CAF to be a pilot?

That’s an easy no!

As Air Force moves toward greater non-piloted air and space power applications, the requirement for a pilot to lead Air Force diminishes further.

One simply needs to consider the growth in uncrewed (and autonomous) aviation, space, cyber, integrated air and missile defence and air-basing.

It is very simple math that there is a time in the not too distant future when piloted aircraft effects will be outweighed by the rest of air and space power capability.

So what will make the best FutureChief of Air Force?

One kick-ass computer that supplements the memory requirement, that knows every rule, regulation, fact, figure and story of the Air Force; an artificial intelligence device that can crunch the data to meet the goal of true concept led force design.

Pair that computer with someone with airworthiness (spaceworthiness?) experience, who is well spoken, okay(ish) at drill, and a competent LEADER. And that could be any Aviator!

Wing Commander Keirin Joyce, CSC is an Air Force officer who has been supporting UAS technology development within the ADF for the last 15+ years.

This article was published by Central Blue on April 4, 2022.