16

This is a short story written prior to 1990, possibly significantly earlier. The plot is about a dogfight between a man piloting the latest generation of fighter jet, which had a built-in artificial intelligence, and several previous-generation enemy fighters.

I think maybe when the story begins, the pilot is on a test flight by himself or maybe just flying a patrol mission. If he is with other planes, they are destroyed shortly after the enemy jets are encountered. The pilot does his best, but, being outnumbered, he eventually takes a hit from a missile or gun, and the shrapnel hurts him badly.

As soon as he passes out (from blood loss?), the AI takes over completely and, in a short space of time, defeats all of the enemy fighters by virtue of having faster reactions and being able to maneuver at higher G's than a human can handle while remaining conscious. As the fighter returns to base, I think the closing lines are something along the lines of how the fighter cared tenderly for the pilot or similar.

Note that the AI of the plane is specialized for its function and is not human-like; it doesn't talk or anything like that. Also note that this is a fighter plane intended for operation in air, not space.

The only interesting thing of this otherwise unremarkable story is that I believe it is implied without saying outright that humans had become obsolete as fighter pilots. I believe the new jet is described to the pilot as being full of features to assist him, but, in actual combat, he only lessened its effectiveness.

  • Remarkably similar to the story in this question. – Mr Lister Sep 10 '17 at 7:33
  • I wonder if the folks who wrote Macros Plus had read this... – thrig Sep 10 '17 at 15:45
  • @MrLister - No relation to that story that I can see. There is no alternate personality for the pilot; this is the plane itself equipped with an AI. – Otis Sep 17 '17 at 17:11
11

The story is The Man in the Gray Weapons Suit by Paul J. Nahin.

The pilot (we never learn his name, he is just referred to as the warrior) takes off from some form of aircraft carrier on a patrol mission in his plane Red Striker Five. Much is made of the deadly efficiency of his aircraft - the language used borders on the erotic for reasons that will become apparent.

He detects and engages multiple enemy aircraft. He destroys eleven of them but is jumped from behind by a twelfth and seriously injured:

As he realized his peril, the right wing took two hits: one on the tip and one on the trailing edge near the wing root. Red-hot, searing metal fragments tore through Red Striker Five’s body, and one, the size of a man’s thumb, ripped into the warrior’s right leg, just below the knee. Muscle tissue, bone, and arterial fragments, mixed with shreds of flight-suit fabric, splattered the cockpit, and blood gushed from the wound.

And he switches over to remote control to allow the plane to fly him back:

he warrior knew, just before he passed out, that his survival was out of his control. He retained enough strength to slap the emergency combat palm switch at the side of his seat, and then he rapidly slid into unconsciousness. It was up to Red Striker Five to get them both home.

The plane then flies him home, destroying the twelfth enemy aircraft in the process:

When the enemy was only 700 meters behind, Red Striker Five popped her air brakes and lost 300 knots almost immediately. Simultaneously she pulled into a climb and did a full inside loop, coming down behind and on the tail of the snookered enemy aircraft. The defeated foe had a few milliseconds to realize his fatal error, and then Red Striker Five ripped him apart with two dozen strikes from her dual 20mm cannons. The flaming enemy debris flared out along a ten-mile track, but by then Red Striker Five, bearing her dying warrior home, was gone.

We discover at the end that the pilot is so emotionally connected to his plane that he has come to love it as if it were another human. As he is being stretchered away the story tells us:

The warrior smiled weakly through a pale white face lined with pain and shock. He looked up at Red Striker Five and saw not a technological marvel of electronics, armament, metallurgy, and computer programs. He saw both a warm and loving creature, and a being that had killed to save him. Killed with savagery and intelligence. His body filled with emotion, a feeling of passion that only later he would just barely begin to understand.

He looked at the battle-ravaged Red Striker Five, and just before he slipped into darkness again, he knew. He knew she’d be there when he came back. She’d wait for him, and he loved her.

And he knew she loved him too

As you say in the question, the AI is not the traditional SF AI like HAL 9000. It does not talk to the pilot or show any signs of emotion. However there is no implication that the pilot is holding back the AI. The implication is that they are a perfectly matched team.

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