HomeIndustriesDARPA tested an AI-controlled F-16 jet in human-AI dogfight

DARPA tested an AI-controlled F-16 jet in human-AI dogfight

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that it has conducted the primary air test of an AI-controlled fighter aircraft in a combat simulation against a human-controlled F-16.

The AI ​​pilot's flight skill demonstrations took place in September 2023 on the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, but were only recently announced by DARPA.

During the exercise, the AI ​​system developed by DARPA's Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program piloted a specially modified F-16 test aircraft called the X-62A, or VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft).

We previously reported on the X-62 and the Pentagon's plan so as to add swarms of autonomous AI ghost jets to its arsenal. However, that is the primary time an AI-controlled jet will fly in a dogfight scenario harking back to scenes from Top Gun.


The specially modified F-16 test aircraft that the AI ​​piloted. Source: DARPA

So who won? Unfortunately, the officials say nothing. Previously, when an AI competed against human pilots in a flight simulator, the AI ​​got here out on top.

Their reluctance to inform us the rating can have less to do with national security concerns and more to do with sparing the human pilots' egos.

Lt. Col. Ryan Hefron, program manager at ACE, said, “We had a variety of testing objectives that we wanted to perform in this primary round of testing. So ask yourself the query: who won? It doesn't necessarily capture the nuances of the testing we do. What I’ll say, nonetheless, is that the aim of the test was actually to determine a solution to show that we will safely test these AI agents in a safety-critical air combat environment.”

According to DARPA, the most important goal of those experiments is to advertise human-machine collaboration and trustworthy autonomy. You wish to ensure that a human pilot can trust his AI wingman and follow his example.

“We have to give you the option to trust these algorithms to make use of them in a real-world environment,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hefron, ACE program manager for DARPA.

ACE goals to offer a capability where a single human pilot can command and work with autonomous AI aircraft to attack enemies more effectively. An AI-controlled jet could perform maneuvers that will exceed the physical demands of a human pilot.

DARPA says it supports the United States' commitment to “be the initiator, not the victim, of strategic technological surprises.”

The Chinese are almost actually working on some AI defense surprises of their very own.


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