AI-piloted F-16 ‘dogfights’ human pilot in DARPA test – Military Embedded Systems

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April 18, 2024

Dan Taylor

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Image via DARPA

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conducted the first-ever in-air tests of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms piloting an F-16 fighter jet autonomously in direct combat scenarios against a human-piloted counterpart, the agency announced in a statement.

The tests were carried out using the X-62A or Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA), a specially modified F-16, at the Air Force Test Pilot School located at Edwards Air Force Base. These demonstrations showcased the potential of AI to execute complex aerial combat maneuvers independently, and the milestone in the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program marks a significant step in the development of autonomous flight capabilities within visual combat ranges, the statement reads.

DARPA’s ACE program focuses on integrating AI into tactical aviation, aiming to establish a framework for ethical and trusted human-machine teaming across both military and civilian aerospace applications. This initiative is designed to enhance pilot decision-making and mission effectiveness through the support of autonomous systems, the statement reads.

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