Pentagon plans AI dogfight competition with full-scale aircraft starting in late 2022

by Pat Host

The Pentagon plans to hold a dogfight competition involving artificial intelligence (AI)-operated, full-scale tactical aircraft starting in October 2022.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spokesman Jared Adams said on 9 September that the first full-scale airborne events will feature tactical fighter-class aircraft. These are slated to be Aero L-39s, but could end up being Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, with safety pilots on board playing a role in experimentation and to lend assistance if something goes wrong.

A USAF Aero L-39 aircraft in Russian markings seen at the home of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSCOC) at Hurlburt Field in Florida on 20 June 2012. The Pentagon is tentatively planning to use L-39s in a dogfight competition involving artificial intelligence (AI)-operated, full-scale tactical aircraft starting in October 2022. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

A USAF Aero L-39 aircraft in Russian markings seen at the home of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSCOC) at Hurlburt Field in Florida on 20 June 2012. The Pentagon is tentatively planning to use L-39s in a dogfight competition involving artificial intelligence (AI)-operated, full-scale tactical aircraft starting in October 2022. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Pilots, Adams said, will be given higher cognitive level battle management tasks while their aircraft fly dogfights, and there will be human factors sensors measuring attention and stress to gauge how well the human pilots trust the AI. These AI-operated dogfights are a continuation of DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) effort, which seeks to increase trust in combat autonomy by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its challenge problem.

Adams said the current schedule is 1v1 live airborne dogfights in January-March 2023, 2v1 in July-September 2023, and 2v2 in October-December 2024. The test series will feature both symmetrical and asymmetrical matchups.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on 9 September that the AI algorithm’s recent victory in the AlphaDogfight Trials over a human US Air Force (USAF) F-16 pilot demonstrated the ability of advanced algorithms to outperform humans in virtual dogfights. An AI algorithm created by Heron Systems defeated the USAF weapons school-trained pilot on 20 August.

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/pentagon-plans-ai-dogfight-competition-with-full-scale-aircraft-starting-in-late-2022

The Pentagon plans to hold a dogfight competition involving artificial intelligence (AI)-operated, f...

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