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AI-Controlled F-16 Fighter Jets Dogfighting with Humans

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The US Air Force recently made a big announcement: they’ve been testing out something new with their F-16 fighter jets. Instead of humans flying them, they’ve been letting artificial intelligence (AI) do the piloting. This is a big deal because it’s the first time AI has been trusted to fly a real fighter jet in a dogfight, where it goes head-to-head with human pilots.

The Air Force worked on this project with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They used a special plane called the X-62A VISTA, which can mimic the performance of other aircraft. Their work on this project even got them nominated for a prestigious award called the Robert J. Collier Trophy.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, called this achievement a game-changer in combat aviation. He said it’s something people have been dreaming about for a long time, and now it’s finally happening.

DARPA has been working on AI pilot software for a while. They started back in 2020 with something called the AlphaDogfight trials, where AI pilots competed against humans in flight simulators. The AI won, but it had some advantages like being able to fly faster and pull more intense maneuvers than a human could handle.

This new AI pilot system doesn’t rely on traditional rules-based programming. Instead, it learns from past experiences and makes decisions based on that. This makes it better suited for dynamic situations like dogfights, where things can change quickly.

The X-62A is basically an F-16 that’s been modified to be controlled by AI. The first successful test flight happened in December 2022, and by September 2023, it was able to go up against a human-piloted F-16 in a mock dogfight, all without any safety issues.

While the team didn’t win the big award they were nominated for, their work is still seen as a major step forward in autonomous aviation, both for military and commercial uses.

Source: Theregister