In the USA the first combat between an AI-controlled jet and a human pilot


A jet experimental X-62A VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft) from the US Air Force Test Pilot School controlled by artificial intelligence it would have successfully taken on a human pilot during an air combat test last September. This is what emerges from an announcement released in recent days by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The operation took place as part of the ACE program (Air Combat Evolution). The DARPA agency began experimenting with applications of artificial intelligence in the military sector in December 2022 and the fact that less than a year later it has already achieved similar results is certainly noteworthy.

The details of the fight between the AI ​​pilot and the human pilot

After carrying out a series of air combat simulations using the AI pilotthe DARPA agency tried to put it to the test by installing it in its X-62A VISTA experimental aircraft which, essentially, is a heavily modified F-16 employed by US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. On board this aircraft there was a team of human pilots who, for safety reasons, had controls through which they could have disabled the artificial intelligence system but, as the DARPA agency announced, it was not necessary to do so.

From what was disclosed by the agency the X-62A VISTA collided with an F-16 controlled exclusively by human pilots. While it did not say which of the two planes prevailed in the “head-to-head” contest, the DARPA agency stated that both flew at over 600 meters of altitude and exceeded i 1900 km/halso carrying out “nose-to-nose” passages and vertical maneuvers.

The actual combat simulations took place over two weeks and in a variety of scenarios, including situations in which the X-62A VISTA started from a position of disadvantage compared to the jet flown by the human pilot. The AI-guided aircraft began with defensive flight techniques and then moved on to rather intense attack maneuvers.

How we got an AI system to fight against human pilots

The result was achieved thanks to the numerous tests conducted in the months preceding the operation we have just described. According to what was announced by the agency itself, a total of 21 test flights and these tests are expected to continue until the latter part of 2024.

Regarding the results achieved Bill Graychief test pilot of the Air Force Test Pilot Schoolexpressed his satisfaction by stating:

Aircraft combat was the problem that needed to be solved so we could start testing autonomous AI systems in the air. Every lesson we are learning applies to every task that could be given to an autonomous system.

On its YouTube channel, the DARPA agency also released an informative video (in English), which further describes what happened:

Given the winds of war that are blowing forcefully in Middle East (with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and in Europe (with the Russia-Ukraine conflict), rapid progress in the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes cannot help but also fuel a series of concerns about the possible war uses of these systems, especially if they end up in the “wrong hands”.

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