Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

AI-Controlled Fighters Will Face an Air Force Pilot in Online DARPA AlphaDogfight Event

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that the third and final competition for its famous AlphaDogfight Trials will take place virtually from August 18 to 20, allowing both participating teams and audience members to watch. The term dogfight here refers to simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering.

The dogfight trials will see artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms control simulated F-16 fighters in aerial combat. The finale will be a matchup on August 20 between the top AI and an experienced Air Force fighter pilot flying a virtual reality F-16 simulator.

“We weren’t able to host the finals at AFWERX in Las Vegas as we’d originally planned with fighter pilots from the Air Force Weapons School at nearby Nellis Air Force Base,” said Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office.

Javorsek added that DARPA is excited to see how the AI algorithms perform against each other as well as against a Weapons School-trained human. He explained that the teams have made significant advances in AI for autonomous dogfighting in less than a year.

DARPA conceived of these series of trials to expand a base of AI developers for DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE seeks to improve human-machine teaming by automating air-to-air combat and building trust in AI.

“Regardless of whether the human or machine wins the final dogfight, the AlphaDogfight Trials is all about increasing trust in AI,” Javorsek said. “If the champion AI earns the respect of an F-16 pilot, we’ll have come one step closer to achieving effective human-machine teaming in air combat, which is the goal of the ACE program.”


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