The moment when fighter jets run by artificial intelligence (AI) capable of defeating human-driven ones has come. An AI software has defeated a top F-16 pilot in dogfights not once, but winning all five rounds of combat simulation, in an event organized by DARPA.
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight simulation event, which started on 18th August for a duration of three days has just ended, which displayed a spectacular feat for technological innovation. For the first time in history, man has lost to a machine, with a score of 5-0 in a simulation drill.
The occasion was the perfection of a project that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started a year ago as a contiguous task to the bigger Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program, which is centered around investigating how man-made reasoning and AI may help automate different parts of aerial battle.
During the event, a simulation of two F-16 Vipers engaged in a dogfight was carried out, in which one was ‘manned’ by the Air Force’s top F-16 pilot, a Weapons School instructor pilot with the callsign Banger and the other driven by an AI developed by Heron Systems.
During the three-day event, different AI systems competed with each other to get the right to take on a human. By the third day, the AI developed by Heron Systems, a company with just 30 employees had beaten giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences, EpiSys Science, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Perspecta Labs, PhysicsAI, and SoarTech.
It’s not the first time a project for AI integration into military vehicles is being attempted. Israel’s new Carmel AFV, which is still under development, is reportedly be run with an Artificial Intelligence software that is trained by battlefield simulation games like ‘StarCraft-2’- and is claimed to be 30% more effective in battlefield navigation compared to humans.
On the first day, every one of the eight groups had saved against five unique sorts of reproduced foes that Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) had created. This included one named a “zombie,” with a flight profile like a cruise missile or a huge drone, just as ones that performed like contender planes, for example, the F-16 Viper, or heavy bombers, as indicated by Air Force Magazine.
In a recent interview, ACE program manager Col. Daniel Javorsek said, “Autonomy in air combat is certainly not new. The fact that it can be performed at human levels is something that’s a bit more new. … You have to have a system that works and is credible and can provide value in the environment that we want it in”.
However, it is not exactly clear what would be the next step for Heron Systems’ AI, but many believe this could be beneficial for the company which might attract further funding from the Pentagon.
The capability of the AI shows that the system has a huge potential in future battles. Talking about the fight, the F-16 pilot “Banger”, who took on the AI, said “Some of the rules and constraints that we normally apply to our human training environment weren’t there. So you saw the AI maneuvering to a position of advantage where it was able to use its more refined aiming technique with perfect information… Outside of that, it was very similar to what we see in our ordinary training in [simulators]”.
He also affirmed the potential he saw in the AI’s algorithms. “If I were to walk away from today saying I don’t trust the AI’s ability to perform fine motor movement and achieve kills, I’d have a lack of integrity”, he added.
The event was live-streamed by DARPA and has fetched more than 50,000 views in less than 15 hours of its release.