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US Military Conducts First-Ever Dogfight Test between AI and Human Pilot

The US military recently conducted a groundbreaking drill pitting an AI-run fighter jet against one controlled by a human pilot. During the combat, which included high-speed maneuvers reaching up to 1,200mph, both aircraft engaged in what's commonly known as a dogfight. This historic event marks a significant milestone in the integration of AI technology within military operations, showcasing the capabilities and potential future roles of autonomous systems in aerial combat scenarios.

In a pivotal drill conducted over Edwards Air Force Base, two F-16 fighter jets soared through the skies at remarkable speeds of up to 1,200mph, engaging in aerial combat maneuvers known as dogfighting. One of these jets was manned by a human pilot, while the other was a modified version of the F-16, designated as the X-62A or VISTA (variable in-flight simulator test aircraft).

During the intense aerial encounter, these aircraft closed in on each other, reaching distances as close as 600 meters. What made this drill particularly groundbreaking was the AI-driven nature of one of the planes involved. Operated by an advanced algorithm, the AI-controlled aircraft made split-second decisions based on extensive analysis of historical data. This process, known as "machine learning," has long been tested in simulators on the ground, but this marked the first time it was put to the ultimate test in real-world aerial combat scenarios.

In the realm of simulations, so-called "AI agents" had previously outmaneuvered human pilots in all five matchups in 2020. However, the true test awaited in the skies. Pilots were present aboard the X-62A as a precautionary measure, but remarkably, they didn't need to intervene or take control at any point during the test dogfight, which transpired in September of the previous year and was only recently disclosed.

The significance of this achievement wasn't lost on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which spearheaded the test. Labeling it a "transformational moment in aerospace history," DARPA emphasized the groundbreaking nature of autonomous air-to-air combat made possible by advancements in AI technology.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall hailed the event as a milestone breakthrough in combat aviation. He lauded the X-62A team for shattering barriers and paving the way for a new era in aerial warfare. Colonel James Valpiani, a commandant at the US Air Force test pilot school, underscored the potential of machine learning in navigating the complexities of air-to-air combat, noting its implications for both safety and efficiency.

Indeed, the successful execution of this test not only heralds a new chapter in military aviation but also sets a precedent for the responsible integration of AI technology in high-stakes environments. As industry leaders and innovators look to the future, the achievements of the X-62A ACE team serve as a testament to the transformative power of cutting-edge research and collaboration.


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