DARPA Air Combat Evolution (ACE) Program: Dogfighting with an AI wingman
Artificial intelligence has defeated chess grandmasters, Go champions, professional poker players, and, now, world-class human experts in the online strategy games Dota 2 and StarCraft II. No AI currently exists, however, that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight. As modern warfare evolves to incorporate more human-machine teaming, DARPA seeks to automate air-to-air combat, enabling reaction times at machine speeds and freeing pilots to concentrate on the larger air battle.
Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.
To pursue this vision, DARPA created the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE aims to increase warfighter trust in autonomous combat technology by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its initial challenge scenario.
For more see: DARPA
We previously reported on a Boeing version of a system like this here: Don’t mean to alarm you, but Boeing has built an unmanned fighter jet called ‘Loyal Wingman’