AI pilot BEATS USAF F16 Top Gun in first ever simulator dogfight
AI pilot shoots down F16 Top Gun to win first ever USAF dogfight simulator competition as human pilot says he can’t cope with the robot’s aggressive tactics and warns ‘the things we do as fighter pilots aren’t working’
- The finale of the AlphaDogfight trials took place Thursday at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland
- The bot was made by small Maryland company Heron Systems
- Human was a Weapons School instructor pilot known by his call-sign ‘Banger’
- AI pilot virtually shot down the human pilot in five rounds of mock air combat
- The victory of machine over man raises questions about the future of air-to-air combat as the USAF hopes AI can help the military react faster to enemies
An AI pilot has beaten a US Air Force F16 Top Gun in the first ever simulator dogfight competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine if man can beat machine in the sky.
The human pilot, a Weapons School instructor pilot known only by his call-sign ‘Banger’, was annihilated by his artificial intelligent opponent in the showdown at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Thursday.
The AI pilot in a simulation Viper fighter jet virtually shot down the human pilot in five rounds of mock air combat, showing the human brain is no match for the technology’s aggressive tactics.
The event marked the finale of the AlphaDogfight trials – a DARPA project launched last year to pit human fighter pilots against machine and that runs alongside the wider Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program, which focuses on exploring how AI can be used to help military operations.
An AI pilot has beaten a US Air Force F16 Top Gun in the first ever simulator dogfight competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine if man can beat machine in the sky. Pictured the simulation Thursday
The dogfight was broadcast live Thursday and showed Banger sat in a simulation vehicle.
Footage of the combat shows the experienced human fighter pilot avoiding the first shot from his AI opponent and trying to circle back around.
Banger is heard raising concerns about the bot’s aggressive tactics.
‘The standard things we do as fighter pilots aren’t working,’ he says.
The bot then fires three times at the human pilot, striking him each time in quick succession.
The victory comes as the robot, made by small Maryland company Heron Systems, opted for more aggressive tactics and head-on gun attacks compared to typical human combat.
The AI pilot in a simulation Viper fighter jet virtually shot down the human pilot in five rounds of mock air combat
Heron Systems had gone head to head with defense giants including Lockheed Martin and Boeing to take part in the showdown, which brought to a close the three-day AlphaDogfight Trials event this week.
The event began on Tuesday when the eight coding teams brought into the project by DARPA last year fighting against virtual adversaries developed by the Johns Hopkins lab.
These opponents mimicked cruise missiles, fighter jets and heavy bombers.
The second day then pitted the teams against each other leaving four finalists – Aurora Flight Sciences, Heron Systems, Lockheed Martin, and PhysicsAI.
These teams then battled each other Thursday, with winner Heron Systems then going on to face the human pilot.
Throughout the three-day contest, Heron’s bot shot down 213 virtual enemies and was defeated only 16 times.
The victory of machine over man raises questions about the future of air-to-air combat.
It has long been thought that technology is no match for the highly trained human pilot.
The simulation is pictures. The human pilot, a Weapons School instructor pilot known only by his call-sign ‘Banger’, was annihilated by his artificial intelligent opponent in the showdown at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Thursday
The US military has a strong track record for airborne battles, with US fighter pilots having shot down 58 enemy planes since the Vietnam War while being defeated only once.
‘No AI currently exists … that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight,’ DARPA said only last year.
But Banger’s defeat on Thursday may see a shift in this thinking.
P.W. Singer, an analyst at the New America Foundation and author of the novel Burn-In, told The Daily Beast the trials could pave way for a marked change in the way the US military fights adversaries in the skies.
‘There is a nobility to the human role, but it symbolically points to a future of more and more machines in more and more roles,’ Singer said.
Robot pilots are also able to ‘think’ creatively and quickly, with trials in April showing at least one AI-driven fighter jet flipping upside down before taking a shot at its opponent in a move many human pilots couldn’t do.
The Air Force hopes that a fighter drone piloted by AI would be able to react faster to opponents, as well as conduct harder, faster maneuvers that would be impossible with a human on board, as they would overwhelm the body.
The simulation of inside the fighter jet. The Air Force hopes a fighter drone piloted by AI would be able to react faster to opponents
The Air Force is also developing an AI drone called ‘Skyborg’.
The plan is to fly Skyborg in formation with human-piloted aircraft, creating a human-robot team in the skies.
‘Skyborg is a vessel for A.I. technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in air space to the introduction of more complicated levels of A.I. to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the [combat] mission,’ Matt Duquette, an engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory, told The Daily Beast.
However, the technology is not without its limitations.
‘The [AI] agents that were well-developed at this point—they were able to handle very well the adversaries that were somewhat predictable or operating the way they had trained against,’ Air Force lieutenant colonel Justin Mock said in an April video.
‘But they struggled with those adversaries that did something even just a little different.’
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