AI team takes on F-16 pilot in DARPA virtual dogfight

August 13, 2020 //By Rich Pell
DARPA virtual dogfight to pit human pilot vs AI
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that the third and final competition in its AlphaDogfight Trials - in which participants develop AI-enabled "pilots" for a series of simulated aerial dogfights - will take place virtually instead of in person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will culminate with the winning AI team flying against a human F-16 pilot.

The AlphaDogfight Trials is a virtual competition designed to demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that can perform simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering. The first two trials took place November 2019 and January 2020 near Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in which teams pit their AIs against DARPA-provided adversarial "Red" AIs in a series of one-versus-one dogfights.

The third and final competition will take place virtually August 18-20. Participating teams and audience members will watch online as AI algorithms control simulated F-16 fighters in aerial combat, culminating in 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," says Col. Dan "Animal" Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. "We are still excited to see how the AI algorithms perform against each other as well as a Weapons School-trained human and hope that fighter pilots from across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as military leaders and members of the AI tech community will register and watch online. It's been amazing to see how far the teams have advanced AI for autonomous dogfighting in less than a year."

Eight teams were selected last year to compete in the trials, which are designed to demonstrate advanced AI algorithms capable of performing simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering = colloquially known as a dogfight. The series of trials were designed to energize and expand a base of AI developers for DARPA's Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program, which seeks to automate air-to-air combat and build human trust in AI as a step toward improved human-machine teaming.

The three-day event will be streamed live from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel,


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