AlphaDogfight Trials Foreshadow Future of Human-Machine Symbiosis

A small Maryland company took first place in last week’s AlphaDogfight Trials Final event, a three-day competition designed to demonstrate advanced algorithms capable of performing simulated, within-visual-range air combat maneuvering – commonly known as a dogfight. Heron Systems’ F-16 AI agent defeated seven other companies’ F-16 AI agents and then went on to dominate the main event – a series of simulated dogfights against an experienced Air Force F-16 pilot – winning 5-0 through aggressive and precise maneuvers the human pilot couldn’t outmatch.

“The AlphaDogfight Trials were a phenomenal success, accomplishing exactly what we’d set out to do,” said Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “The goal was to earn the respect of a fighter pilot – and ultimately the broader fighter pilot community – by demonstrating that an AI agent can quickly and effectively learn basic fighter maneuvers and successfully employ them in a simulated dogfight.”

The trials were designed to energize and expand a base of AI developers for DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE seeks to automate air-to-air combat and build human trust in AI as a step toward improved human-machine teaming.

“During last week’s human versus machine exhibition the AI showed its amazing dogfighting skill consistently beating a human pilot in this limited environment,” Javorsek said. “This was a crucible that lets us now begin teaming humans with machines, which is at the heart of the ACE program where we hope to demonstrate a collaborative relationship with an AI agent handling tactical tasks like dogfighting while the onboard pilot focuses on higher-level strategy as a battle manager supervising multiple airborne platforms.”

Read more