DoD artificial intelligence agents successfully pilot fighter jet

A joint Department of Defense team executed 12 flight tests in which artificial intelligence, or AI, agents piloted the X-62A Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft, or VISTA, to perform advanced fighter maneuvers at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 1-16, 2022. Supporting organizations included the U.S. Air Force Test Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

AFRL’s Autonomous Air Combat Operations, or AACO, and DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution, or ACE, AI-driven autonomy agents piloted the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School’s X-62A VISTA to perform advanced fighter maneuvers. AACO’s AI agents performed one-on-one beyond-visual-range, or BVR, engagements against a simulated adversary, and ACE’s AI agents performed within-visual-range maneuvering, known as dogfighting, against constructive AI red-team agents.

Both teams’ AI agents executed autonomous tactical maneuvering while maintaining real-world airspace boundaries and optimizing aircraft performance. These tests are built upon the X-62A VISTA upgrade, which allows the X-62 to be controlled by AI-driven autonomy algorithms and mimic flight characteristics of fixed-wing vehicles such an MQ-20 or as in these tests, an F-16.

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