DARPA Turns to Video Game Developers to Teach AI Dogfighting Skills

Seeing how there is currently no automated system capable enough to fly a fighter plane in a dogfight, America’s defense research agency DARPA announced this week the start of a program meant to do just that.
In the future, the F/A-37 Talon might be a reality 1 photo
Called ACE, which is short for Air Combat Evolution, the program seeks to find ways to teach the machine mind to fly the plane in dogfight scenarios, but also the human pilots to trust what the aircraft is doing. The ultimate goal, says DARPA, is to have an artificial intelligence do all the minor fighting while the pilot is focusing on “the larger air battle.”

DARPA’s project manager for ACE Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Javorsek says in the future it might be possible for an AI to make split-second maneuvering during within-visual-range dogfights, while the pilot can be otherwise occupied, say with remotely flying a swarm of other unmanned aircraft operating in the area.

For that to happen though, a lot of teaching and learning needs to be done. While making the AI do the things needed to be done might in the end prove easy, not the same can be said about making pilots confident the self-fighting aircraft won’t get them killed on a mission.

“Only after human pilots are confident that the AI algorithms are trustworthy in handling bounded, transparent and predictable behaviors will the aerial engagement scenarios increase in difficulty and realism,” Javorsek said.

“Following virtual testing, we plan to demonstrate the dogfighting algorithms on sub-scale aircraft leading ultimately to live, full-scale manned-unmanned team dogfighting with operationally representative aircraft.”

DARPA will detail the ACE program in Arlington, Virginia on May 17. There, the agency will request help for the task at hand from a “broad spectrum of proposers,” including small companies and academics that up until now had little to do with defense efforts.

Before the first stage of the program begins, DARPA will finance a project aimed at automating individual tactical behavior for one-on-one dogfights. For this project, DARPA plans to enlist the help of air combat simulator and gaming developers.

press release

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