AI Flew X-62 VISTA During Simulated Dogfight Against Manned F-16 | Aviation

X 62 Vista Ai Dogfight 1.jpg

The X-62 Variable In-Flight Stability Test Aircraft (VISTA) flies in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base, California, March 23, 2023. (Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

While safety pilots were onboard at all times, the AI agent successfully demonstrated it could safely conduct AI versus human within-visual-range engagements.

The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency just announced that last year the X-62 VISTA was successfully flown by an Artificial Intelligence agent during a simulated dogfight against a human pilot on an F-16. The breakthrough, for which the team has been nominated as finalist for the 2023 Robert J. Collier Trophy, is part of DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program.

“The potential for autonomous air-to-air combat has been imaginable for decades, but the reality has remained a distant dream up until now,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “In 2023, the X-62A broke one of the most significant barriers in combat aviation. This is a transformational moment, all made possible by breakthrough accomplishments of the X-62A ACE team”.

The press release did not disclose when the testing happened, however, since it mentioned the teams went from the initial installation of live AI agents into the X-62A’s systems to the demonstration in less than a calendar year, it’s possible it happened between summer and fall 2023. The Air Force acknowledged that the first flights of the X-62 controlled by AI agents were performed in December 2022.

The testing happened in the airspace above Edwards Air Force Base, California. Initial flight safety was built up first using defensive maneuvers, according to the info released, before switching to offensive high-aspect nose-to-nose engagements where the dogfighting aircraft got as close as 2,000 feet at 1,200 miles per hour. In total, the team made over 100,000 lines of flight-critical software changes across 21 test flights.

The X-62A is flown…

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