In less than three years, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms developed under DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program have progressed from controlling simulated F-16s flying aerial dogfights on computer screens to controlling an actual F-16 in flight.
In early December 2022, ACE algorithm developers uploaded their AI software into a specially modified F-16 test aircraft known as the X-62A or VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft), at the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and flew multiple flights over several days. The flights demonstrated that AI agents can control a full-scale fighter jet and provided invaluable live-flight data.
The ACE AI flights were a part of a successful broader test event including DARPA, TPS, and the Air Force Research Laboratory, enabling multiple Defense Department organizations to work closely together with AI-development contractors toward shared objectives.
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