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  • The first dogfight between a human aircraft and an AI has taken place 
  • Citing national security concerns, the military wouldn’t say who won the fight 
  • The two jets flew at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour around each other

The US Air Force has confirmed the first successful dogfight between an AI fighter jet and a human piloted aircraft. 

The dogfight was carried out as part of an Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program that was launched in 2019.

A manned F-16 was put up against the X-62A VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft) above Edwards Air Force Base in California last September. 

The two jets flew at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour and practiced a range of dogfighting scenarios. 

Footage released by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) shows the two jets maneuvering through the sky around each other. 

Citing national security concerns, the military won’t say who the dogfight between the two. 

US military stages first ever human versus robot dogfight – but refuse to reveal who won

A manned F-16 was put up against the X-62A VISTA, seen here, flying in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base, California

Footage released by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) shows the two jets maneuvering through the sky around each other

Footage released by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) shows the two jets maneuvering through the sky around each other

Lt. Col. Ryan Hefron, the program manager for DAPRA told reporters: ‘Things are progressing as well or faster than we had hoped. But unfortunately, we can’t provide more detail.’

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a press release: ‘The potential for autonomous air-to-air combat has been imaginable for decades, but the reality has remained a distant dream up until now.

‘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.’

Test pilots had been on board the X-62 and had the power to turn off the AI, but they didn’t need to during the dogfights. 

Hefron added: ‘We have to be able to trust these algorithms to use them in a real-world setting.’

DARPA and the US Air Force Test Pilot School will continue testing the AI, which will provide lessons for future tests and programs. 

Test pilots had been on board the X-62 and had the power to turn off the AI, but they didn't need to during the dogfights

Test pilots had been on board the X-62 and had the power to turn off the AI, but they didn’t need to during the dogfights

The two jets flew at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour and practiced a range of dogfighting scenarios

The two jets flew at speeds of up to 1,200 miles per hour and practiced a range of dogfighting scenarios

Citing national security concerns, the military won't say who the dogfight between the two

Citing national security concerns, the military won’t say who the dogfight between the two

Bill Gray, the Test Pilot School’s chief test pilot, said: ‘It’s very easy to look at the X-62A ACE program and see it as under autonomous control, it can dogfight, but that misses the point.

‘Dogfighting was the problem to solve so we could start testing autonomous artificial intelligence systems in the air. 

‘Every lesson we’re learning applies to every task you could give to an autonomous system.’

While it remains unclear who won the fight, AI has a accomplished track record in this area. 

In August 2020, AI won a simulated dogfight against a human operator, with the pilot not being able to score a hit on the automated plane.  



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