Video shows first ever AI fighter jet pitted against human pilot in US dogfight

Credit: Kyle Brasier/USAF

The US military has carried out the first ever in-air test between a pilot and an AI-controlled fighter jet.

Pitted against one another in a drill at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the F-16 jets went "nose-to-nose" at distances as close as 600 metres and reached speeds of 1,200 mph.

The modified AI jet, called the X-62A, or VISTA (variable in-flight simulator test aircraft), analyses historical data and makes real-time decisions, according to the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which carried out the test.

Known as "machine learning", the process has been tested on simulators for years but had never been taken to the skies for combat.

The X-62A is flown with safety pilots onboard with the ability to disengage the AI.

But DARPA said they did not have to activate the safety switch at any point during the dogfight.

“We have to be able to trust these algorithms to use them in a real-world setting,” said Lieutenant Ryan Hefron, program manager for DARPA.

"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,” said Bill Gray, the US Air Force's chief test pilot said.

The US Air Force did not reveal which aircraft won the dogfight.

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