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AI 5, Fighter Pilot 0

An experienced F-16 pilot went head to head with an artificial intelligence algorithm and lost in five straight simulated dogfights as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency test.  In a WWII-style forward firing gun battle, the AI system named Heron was victorious in all five engagements.  In fact, the human pilot never scored a single hit during the entire test.

Heron, which can make a legitimate claim as a “double ace,” competed against five other AI algorithms for the right to fight the human pilot in the computer simulations.  Developed by Heron Systems, the algorithm’s success neither surprised nor concerned the observers.

While significant, the milestone is an early one in DARPA’s goal to develop a machine-learning enhancement to human performance with the ultimate goal of “a future in which AI handles the split-second maneuvering during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects.”  The next test will involve a human pilot in a fighter aircraft engaging an AI-controlled drone in 2021.