DARPA to Trial AI-based Dogfight Technology

  • Our Bureau
  • 08:48 AM, October 28, 2019
  • 3868
DARPA to Trial AI-based Dogfight Technology
DARPA Dogfight AI program logo

Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technology designed to take over low-level maneuvering tasks from fighter pilots.

The first two trials will take place November 2019 and January 2020 near Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which is developing and managing the simulation air environment for the AlphaDogfight Trials.

Eight teams have been selected to compete in the AlphaDogfight trials, a virtual competition designed to demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that can perform simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, colloquially known as a dogfight.

The Trials aim to energize and expand a base of AI developers and potential proposers prior to an anticipated algorithm-development solicitation to be released under DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program.

Announced earlier this year, ACE seeks to automate air-to-air combat with trusted AI able to manage lower-order operations, pilots could focus on higher-order strategic challenges.

DARPA to Trial AI-based Dogfight Technology
Russian jets in dogfight manoeuver

The Autonomy Research Collaboration Network (ARCNet) Consortium issued a solicitation for the AlphaDogfight Trials in the summer of 2019. The following eight organizations were chosen from a larger pool and are leading teams that will develop and demonstrate their dogfighting AIs in a series of three trials between November 2019 and March 2020; Aurora Flight Sciences, EpiSCI. Georgia Tech Research Institute, Heron Systems, Lockheed Martin, Perspecta Labs, physicsAI and SoarTech.

All eight teams will compete in each of the three scheduled trials. They will use the JSBSim open-source flight dynamics model for simulation environment and the open-source FlightGear Flight Simulator for the visual system.

The simulated aircraft for the Trials is the publically available, unclassified FlightGear version of an F-15C fighter aircraft.

During the trials, teams will pit their AIs against DARPA-provided adversarial “Red” AIs in a series of one-versus-one dogfights. The level of difficulty will increase in the second trial.

The third and final trial will take place in two locations near Las Vegas March 2020, first at the Air Force’s innovation hub, AFWERX, and then at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Teams will fly their AI algorithms against “Red” AIs as in the first two trials, but they’ll also compete against each other in a round-robin-style tournament. The final matchup between the top two AIs is scheduled to take place at Nellis AFB in front of a live audience of Air Force fighter pilots and the other contractor teams.

The winning AI will then be matched in a simulated dogfight against a Weapons School fighter pilot while the other pilots observe and critique the live Weapons Officer in the final showdown.

Although there are no monetary prizes associated with any of the trials, all of the teams may benefit from demonstrating their technologies to potential Defense Department end users.