Air Force researchers have successfully installed and tested artificial intelligence (AI) in a U.S. fighter jet.
- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a press statement on Monday that it has successfully tested AI in an F-16, piloting the fighter jet for 17 hours.
- Researchers installed an AI tool that was trained on flight simulators into a modified F-16 in December, flying the fighter out of Edwards Air Force Base in California over the course of multiple days of experiments—with a trained pilot on board to take the controls in an emergency.
- DARPA reports that the experiment was successful, showing that AI can successfully pilot a real fighter jet while providing live data back to the controllers.
- The ACE Program has been ongoing since 2019, attempting to implement human-level AI autonomy in air combat vehicles.
Why It’s Important
The military has made automation and technology a key focus of its operation, falling back more into remote solutions, and technological innovations to find ways to take soldiers off the front lines when possible. DARPA’s success with the ACE Program is another indication of the military’s continued success in moving towards its goal by creating fully automated and uncrewed military aircraft.
The Computing Research Association notes that the U.S. spent $2.6 billion on AI research in 2022.
The use of AI in this context does raise safety concerns, particularly in the context of military-grade weaponry. DARPA’s announcement comes in the aftermath of the recent AI push, with the proliferation of Dall-E and ChatGPT creating ethical concerns about how AI can and should be used safely. However, the military does have safety procedures in place in case the AI attempts to go rogue or divert course, The Daily Beast notes.
“We conducted multiple sorties [takeoffs and landings] with numerous test points performed on each sortie to test the algorithms under varying starting conditions, against various simulated adversaries, and with simulated weapons capabilities. We didn’t run into any major issues but did encounter some differences compared to simulation-based results, which is to be expected when transitioning from virtual to live,” says Lt. Col. Ryan Hefron.