- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2020

The success of future dogfights over enemy territory may depend on a fighter pilot’s trust in onboard artificial intelligence systems, assuming a new program under testing proves successful.

DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm with decades of technological breakthroughs to its name, has focused on perfecting its Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program.

Aviation Week detailed the Pentagon’s AI work, which aims to make “high-end” automated dogfighting a reality. 

“ACE will develop AI algorithms to automate within-visual-range combat and test them first in a modeling and simulation environment, then in subscale unmanned aircraft and finally in live 1v1, 2v1 and 2v2 combat between full-size fighters,” technology writer Graham Warwick reported Tuesday. 

Lockheed Martin’s iconic Skunk Works has been awarded the first contract; $10.6 million will be spent on “scaling the algorithms from local combat autonomy to large force exercises.”

The program is broken down into four Technical Areas (TAs):

  • TA1 Develop algorithms for “local combat autonomy.”
  • TA2: Build trust in those behaviors.
  • TA3: Scale algorithms from “local combat autonomy to large force exercises.”
  • TA4 Integrate algorithms into “full-scale aircraft and conduct live flight experiments.”

“DARPA plans to awards contracts to two performers for TA3, scale-up, and one each for TA2 and TA4,” Aviation Week added. “The broad area announcement for TA1, algorithm development and demonstration, was released on March 6 with multiple awards planned.”

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