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    Artificial Intelligence jet will go head-to-head in a real aerial dual with a Top Gun fighter pilot

    An artificial Intelligence jet will go head-to-head in a real aerial dual with a Top Gun fighter pilot after an AI won a simulated dogfight last month, Defense Secretary reveals

    • The Pentagon is set to pit an AI-controlled Jet against a pilot in a real-life aerial battle in 2024, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced 
    • News of the slated battle comes just weeks after an artificial intelligence program defeated an F-16 fighter pilot in a virtual dogfight
    • Esper made the announcement during a speech at the Defense Department’s AI Symposium 2020 on Wednesday 
    • Esper hailed the ‘tectonic impact of machine learning on the future of warfighting’ after the AI algorithm annihilated the human pilot on August 20
    • While Esper provided no additional details on the face-off, he assured troops that AI will integrated help to enhance US warfighting, not replace pilots 

    Just weeks after an artificial intelligence program defeated an F-16 fighter pilot in a virtual dogfight, the Pentagon is set to raise the stakes by pitting an AI-controlled jet against a pilot in a real-life aerial battle, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced.

    Esper unveiled the plans for the battle, slated for 2024, during a speech at the Defense Department’s AI Symposium 2020 on Wednesday, as reported by Military.com.

    During the address, Esper hailed the ‘tectonic impact of machine learning on the future of warfighting’ after the AI algorithm annihilated the human pilot in the virtual showdown at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, on August 20.

    ‘The AI agent’s resounding victory demonstrated the ability of advanced algorithms to outperform humans in virtual dogfights, he said. ‘These simulations will culminate in a real-world competition involving full-scale tactical aircraft in 2024.’

    Scroll down for video 

    The Pentagon is set to pit an AI-controlled Jet against a pilot in a real-life aerial battle in 2024, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the announcement during a speech at the Defense Department’s AI Symposium 2020 on Wednesday

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the announcement during a speech at the Defense Department’s AI Symposium 2020 on Wednesday

    During last month’s AlphaDogfight competition, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Maryland-based Heron Systems came in first place among eight companies who pitted their simulated aircraft against one another over two days of duels.

    On the third day, Heron’s AI system virtually shot down the human F-16 pilot in five successive rounds of mock air combat, showing the human brain is no match for the technology’s aggressive tactics.

    The AI-system used a series of maverick maneuvers  against the pilot – referenced only by his call name, Bangers – such as flying directly towards the jet without letting up until the last second, in what was referred to as a high-stakes game of chicken.

    On the third day, Heron’s AI system virtually shot down the human F-16 pilot in five rounds of mock air combat, showing the human brain is no match for the technology's aggressive tactics.

    On the third day, Heron’s AI system virtually shot down the human F-16 pilot in five rounds of mock air combat, showing the human brain is no match for the technology’s aggressive tactics.

    During the fight, Bangers was heard raising concerns about the bot’s confrontational approach.

    ‘The standard things we do as fighter pilots aren’t working,’ he was heard saying. The bot then fired upon him three times, striking on each occasion.

    The US military has a strong track record for airborne battles, with US fighter pilots having shot down 58 enemy planes since the Vietnam War while having been defeated only once.

    ‘No AI currently exists … that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight,’ DARPA said only last year.

    But the defeat at the hands of AI last month seems to have prompted a shift in that line of thinking.

    An AI pilot has beaten a US Air Force F16 Top Gun in the first ever simulator dogfight competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine if man can beat machine in the sky last month

    An AI pilot has beaten a US Air Force F16 Top Gun in the first ever simulator dogfight competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine if man can beat machine in the sky last month

    The AI-system used aggressive moves against the pilot, referenced only by his call name Bangers, such as flying directly towards the jet without letting up at the last second, in what was referred to as a high-stakes game of chicken

    The AI-system used aggressive moves against the pilot, referenced only by his call name Bangers, such as flying directly towards the jet without letting up at the last second, in what was referred to as a high-stakes game of chicken 

    While Esper provided no additional details on the slated 2024 face-off, he assured troops that AI will integrated help to enhance US warfighting, not replace pilots entirely.

    ‘We see AI as a tool to free up resources, time and manpower so our people can focus on higher-priority tasks and arrive at the decision point, whether in a lab or on the battlefield, faster and more precise than the competition,’ the Defense Secretary said.

    Pentagon officials identified China as the US’ primary competitor in the AI field.

    Beijing has made huge investments in AI-tech over the last five years, even building several digital artificial intelligence cities in a military-civilian partnership to understand how AI will be propagated for everyday use.

    On Wednesday, Esper highlighted China’s alleged ambition to become the global leader in AI and to prevail as a ‘digital police state – unencumbered by privacy laws or ethical governing principles.’

    ‘As China scales this technology, we fully expect it to sell these capabilities abroad, enabling other autocratic governments to move toward a new era of digital authoritarianism,’ he said.

    Contrastingly, the Pentagon vowed that if wasn’t able to find an ethical way to use artificial intelligence on the battlefield, it simply wouldn’t implement it.

    While Esper provided no additional details on the slated 2024 face-off, he assured troops that AI will integrated help to enhance US warfighting, not replace pilots entirely (a view of the simulator from last month's battle)

    While Esper provided no additional details on the slated 2024 face-off, he assured troops that AI will integrated help to enhance US warfighting, not replace pilots entirely (a view of the simulator from last month’s battle) 

    In February, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, the then-director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), unveiled the Defense Department’s new AI guidelines that included five prongs for its principled use, requiring it to be: responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable.

    ‘We will not field an algorithm until we are convinced it meets our level of performance and our standard, and if we don’t believe it can be used in a safe and ethical manner, we won’t field it,’ Shanahan, who has since retired, said at the time.

    The new guidelines will guide AI in both combat and in non-combat functions. They came after more than a year of consultation with commercial, academic and government AI experts, along with the Defense Innovation Board and the JAIC, before being unveiled last October.

    Shanahan stressed that the US should be assertive in its efforts to harness accurate data to stay ahead, but warned against following down the same path of China and Russia as they neglect the principles that dictate how AI should be used.

    The steps outlined by the Pentagon will help to hold someone accountable for a negative action, he said.

    ‘What I worry about with both countries is they move so fast that they’re not adhering to what we would say are mandatory principles of AI adoption and integration,’ Shanahan said.

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