PhysicsAI’s artificial intelligence algorithms control an actual F-16 in flight

In less than three years, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms developed under DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program have progressed from controlling simulated F-16s flying aerial dogfights on computer screens to controlling an actual F-16 in flight.

In early December 2022, ACE algorithm developers uploaded their AI software into a specially modified F-16 test aircraft known as the X-62A or VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft), at the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and flew multiple flights over several days. The flights demonstrated that AI agents can control a full-scale fighter jet and provided invaluable live-flight data.

DARPA performers EpiSci, PhysicsAI, Shield AI, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory flew different F-16 AI algorithms on the X-62A. The aircraft, a highly modified two-seat F-16, can be programmed to demonstrate the flight-handling characteristics of a variety of different aircraft types.

Read more: ACE Program’s AI Agents Transition from Simulation to Live Flight