Back to news

May 9, 2019 | International, Aerospace, Other Defence

DARPA: Training AI to Win a Dogfight

Artificial intelligence has defeated chess grandmasters, Go champions, professional poker players, and, now, world-class human experts in the online strategy games Dota 2 and StarCraft II. No AI currently exists, however, that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight. As modern warfare evolves to incorporate more human-machine teaming, DARPA seeks to automate air-to-air combat, enabling reaction times at machine speeds and freeing pilots to concentrate on the larger air battle.

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

To pursue this vision, DARPA created the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE aims to increase warfighter trust in autonomous combat technology by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its initial challenge scenario. DARPA will hold a Proposers Day for interested researchers on May 17, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia.

“Being able to trust autonomy is critical as we move toward a future of warfare involving manned platforms fighting alongside unmanned systems,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Javorsek (Ph.D.), ACE program manager in DARPA's Strategic Technology Office (STO). “We envision a future in which AI handles the split-second maneuvering during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects.”

ACE is one of several STO programs designed to enable DARPA's “mosaic warfare” vision. Mosaic warfare shifts warfighting concepts away from a primary emphasis on highly capable manned systems — with their high costs and lengthy development timelines — to a mix of manned and less-expensive unmanned systems that can be rapidly developed, fielded, and upgraded with the latest technology to address changing threats. Linking together manned aircraft with significantly cheaper unmanned systems creates a “mosaic” where the individual “pieces” can easily be recomposed to create different effects or quickly replaced if destroyed, resulting in a more resilient warfighting capability.

The ACE program will train AI in the rules of aerial dogfighting similar to how new fighter pilots are taught, starting with basic fighter maneuvers in simple, one-on-one scenarios. While highly nonlinear in behavior, dogfights have a clearly defined objective, measureable outcome, and the inherent physical limitations of aircraft dynamics, making them a good test case for advanced tactical automation. Like human pilot combat training, the AI performance expansion will be closely monitored by fighter instructor pilots in the autonomous aircraft, which will help co-evolve tactics with the technology. These subject matter experts will play a key role throughout the program.

“Only after human pilots are confident that the AI algorithms are trustworthy in handling bounded, transparent and predictable behaviors will the aerial engagement scenarios increase in difficulty and realism,” Javorsek said. “Following virtual testing, we plan to demonstrate the dogfighting algorithms on sub-scale aircraft leading ultimately to live, full-scale manned-unmanned team dogfighting with operationally representative aircraft.”

DARPA seeks a broad spectrum of potential proposers for each area of study, including small companies and academics with little previous experience with the Defense Department. To that end, before Phase 1 of the program begins, DARPA will sponsor a stand-alone, limited-scope effort focused on the first technical area: automating individual tactical behavior for one-on-one dogfights. Called the “AlphaDogfight Trials,” this initial solicitation will be issued by AFWERX, an Air Force innovation catalyst with the mission of finding novel solutions to Air Force challenges at startup speed. The AFWERX trials will pit AI dogfighting algorithms against each other in a tournament-style competition.

“Through the AFWERX trials, we intend to tap the top algorithm developers in the air combat simulation and gaming communities,” Javorsek said. “We want them to help lay the foundational AI elements for dogfights, on which we can build as the program progresses.”

AFWERX will announce the trials in the near future on its website: https://www.afwerx.af.mil/.

For ACE Proposers Day registration details, please visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmnMn

https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2019-05-08

On the same subject

  • Contract Awards by US Department of Defense - February 03, 2021

    February 4, 2021 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Contract Awards by US Department of Defense - February 03, 2021

    NAVY Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Herndon, Virginia, is awarded a $329,891,030 firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-17-C-6327 to exercise options for Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare Increment One Block One (I1B1) dismounted systems, mounted systems, mounted auxiliary kits, operational level spares, depot level spares and engineering support services. This contract involves Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to the government of Australia. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by December 2022. FMS (Australia) funding in the amount of $116,491,337 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a Lockheed Martin Co., Stratford, Connecticut, is awarded a $19,429,150 modification (P00005) to cost-plus-fixed-fee order N00019-19-F-2972 against previously issued basic ordering agreement N00019-19-G-0029. This order provides for non-recurring engineering, engineering change order, logistics and programmatic support of the Data Transfer Unit and Defensive Electronic Countermeasure System Replacement and ARC-210 program, to replace existing subsystems within the CH-53K production aircraft. Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (55.82%); Stratford, Connecticut (35.7%); and Fort Worth, Texas (8.48%), and is expected to be completed in August 2021. Fiscal 2021 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $19,429,150 will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. ARMY Dean Marine & Excavating Inc.,* Mount Clemens, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0001); Geo. Gradel Co.,* Toledo, Ohio (W911XK-21-D-0002); Great Lakes Dock and Materials LLC,* Muskegon, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0003); The King Co. Inc.,* Holland, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0004); Luedtke Engineering Co.,* Frankfort, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0005); MCM Marine Inc.,* Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0006); Morrish-Wallace Construction Inc., doing business as RYBA Marine Construction,* Cheboygan, Michigan (W911XK-21-D-0007); and Roen Salvage Co.,* Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (W911XK-21-D-0008), will compete for each order of the $130,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract for dredging/construction services within the Great Lakes and Ohio River division. Bids were solicited via the internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 2, 2025. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit, Michigan, is the contracting activity. Wilson Perumal & Co.,* Dallas, Texas, was awarded a $25,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract to support Army Materiel Command to evaluate the readiness and efficiency of depot/arsenal operations. Bids were solicited via the internet with 10 received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 4, 2026. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, is the contracting activity (W52P1J-21-D-0019). Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Co., White Hall, Arkansas, was awarded a $16,620,400 modification (P00003) to contract W912P8-20-C-0002 for maintenance dredging. Work will be performed in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Black Hawk, Louisiana, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 5, 2022. Fiscal 2021 civil construction funds in the amount of $16,620,400 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans, Louisiana, is the contracting activity. AIR FORCE Invictus International Consulting LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, has been awarded a $97,943,684 cost-reimbursement contract for Operational Simulated Cyber Environment Resiliency Software prototype/hardware. This contract provides for research and development of capabilities in modeling, simulation and testing cyber technologies across the full spectrum of cyber operations to aid the Air Force and the Department of Defense (DOD). Research and further development will provide the Air Force and DOD with next generation cyber tools and technologies that enhance cyber resiliency and can be rapidly transitioned and integrated to support Cyber Mission Forces. Work will be performed in Alexandria, Virginia, and is expected to be completed Feb. 3, 2025. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received. Fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $967,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome, New York, is the contracting activity (FA8750-21-C-1504). Leidos Inc., Reston, Virginia, has been awarded a $68,600,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with cost-plus-fixed-fee task orders for the Threat Assessment and Aircraft Protection Defensive Electronic Warfare program. This program will conduct innovative research and development to design expendable (ordinance) and directed-energy (signal) countermeasure concepts, in electro-optical and multi-spectrum electro-optical/radio-frequency domains, in response to an ever-changing missile threat landscape using threat exploitation; modeling and simulation evaluation; and hardware and field testing. Work will be performed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is expected to be completed Jan. 29, 2025. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and one offer was received. Fiscal 2020 and 2021 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $1,431,071 will be obligated at the time of award on the first task order. Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-21-D-1014). *Small business https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Contracts/Contract/Article/2492400/source/GovDelivery/

  • Contract Awards by US Department of Defense – October 15, 2020

    October 16, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security, Other Defence

    Contract Awards by US Department of Defense – October 15, 2020

    AIR FORCE Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a $239,113,565 definitization modification (PZ0001) to contract FA8672-20-C-0005 for StormBreaker (SDBII, GBU-53/B) production Lot 6. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed Nov. 28, 2023. The current action relates to classified Foreign Military Sales (FMS), and 6.3% of contract value supports FMS. Fiscal 2020 production funding in the amount of $265,281,689 is being obligated at the time of award. Total cumulative face value of the contract is $271,894,434. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity. JOINT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CENTER Redhorse Corp., San Diego, California (FA701420A0020); Cyber Point International LLC, Baltimore, Maryland (FA701420A0021); Elder Research Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia (FA701420A0019); Barbaricum LLC, Washington, D.C. (FA701420A0018); and Enterprise Resource Performance Inc., Fairfax, Virginia (FA701420A0022), were awarded five-year competitive blanket purchase agreements (BPAs), each with a $100,000,000 ceiling, to provide services to the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center Missions Directorate. The services include software development, machine learning, cognitive and systems engineering, operations research, and user experience design. Work on the contract will occur in Arlington, Virginia. The ordering period is from Sept. 25, 2020, through Sept. 24, 2025. The contracting activity is the Air Force District Washington, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. ARMY Construction Outfitters International Inc., Boerne, Texas (W9128F-21-D-0001); Fluor Federal Services LLC, Reston, Virginia (W9128F-21-D-0002); Weston Solutions Inc., West Chester, Pennsylvania (W9128F-21-D-0003); Greenway Enterprises Inc., Helena, Montana (W9128F-21-D-0004); and Amentum Services Inc., Germantown, Maryland (W9128F-21-D-0005), will compete for each order of the $95,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract for facility renovations and repair requirements for Defense Intelligence Agency defense attache offices in U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide. Bids were solicited via the internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 14, 2027. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha, Nebraska, is the contracting activity. Craig Technical Consulting Inc.,* Merritt Island, Florida, was awarded a $49,845,380 hybrid (cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price) contract to procure scientific and engineering support services for the Army Aberdeen Test Center. Bids were solicited via the internet with two received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 14, 2025. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W91CRB-21-D-0002). Aegis Defense Services LLC, McLean, Virginia, was awarded a $15,974,994 firm-fixed-price contract to provide U.S. Forces Afghanistan with private security service protection. Bids were solicited via the internet with seven received. Work will be performed in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 29, 2023. Fiscal 2021 Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (Army) funds in the amount of $15,974,994 were obligated at the time of the award. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Afghanistan, is the contracting activity (W91B4N-21-C-2000). DRS Network & Imaging Systems, Melbourne, Florida, was awarded a $10,425,596 firm-fixed-price contract for Direct Support Electrical System Test sets. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Melbourne, Florida, with an estimated completion date of Jan. 31, 2022. Fiscal 2010 Foreign Military Sales (Kuwait) funds in the amount of $10,425,596 were obligated at the time of the award. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, is the contracting activity (W56HZV-21-C-0055). NAVY AAR Aircraft Services Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, is awarded a $67,262,091 modification (P00009) to previously awarded, firm-fixed-price, time and materials, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract N00019-18-D-0111. This modification exercises options to procure P-8A Poseidon aircraft depot scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, fulfillment of depot in-service repair/planner and estimator requirements, technical directive incorporation, airframe modifications, aircraft on ground support and removal and replacement of engines in support of the Navy, the government of Australia, and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is expected to be completed in October 2021. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services Inc., Rockville, Maryland, is awarded a $65,704,035 cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-reimbursable, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. This contract provides for air traffic control platform integration technical and engineering services, including systems production, development, test, evaluation and improvement; operational software development and maintenance; field change programs; test beds; overhaul and restoration; and fleet and supply support in support of the Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems Division systems and subsystems. Work will be performed St. Inigoes, Maryland (60%); and Lexington Park, Maryland (40%), and is expected to be completed in December 2025. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposal and two offers were received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00421-21-D-0002). The Boeing Co., Seattle, Washington, is awarded a $61,554,305 modification (P00005) to previously awarded, firm-fixed-price, time and materials, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract N00019-18-D-0113. This modification exercises options to procure P-8A Poseidon CFM56-7B27A/3 and CFM56-7B27AE engine depot-level maintenance and repair in support of the Navy, the government of Australia, and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will be performed in Atlanta, Georgia (97%); and Seattle, Washington (3%), and is expected to be completed in October 2021. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. StandardAero Inc., San Antonio, Texas, is awarded a $46,003,699 modification (P00009) to previously awarded, firm-fixed-price, time and materials, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract N00019-18-D-0110. This modification exercises options to procure P-8A Poseidon CFM56-7B27A/3 and CFM56-7B27AE engine depot-level maintenance and repair in support of the Navy, the government of Australia, and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will be performed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (86%); Cincinnati, Ohio (11%); and San Antonio, Texas (3%), and is expected to be completed in October 2021. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity. CH2M Hill Constructors Inc., Englewood, Colorado, is awarded an $8,388,171 firm-fixed-price modification to task order N69450-20-F-0078 under previously-awarded multiple-award construction contract N62470-19-D-8024 for Hurricane Sally recovery at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The work to be performed provides for immediate restoration/sustainment and clean-up recovery actions due to damage caused by Hurricane Sally. Specific elements of work include roofing/seal building envelope; rip-out/tear-out; mold remediation; vegetation/tree clearing/chipping; waste/debris collection, removal and disposal; traffic management; and security fencing. This award brings the total cumulative value to $22,635,705. Work will be performed in Pensacola, Florida, and is expected to be completed by November 2020. Fiscal 2021 operations and maintenance (Navy); and fiscal 2021 operations and maintenance (Air Force) funding in the amount of $8,388,171 will be obligated at time of award and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Florida, is the contracting activity. *Small business http://ttps://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Contracts/Contract/Article/2383996/source/GovDelivery/

  • Defense Innovation Unit eyes first flight of hypersonic testbed

    June 2, 2023 | International, Aerospace

    Defense Innovation Unit eyes first flight of hypersonic testbed

    The agency awarded a contract through its Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities, or HyCAT, program in March.

All news