The US military confirmed on Friday (19 April) that the world’s first known combat between a human pilot and a fighter jet controlled entirely by AI was carried out in the US.

Two F-16 fighter jets reportedly engaged in a dogfight over Edwards Air Force Base in California and got as close as 600 metres to each other. 

One of the high-speed fighter jets was manned by a human, while the other was a modified F-16 to be completely controlled by AI, named the X-62A.

In 2020, the US military said that AI agents had defeated human pilots in five separate simulations, but this was the first time the technology had been used in the real world. 

According to the US’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the fighter jet relied on AI algorithms which analysed historical combat situations. 

DARPA, which carried out the test, said pilots were on board the AI-powered fighter jet in case of an emergency but did not need to touch the controls anytime during the fight. 

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“Dogfighting was the problem to solve so we could start testing autonomous AI systems in the air,” Bill Gray, the chief test pilot at the Air Force’s Test Pilot School, said in a statement. 

He added: “Every lesson we’re learning applies to every task you could give to an autonomous system.”