"These simulations will culminate in a real-world competition involving full-scale tactical aircraft in 2024," Esper said at the virtual 2020 Department of Defence Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition.
He said the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently conducted its third and final F-16 combat simulation between an AI-controlled system and an experienced Air Force fighter pilot.
Esper said AI’s victory was "resounding" and demonstrated the ability of advanced algorithms to out-perform humans in virtual dogfights.
The US Department of Defense will ask Congress to provide more funding for Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs, Esper added.
"With the support of Congress, the Department plans to request additional funding for the services to grow this effort over time and deliver an AI-ready workforce to the American people," Esper said.
The Defense Department is launching a six-week training program next month to train more than 80 defense acquisition professionals on how to apply AI and data science skills to its operations, Esper said.
The existing Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) has helped with combat readiness and also enhanced wildfire and flood responses through computer vision technology, Esper added.
The Defense Department intends to use artificial intelligence to support decision makers, not replace them, according to Esper.