Move over, Maverick: artificial intelligence (AI) could soon be the next hot fighter in the sky.
An AI agent recently flew Lockheed Martin’s VISTA X-62A for over 17 hours at the US Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base in California – the first time AI has been used on a tactical aircraft. The experimental trainer is expected to lay the groundwork for an upcoming wave of fully computer-piloted jets.
The VISTA, developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works and Calspan Corporation, is equipped with software that allows it to mimic the performance characteristics of other aircraft. The test aircraft is a modified F-16D Block 30 Peace Marble II aircraft, upgraded with Block 40 avionics.
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The VISTA AI test flight may be a sign of things to come. Sixth generation combat aircraft, although still in the design stage, should have the ability to fly without pilots. For example, the Air Force Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) Program aims to develop a family of jets to succeed Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor.
The United States isn’t the only country considering AI for jets. The United Kingdom, Italy and Japan have announced plans to develop a new fighter that uses algorithms instead of pilots. Next-generation fighters for these countries could enter service in the mid-2030s and could eventually replace the Typhoon jet.
Russia is also getting into AI aircraft. A recent report says the Russian Air Force is upgrading its fighters with AI capabilities that could help pilots make decisions. Although details about the system are scarce, it would have allowed pairs of fighters to share information more efficiently.
AI is also attracting interest from private companies hoping to supply technology to service industries. AI Shield recently announced it had raised an additional $60 million in venture capital funding to build AI pilots. The company says its Hivemind software is an AI driver for military and commercial aircraft that allows aircraft teams to perform missions ranging from penetrating air defense systems to dogfights.
Hivemind uses algorithms that Shield says can do everything from mission planning to mapping. Eventually, the company says, planes will be able to fly and conduct missions almost on their own. Brandon Tseng, co-founder of Shield AI, said in a Press release that the company “rushes to field swarms of highly intelligent aircraft to deter the next conflict”.
A few years ago, Elon Musk even predicted that fighter jets would soon become obsolete due to advancements in AI. But a few say the observers that AI is far from replacing human pilots.
science and technology journalist
Sascha Brodsky, a New York-based freelance journalist and graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, writes about many aspects of technology, including personal technology, AI, and reality. Virtual. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Atlantic, The Guardian, and many other publications. In his spare time, he enjoys biking and hiking.