fighter jet
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
March 9, 2023 ·  2 min read

AI Just Flew an F-16 for 17 Hours. This Could Change Everything.

Technology has allowed scientists to explore some really incredible things like artificial intelligence. In doing so, they’ve made the unthinkable happen, and it could change the course of needing human pilots in the future.

Artificial Intelligence Breaks Barriers

The Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California conducted a successful experimental training, and it has the capacity to change what scientists know about artificial intelligence. An AI agent embarked on a flight on Lockheed Martin’s VISTA X-62A and made history as the first attempt to use artificial intelligence on a tactical aircraft. Not only was flight successful, but the AI agent also stayed in flight for 17 hours.

Lockheed’s Skunk Works and Calspan Corporation worked in tandem to develop the artificial intelligence vessel, a modified F-16D Block Peace Marble, upgraded with Block 40 avionics. Its software was designed to help the AI agent copy the performance characteristics of other aircraft. Although 6th generation fighter jets are still in the concept stage, they are expected to be capable of flying without pilots. Furthermore, this AI test shows the fighter jets may be out sooner than previously expected.

Artificial Intelligence Goes Worldwide

The US is joined by a list of countries that’ve also planned experimental artificial intelligence usage. Italy, Japan, and the UK have all announced new fighter jets that may use computer algorithms instead of pilots. Their estimated projection is sometime in the mid-2030’s, with hopes of possibly replacing the Typhoon Jet. Russia is also on target to engage in Artificial intelligence regarding aircraft, with plans to upgrade its current fighter jets. Little is known still of Russia’s plans for future artificial intelligence, but the Russian Air Force believes that two things might happen. Firstly, it will allow pairs of fighters to communicate more effectively and share intel more. Secondly, artificial intelligence will hopefully be used to help pilots with their decision-making.

Corporations Explore Options Too

It’s not just countries that have shown interest in artificial intelligence. Some private firms, such as Shield AI, have set aside millions of dollars for funding artificial intelligence projects. Their current project is to move forward with the progression of AI Pilots. Planning for use on both military and commercial flights. Their current system allows them also to use a computer algorithm. However, future plans also include for aircrafts to fly and fight missions almost entirely solo. Brandon Tseng, the co-founder, stated the company plans, “to put up swarms of highly intelligent aircraft to deter the next conflict.

As a result of these new AI breakthroughs, Elon Musk even predicted that fighter jets will become obsolete. In contrast, many scientists believe that AI still has a long way to go before it’s deemed a sufficient replacement for human pilots.

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H/t Popular Mechanics