Fighter jets are the pinnacle of modern aviation technology. Usually, they require an expert team and pilot to operate and coordinate together to bring out the best performance from these amazing aircraft. But now, a new chapter in aviation history has opened where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is responsible for operating a tactical fighter jet all by itself!
ThisThis incredible advance for AI has taken on one of the most complex roles imaginable yet: unmanned flying in active combat. This remarkable feat shows us just how powerful AI can be and hints at potential applications far beyond our current imaginings.
Some AI programs are designed to engage in conversations with people on the Internet, while others are used to control jet fighters.
For the first time, Lockheed Martin’s VISTA X-62A tactical test aircraft flew autonomously without human intervention.
The modified F-16D was used as a test aircraft and soared across the skies of Edwards Air Force Base in California for an impressive 17 hours split over 12 flights.
The plane was piloted by two autonomous systems, the Model Following Algorithm (MFA) and the System for Autonomous Control of the Simulation (SACS), merged by a computer.
The precise nature of the tasks executed by the AI remains uncertain, yet it is evident that this was far more than a regular flight using autopilot.
Dr. M. Christopher Cotting, director of research at the US Air Force Test Pilot School, declared in a statement.
Dr. M. Christopher Cotting says:
‘VISTA will allow us to parallelize the development and test of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques with new uncrewed vehicle designs.’
‘This approach, combined with focused testing on new vehicle systems as they are produced, will rapidly mature autonomy for uncrewed platforms and allow us to deliver tactically relevant capability to our warfighter.’
Lockheed has identified two potential applications of this most recent development: first, the autonomous aircraft could be used as a platform to develop and test Artificial Intelligence technologies; second, it can be utilized in training exercises to help prepare upcoming pilots.
In the future, it could pave the way for autonomous planes to replace drones as combatants in warfare.
Lockheed Martin expressed that VISTA will remain a key contributor to the fast progression of AI and self-governing capabilities for the United States Air Force.
Inspections are being conducted regularly at the moment. Flights will be commencing again in Edwards Air Force Base over 2023.
As the U.S. Navy begins integrating AI into its everyday operations, we can only expect other militaries worldwide to follow suit. This new reality presents several ethical challenges that must be addressed head-on to ensure that autonomous weapons are used responsibly and in line with international law. With AI becoming increasingly sophisticated, we must establish a set of best practices before it’s too late.