US military uses artificial intelligence to fly fighter jet for 17 hoursFebruary 27, 2023
The impact of artificial intelligence cannot be understated in any field, including the military. Unmanned aircraft and remote-controlled drones have been around for decades, but this is the first time in the history of AI that a fighter jet has been flown autonomously, albeit with a human in the cockpit as a precaution. In December 2022, the US military tested an autonomous jet fighter capable of performing complex combat manoeuvres for 17 hours. The update was announced by the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) on 13th February.
The VISTA X-62A fighter is a modified version of the F-16D fighter first tested in 1992. The aircraft has undergone a number of modifications over the years to enable it to mimic the flight characteristics of other aircraft. It was upgraded with the latest simulation system and a model-following algorithm with advanced sensor and tablet display capabilities.
The test was successful thanks to the adaptations made as part of the VISTA programme. VISTA, which stands for Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft, was officially recognised by the US Air Force and declared a national asset in June 2021. Dr Malcolm Cotting, director of research at the US Air Force Test Pilot School, said: "VISTA will allow us to develop and test state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques in parallel with new uncrewed vehicle designs.
The aircraft is reportedly still undergoing inspections and will continue to be tested in 2023. They hope to get it to a standard where it can fly without a pilot. Countries such as Italy, Japan, the UK and Russia are also developing AI-powered fighter jets and will be unveiling them in the near future.