As reported by CNET, artificial intelligence recently flew a jet similar to an F-16 for 17 total hours over 12 flights. The series of flights happened in December at Edwards Air Force Base in California, using an experimental plane called the X-62A Vista. The X-62A is an experimental jet based on the F-16. The jet was under the control of one of four different AI algorithms at any given time during the tests (safety pilots were on board at all times). This included real world flights and takeoffs, landings and dogfighting in simulated combat missions. The research is part of a joint project between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Air Force to advance autonomous flight technologies.
Most aircraft, whether fighter planes or jumbo passenger jets, fly with autopilot systems engaged. In most cases these systems navigate their course using GPS, similar to that of a smartphone. But engaging in aerial combat against an adversary is something completely different. Lockheed Martin, which designed the jet, says it marks the first time AI has “engaged on a tactical aircraft.” Though no new similar tests have been announced, the DOD says the team “will continue leveraging the X-62 to test and evaluate autonomy capabilities and uncrewed vehicle models.” Watch a video here, and learn more at Lockheedmartin.com.