US Air Force Plans Fleet Of AI-Flown Planes

( – U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall flew in an AI-powered F-16 on Friday, May 3 high above California in a test flight that demonstrated the capabilities of the software to effectively control and maneuver one of the most advanced weapons on the planet. Kendall’s flight supported his position that AI is the future of defense technology. He spoke about the potential to use the technology to support human-piloted aircraft and potentially replace them in certain scenarios in April.

Kendall flew in a specifically modified X-62A VISTA, the experimental version of the F-16 which has the potential for AI-piloting. He suggested that AI-technology in the military is the next frontier where chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons were previously. Members of the press were invited to observe the flight with the understanding that they weren’t allowed to report on it until afterward.

The AI is called Vista and was able to pilot the jet at speeds well over 550 mph while executing maneuvers in excess of 5 times the force of gravity (5G’s colloquially). Kendall was reportedly grinning when he exited the aircraft after the hour-long test flight. He remarked that his experience suggested AI was more than capable of determining when to fire weapons. The decision to allow AI to fire autonomously upon reaching programmed preconditions is one of the major points in the debate of the use of the technology.

The Red Cross is hypercritical of the potential to remove human decision making from warfare. They suggested allowing machines to kill humans demands an immediate political response from the international community. Kendall highlighted that humans will maintain oversight.

The Air Force is planning to have a 1,000 vehicle strong autonomous fleet of AI-powered drones with the first generation to come online in 2028. The Pentagon announced plans to offer contracts for the development of AI-power fighter jets in March. The plan is part of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) project, a $6 billion Pentagon program. The drones are intended as support craft for human-piloted vehicles.

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