The X-62A Vista takes off from Edwards with the Secretary of the US Air Force on board

US Air Force chief flies fighter piloted by artificial intelligence

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall experienced flight aboard the X-62A VISTA at Edwards Air Force Base on May 2

The X-62A VISTA aircraft had a different occupant on a test flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 2. Occupying the front seat was U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.

The head of the USAF went to learn about the project that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fly aircraft autonomously.

The technology promises to revolutionize the aerial battlefield, with the use of machine learning and highly specialized software.

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The X-62A is an F-16 fighter that has been used for a long time as a test bench for new technologies. Recently, the aircraft simulated aerial combat only being piloted by AI.

US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall listens to pilot James Valpiani (USAF)

“The potential for autonomous air-to-air combat has been imaginable for decades, but the reality has remained a distant dream up until now. In 2023, the X-62A broke one of the most significant barriers in combat aviation. This is a transformational moment, all made possible by breakthrough accomplishments of the ACE team,” Kendall said.

Various work fronts in AI

VISTA is the acronym for “Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft” and has been testing unprecedented capabilities for at least four years.

This is not the only front of USAF studies in this regard. Recently some F-16s were transferred to Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, to accelerate testing of another program, VENOM (Viper Experimentation and Next-gen Operations Model).

The X-62A VISTA aircraft and a F-16 (USAF)

“AI is really taking the most capable technology you have, putting it together, and using it on problems that previously had to be solved through human decision-making. It’s automation of those decisions and it’s very specific,” added the Secretary of the Air Force.

The USAF is developing an advanced air combat ecosystem consisting of a 6th generation manned fighter and Collaborative Combat Aircraft, advanced drones that will take on the most critical missions.


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