An AI manages to fly a fighter jet for the first time in a 17-hour flight
The training aircraft Lockheed Martin’s VISTA X-62A, a modified F-16D, was able to perform several successful flight tests over 17 hours piloted by “an artificial intelligence agent.” The firm explains that the tests were conducted in December 2022 at Edwards Air Force Base (California, USA) and were the first demonstration of an AI controlling an autonomous flight of a combat aircraft.
The fighter’s name stands for ‘Variable In-fight Simulation Test Aircraft’, which in English means. ‘Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft’. The developers used an open systems architecture for software that mimics the performance characteristics of other air vehicles. They applied that technology to an F-16D Block 30 Peace Marble II upgraded with Block 40 avionics.
Behind the trainer aircraft is Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin’s classified projects division, and Calspan Corporation of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS). Dr. Christopher Cotting, director of research at the USAP TPS, said VISTA will enable them to “parallel the development and testing of cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence techniques. With new unmanned vehicle designs.”
The aircraft has a VISTA Simulation System (VVS). produced by Calspan, a Model Following Algorithm (MFA). from Lockheed Martin and a Simulation Autonomous Control System (SACS).. Thanks to this, VISTA X-62A was able to perform flight tests piloted by an AI.
Cotting notes that testing with these technologies will allow autonomy for unmanned platforms to mature “rapidly.” Lookheed Martin expects that the software changes will lead to an increase in the frequency of test flights to accelerate AI advancement. “to meet urgent national security needs.” in the US.
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