Something small: The US Air Force already has some of the most advanced combat aircraft on the planet. Now it is determined to implement advanced artificial intelligence systems in its fleet that can not only fly aircraft, but also conduct short and long range combat. The systems were already successfully tested late last year.
On December 1, 2023, a modern AI appears workout Air Force combat aircraft for the first time. The system did not take off, fly and land the plane. It also participated in advanced tactical exercises and simulated close combat over Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The autonomous combat aircraft is a modified F-16, codenamed VISTA X-62A. part of the Air ForceskyborgIts codename is an acronym for Variable Flight Simulator Test Airplane, but it wasn’t always an AI-powered aircraft.
It started its life as a flight simulator for the Air Force in the 80’s. The military branch pilot training simulator remained popular through the early 1990s primarily because of its versatility. Its open architecture allowed technicians to fit it with components and software to mimic the performance of almost any aircraft, from a bomber to an ultra-light fighter. Later, the Air Force implemented various systems from military contractors, including Skunk Works and General Dynamics for Lockheed Martin.
Skunk Works has introduced a Model Tracking Algorithm (MFA) and a Simulation Autonomous Control System (SACS). General Dynamics developed an “Enterprise-wide Open Systems Architecture” (E-OSA), which tied together various components such as Enterprise Mission Computer version 2 (EMC2, or “Einstein Box”), SACS monitors, Getac tablet monitors, and robust security features. .
Engineers designed E-OSA to be open and easily upgradeable to take advantage of rapid advances in artificial intelligence. In 2022, VISTA received two cutting-edge AI programs: the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AACO) Autonomous Air Combat Operations (AACO) and DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE). The AACO system handles BVR (beyond visual range) single enemy combat, while the ACE manages close combat.
Between December 1 and December 16, VISTA completed 12 test flights and logged more than 17 hours of flight time. DARPA has been sneaky about most of the AI training, but has stated that the algorithms have many hours of simulated tasks before they can be executed in the aircraft for live testing.
Despite the extensive virtual training, VISTA still required a pilot in the rear cockpit as backup and a technician in the lead to deal with any malfunctions that might occur. Officials did not specify the details of the plane’s test flights, saying only that it managed to undergo minor shocks.
The effectiveness of test flights has the Air Force anxiety To install AACO and ACE systems in their entire fleet as quickly as possible. The Department of Defense says the AI suites are not intended to replace human pilots but rather to supplement their skills.
“We’re not trying to replace pilots; we’re trying to augment them, give them an additional tool,” said Christopher Cotting, director of research for the USAF Test Pilot School. Use the composite skull cutout for illustration. “The horse and the human had to work together. The horse can run the trail really well, so you don’t have to worry about getting from point A to point B.”
One example of using computer controlled aircraft is when a pilot becomes incapacitated. If unconscious or killed, as long as the aircraft is still operational, it can maneuver and fight for a safe landing. In addition, the cockpits can be replaced with a dedicated nose section for missions that do not necessarily require a human pilot, such as Renaissance flights.
Aside from the Air Force’s plans to expand AI systems into the rest of its aircraft, the future of the VISTA is in the works. Just as it was used to train pilots in a virtual environment, the aircraft will now serve as a tool to give human pilots flight time and experience with the AACO and ACE systems. So in a sense, VISTA has come full circle to its roots.