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Air Force’s AI-Powered Jet Gives Human Pilots a Run for Their Money

Air Force’s AI-Powered Jet Gives Human Pilots a Run for Their Money
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Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall during his experimental flight inside the cockpit of an X-62A VISTA aircraft autonomous warplane above Edwards Air Base.
United States Air Force Photo via AP

  • The US Air Force is testing AI-powered F-16 jets in combat training scenarios.
  • Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall conducted a historic test flight on Thursday.
  • In some combat scenarios, the AI-powered jets outperform human pilots, AP reported.

The US Air Force conducted a historic test flight on Thursday of its AI-powered X-62A VISTA autonomous warplane.

The flight over Edwards Air Force Base, for which Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall sat in the cockpit, ran through several combat exercises and aerial battle scenarios, per The Associated Press. The outlet reported that the AI-powered aircraft, which has flown roughly two dozen flights since testing began in September, has begun to outperform human pilots in some scenarios.

The AP reported that in the Thursday flight, the X-62A VISTA plane went “nearly nose to nose” with a human-piloted F-16 as they maneuvered within 1,000 feet of each other at speeds of more than 550 miles per hour.

While humanitarian groups have expressed deep concern about putting life-and-death decisions in the hands of an AI-powered craft, Kendall stressed that AI is already restructuring global warfare strategies whether we like it or not.

“It’s a security risk not to have it. At this point, we have to have it,” Kendall told AP after he landed.

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AP reported that the US Air Force is betting big on AI, investing in a fleet of 1,000 unmanned drones to perform riskier maneuvers than are possible with manned craft, with the first operating in 2028.

While AP reported that pilots at the Edwards Air Force Base know that AI-powered craft may soon replace them, the outlet noted that the airmen are loathe to face off against an adversary with AI capabilities if the US doesn’t have its own autonomous fleet.

“We have to keep running. And we have to run fast,” Kendall told AP after his Thursday flight.

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The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.





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