USAF Secretary Takes Historic Flight in Autonomous F-16

In a groundbreaking demonstration of advanced military technology, the U.S. Air Force’s Secretary, Frank Kendall, recently experienced a historic flight in the front seat of an autonomous F-16, officially known as the X-62A VISTA. This unique aircraft, modified by Lockheed Martin, is the only one of its kind and plays a pivotal role in testing and developing artificial intelligence for autonomous flight.

On May 3rd, Kendall’s flight took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, marking a significant milestone in the Air Force’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. This initiative, a collaboration between the Air Force and DARPA, aims to integrate AI into combat scenarios, enhancing the capabilities of human-machine teaming. During the flight, the X-62A performed a series of tactical maneuvers, responding in real-time to simulated threats, all while Kendall and a safety pilot, seated in the back, observed the AI’s capabilities without intervening.

The ACE program has already seen success, with AI piloting the X-62A against human pilots in air-to-air combat drills, a first in aviation history outside of simulated environments. These trials are crucial for building trust in autonomous technology, ensuring that AI can support human pilots in increasingly complex combat situations.

The successful flight and ongoing trials signify a transformational moment in military aviation, with the potential to revolutionize air combat by leveraging AI. The Air Force continues to push the boundaries of autonomous technology, paving the way for future innovations in defense capabilities.

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