US Air Force Tactical Fighter Flown by Artificial Intelligence for First Time

The US Air Force’s VISTA X-62A tactical aircraft has completed its first-ever trial piloted by an artificial intelligence (AI) agent.

The aircraft reportedly flew for more than 17 hours and performed advanced fighter maneuvers at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Two teams piloted the X-62A using AI-driven autonomy agents, performing one-on-one beyond-visual-range engagements against a simulated adversary.

It also demonstrated its within-visual-range maneuvering capability, dogfighting against AI red-team agents.

“Both teams’ AI agents executed autonomous tactical maneuvering while maintaining real-world airspace boundaries and optimizing aircraft performance,” the air force said in a statement.

The service added that the configurations on the VISTA X-62A allowed it to be controlled by AI-driven algorithms that respond to the flight characteristics of fixed-wing fighters such as the F-16.

‘Delivering Tactically Relevant Capability’

VISTA, short for Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft, is a cutting-edge training jet developed by Lockheed Martin.

It has an open systems architecture, allowing it to be fitted with critical software to mimic other aircraft in the US Air Force inventory.

Recent upgrades include an updated VISTA simulation system, model following algorithm, and autonomous simulation control to conduct future advanced flight tests.

“VISTA will allow us to parallelize the development and test of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques with new uncrewed vehicle designs,” US Air Force Test Pilot School director Christopher Cotting said.

“This approach, combined with focused testing on new vehicle systems as they are produced, will rapidly mature autonomy for uncrewed platforms and allow us to deliver tactically relevant capability to our warfighter.”

The US Air Force will continue leveraging the X-62 to evaluate autonomy capabilities and uncrewed vehicle models throughout 2023.

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