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China Warned of America’s AI-Piloted Fighter Jet

Chinese military analysts have sounded the alarm over America’s rapid progress in developing an artificial intelligence (AI)-piloted fighter jet.

This comes as US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall participated in a successful flight test of an AI-controlled F-16 Fighting Falcon over the California desert.

According to a Beijing-based military analyst who spoke with South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, the AI-enabled fighter jet could give the US a tactical advantage in future air combat.

The source further said the automated platform has better maneuverability than conventional aircraft and could significantly reduce human casualties.

Another Chinese military analyst, Fu Qianshao, explained that AI-piloted aircraft might have faster reaction times than human-controlled jets — a significant edge in modern combat.

‘Still a Long Way to Go’

Despite the rapid progress, Fu said the US still has a long way to go before it can use the technology in real warfare.

Controlling an aircraft by AI is one thing, but integrating machine learning to support air-to-air combat is another challenge for the developers.

Such machine learning could include air combat tactics, target analysis, and deciding when to fire weapons, according to Fu.

“There might be accidental damage in letting unmanned aircraft decide by itself, especially in large-scale air battles,” he said. “It would take time for the existing fighter jets to master this kind of autonomous operation.”

A Different Approach

Hong Kong-based military analyst Leung Kwok-leung said it was reasonable for the US to test AI agents on the highly maneuverable F-16s.

But for China, a different route might be taken in developing AI-controlled warplanes.

Beijing’s J-10 multi-role combat aircraft is considered the F-16’s counterpart, but it is unlikely that it will be used by China to test AI algorithms.

“It will not necessarily be used on existing modified warplanes. We will probably develop new AI-led unmanned warplanes,” Fu stressed.

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