U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall was flown in the X-62A Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft (VISTA), a modification of an F-16D, at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant step in testing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in aviation.

The flight was part of a collaboration between Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and other governmental and industrial partners.

The X-62A VISTA aircraft serves as a platform for developing and testing AI and autonomy technologies. According to Lockheed Martin, the aircraft has been equipped with AI agents and has undergone extensive software updates involving over 100,000 lines of code across 21 test flights.

This development is part of efforts to integrate AI into new unmanned vehicle designs and enhance distributed teaming operations.

John Clark, Vice President and General Manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, noted the importance of the platform in advancing AI integration in aerospace. He stated, “The X-62A VISTA is a crucial platform in our efforts to develop, test, and integrate AI, as well as to establish AI certification standards.”

The X-62A’s open systems architecture, including the Model Following Algorithm (MFA) and System for Autonomous Control of the Simulation (SACS), supports the rapid prototyping and frequent flight testing necessary for the rapid development of AI technologies.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Lonpfrb (@guest_816324)
22 days ago

Presumably you don’t fly your leading customer unless you are 100% sure that your backup has backup so that nothing significant can go wrong.

John Clark
John Clark (@guest_816339)
22 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

Can you imagine the resulting interview without coffee if Secretary of the Airforce ended up hanging from a parachute…..

Jon (@guest_816326)
22 days ago

Aren’t autopilots getting posh these days?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_816329)
22 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Nice comment!

Jonathan (@guest_816327)
22 days ago

Just thinking through the implications of a manned AI platform..you could see a couple of uses. 1) 5th and even more so 6th generation fighters are planned to be the control nods of large ish numbers of drones and autonomous sensors..having an AI pilot would allow the human pilot far more attention on managing the network of drones….I always doubted how a single seat fighter could act as a command and control node for large numbers of drones…but this could be the way. 2) one of the advantages of 5th generation aircraft over previous generations is the ability of the… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Jonathan
Patrick C
Patrick C (@guest_816516)
21 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

DARPA and the USAF did a test a few years ago with their AI using a simulator facing real pilots, to see who would win in a guns only dogfight- the AI won everytime… and that wasn’t even taking into account stuff like G forces. the drone plane was limited to 9gs iirc. i believe it was the ACE program, interesting stuff for sure.

Mason (@guest_816506)
21 days ago

Have we learned nothing from Ace Combat 7? In all seriousness this is really cool and they must really trust their AI to take probably their most potential customer in a flight with it.

Patrick C
Patrick C (@guest_816514)
21 days ago

imagine if this tech had been ready a few years ago, ukraine could’ve gotten f-16s immediately instead of waiting a year for pilots to train… thats gonna be interesting in the future. of course you’d still have to train maintainers but i imagine its not too hard to hire contractors.
the US has so many jets in the boneyard this will pretty much double the size of their airforce. big lesson to learn from this is never scrap your old planes…