The Future of Warplanes –AI-Powered, GPS-Free Fighter Jets

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The US Air Force has recently held aerial combat between an AI-piloted F-16 and a regular piloted one, reaffirming its commitment to stay ahead of the game in this field. The fight featured the advanced X-62A VISTA AI-piloted F-16 (with a high ranking official present onboard) and marked a significant milestone in the development of AI for the USAF, hinting at its enormous potential.

Experts claim that as the world advanced towards a rapidly increased use of AI in weapon systems, many are concerned about a possible future in which wars are fought completely between AI-powered machines that kill on their own accord. While the US claims they would never do such a thing, worries of potential adversarial intent make the US Military prioritize the rapid development and deployment of US capabilities.

According to Interesting Engineering, the military-use AI is currently being trained by a combination of machine learning and autonomy – its rules are being set offline, then uploaded to the aircraft and tested, looped by the machine learning model to refine the AI pilot’s capabilities.

AI solutions are not only being developed for basic flight and combat, but also for an AI-based alternative to satellite-dependent GPS navigation – during conflict, high-value GPS satellites risk being hit or interfered with, and the potential loss of GPS could have severe consequences for communication and navigation. It could also make it harder for the US military to coordinate a response, affecting the effectiveness of its aircraft and warships. The Air Force used AI to work on an alternative solution using the Earth’s magnetic fields – the AI learned to distinguish between the relevant and irrelevant signals, with very promising results.

Another important regard was the safety procedures when training the pilot AI, with Air Force officials emphasizing that the key to ensuring safety is to control the data that is fed into the simulator and teaches the AI. They claim it is essential to ensure that the data used is based on safe flying practices.

When looking to the future, the Air Force reports envisioning a future where a version of this AI could control a fleet of 1,000 unmanned warplanes.