Exploring the Possibilities of Autonomous Flight: The 17-Hour AI-Operated F-16 Jet Mission

AI can fly a modified F-16 jet all by itself for 17 hours. Is this the Air Force of the Future?

As the VISTA X-62A, a unique training aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin based on the F-16 platform, soared above the Mojave Desert, the skies were crystal clear. The cockpit of this high-tech jet has a plethora of expensive, sensitive avionics which enable pilots perform their missions. The designers could have packed in more technology, if not for the two seats. In the not so distant future, their wish may come true. This was not your usual outing.

Recently, it was reported that the training jet had flown for 17 hours completely operated by an artificial-intelligence (AI) system. This could be the beginning of fully autonomous jet fighters or drones. It is the first instance that an AI has operated a tactical aircraft this long.

The VISTA X-62 may be the most powerful, versatile and advanced training jet on the planet. It is essentially an upgraded F-16D, with Block 40 avionics, with plenty of space to install and try out different hardware that mimics other aircraft’s flight controls, making the aircraft its own ground simulator. Those who have flown the X-62 say it’s like a Swiss Army knife they can use to attach a variety of things to the aircraft.


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