AI-Piloted F-16 to Carry Air Force Secretary for Test Flight

On April 9, it was reported that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced to the Senate that he would soon enter the cockpit of an artificial intelligence (AI) operated F-16 for a test flight, according to Defense News. 

This comes as the Air Force selected several manufacturers to create a fleet of collaborative combat aircraft (CCAs). These CCAs would allow for “one piloted jet [to] be able to quarterback multiple AI-driven, responsive drones” according to Defense News. 

Companies like Shield AI and Lockheed Martin, have developed AI that can be utilized in retro-fitted F-16s. 

Numerous companies in the American National Defense sector have invested in developing AI-driven technologies, especially as many forecast a coming conflict with China. 

China has invested heavily in air defense systems to counter the United States’ air-based assets. According to General Kenneth Wilsbach, the commander of the United States Pacific Air Forces, China has built “the world’s densest and most integrated air-defense system”, as reported by Business Insider. 

CCAs would allow for high-risk missions to be attempted without risking friendly lives, allowing the United States Air Force to operate with greater operational flexibility in highly contested environments.