Air Force Secretary Flies in Jet Controlled By AI

Photo by Terence Burke on Unsplash

( – On Friday, May 3, Frank Kendall, U.S. Air Force Secretary, rode in a fighter jet cockpit that was fully controlled by artificial intelligence. He had previously informed the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel of his intention to ride in the AI-controlled F-16 last month while discussing how air warfare would evolve based on autonomously operated drones.

Kendall announced his flight to Edwards Air Force Base, which is the same desert facility that had been used by Chuck Yeager to break the sound barrier. This could potentially be among the largest advancements in military aviation since the 1990s when stealth planes were introduced. 

Kendall told the Associated Press after the flight that it would be a security risk not having this technology and that at this point, they needed to have access to it. 

NBC and the Associated Press had been given permission to witness the secret flight under the condition that there would not be any reports about the flight until it was completed.

Vista is the name given to the AI-controlled F-16, which made maneuvers reaching more than 550 mph while flying Kendall. A human-piloted F-16 had also flown along Kendall and the Vista as the two jets performed loops and twists at a distance of around 1,000 feet from one another. 

After the hour-long flight, Kendall got out of the cockpit arguing that he had seen enough to trust that the AI technology would be able to decide whether or not it should fire weapons during a war. Some critics, however, have expressed concerns about AI one day using weapons without human consent.

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