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Skunk Works Tests AI For Interception Scenarios

Skunk Works Tests AI For Interception Scenarios

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has tested an AI to perform air-to-air interception missions onboard a test aircraft. A Czech-made Aero L-29 jet was used as the testbed thanks to its overall simplicity for the AI. The testbed L-29 was provided by the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) in partnership with Skunk Works. The AI was tested under eight scenarios: standard head-to-head, off-aspect encounters, missile support, and missile defeat. Other flight tests are planned with more complex scenarios to test and train the AI for air-to-air missions. Another instance of the U.S. using an originally manned aircraft to test AI for air-to-air combat is the X-62A VISTA developed from the F-16 fighter jet. In a test from April 2024, X-62A, flown by AI, flew aggressively at supersonic speeds as high as 1200 mph (about Mach 1.6). The tests are planned to provide a baseplate and set of data for the large-scale CCA programme covering the development and acquisition of unmanned combat aircraft to accompany manned fighters. Unmanned combat aircraft theoretically have the advantage of not being affected by human factors such as G-limits and shortened reaction times. However, the technology isn’t expected to be fielded in the short term due to the ongoing development, training and exploration process.

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