The world of autonomous vehicles extends well beyond cars and hoverbikes. The US Air Force has successfully demonstrated their very first autonomous F-16 fighter jet, which is capable of striking against a target without third-party control. A very disturbing development, according to some, even though it goes to show there is a bright future ahead for autonomous vehicles as a whole.
F-16s Capable of Thinking for Themselves
It has to be said, a lot of US citizens are quite surprised to learn F-16 fighter jets can now strike a target on their own accord. In a way, it is very disturbing to think of this principle, as one never knows what could happen if someone successfully hacked an autonomous F-16. Then again, it also provides a lot of advantages, and the US Air Force is confident these autonomous jets will play a big role in the future of military operations.
To put the news into perspective, the US Air Force has collaborated with Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks to make this project a success. In the past, the Air Force successfully tested unmanned F-16 drones, although they are nothing in comparison to the actual fighter jet. The autonomous F-16 jet is now capable of conducting both air-to-air and ground strike capabilities without further human intervention, which is quite a significant development.
Additionally, the autonomous F-16 is more than capable of flying to its destination on its own accord as well. The vehicles are capable of figuring out the best route automatically. The test also shows these jets can respond to air threats and carry on about their business once that matter has been resolved. In fact, this experiment highlights there may no longer be a need for F-16 pilots in a few years from now. However, things will not evolve in this direction too quickly either.
It is important for people to see the larger picture. The US Air Force has big plans where autonomous combat is concerned. It is believed the military hopes to allow for F-35s to command fleets of unmanned drones in the future, providing military personnel with a lot of important intel on the go. Moreover, these drones will also be capable of engaging air threats, if needed, which opens up a lot of new and exciting possibilities.
All of this is part of the US Air Force’s open mission system. Said system is designed in such a way it can connect all other existing platforms together in a network that promotes the sharing of information from different sources. This information can easily be transmitted to unmanned drones and F-16s to give them a better idea of the current situation. Among the information to be shared are satellite images and ground radar information. Quite an innovative concept, that much is certain.
At the same time, there are growing concerns when it comes to unmanned military weapons. If this technology were to be hacked by state-sponsored assailants, an unmanned F16 could easily be turned against the United States as well. It will be interesting to see how the Air Force plans to address this possible scenario, as keeping hackers out is of the utmost importance.
With autonomous technology advancing as fast as it is, a scenario like in the movie Stealth (2005) does not seem unrealistic at all. Imagine a jet that decides to go out on a mission without anybody to stop it, not only would it be extremely difficult to stop a rogue autonomous jet, but the consequences could be devastating.
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