The U.S. Air Force’s secret new fighter jet, which it designed, built, and tested in just one year, will feature some kind of artificial intelligence copilot—a trusted computer algorithm that human pilots can rely on to assume critical tasks in the air.
That’s according to Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, who in September shocked the world when he revealed the surprise existence of the service’s new, mysterious Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter.
The Air Force has been incredibly tight-lipped about the sixth-generation fighter, only confirming it exists, and it’s flying … somewhere. But a few clues about NGAD have trickled out since the initial announcement, such as which defense contractor likely built the plane. And now, Roper has revealed (via Breaking Defense) that the NGAD will have an “AI-assisted copilot, maybe even ARTUµ.”
That’s the call sign—a.k.a. R2—that Roper and his team used to train the world-leading computer program µZero to operate a U-2 spy plane last week in California, marking the first time AI has controlled a U.S. military system.
In that groundbreaking experiment, the “crew” took part in an exercise centered around a simulated missile attack. The U-2 was assigned to locate enemy missile launchers on the ground. The human pilot kept a lookout for enemy aircraft, while the AI took over tactical navigation and sensors to search for the launch vehicles.
Read more: Popular Mechanics