Air Force Secretary to be piloted by AI-operated fighter plane in test of military’s future


The Air Force is planning to use over 1,000 drones in future air warfare. Its leader will also fly in a plane operated by artificial intelligence.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he will fly in one of the converted F-16s to see how well the AI-controlled plane works.

“I will have a pilot with me who will be watching while the autonomous technology works,” Kendall told the Senate Appropriations Committee defense panel members. “Hopefully, neither of us will have to fly the airplane. ”

The use of drones in war has grown fast, and now they are one of the main weapons used in combat. Drones are a big problem every day in Ukraine and in the Middle East. In Ukraine, regular people are being attacked by Russian drones, but they are also making drones to film Russian locations. In the Middle East, groups supported by Iran have been using advanced drones in the air, sea, and underwater to attack US bases and ships in the Red Sea.

The Air Force started making plans for its team of fighting planes, called CCAs, a few years ago. They imagine a situation where one pilot can control many AI-powered drones, also known as “loyal wingmen. ”

The company won’t say what the drones will look like, whether they will be big or small. Kendall wants to watch a test flight of a converted F-16 so he can see the technology for future planes.

The fleet is being made to be ready for future fights, including a possible war with China. China has improved its ability to stop other countries from getting close to its territory by using better weapons like air defense systems. This makes it dangerous for other countries to send people too close to China. Drone planes could help the military get past enemy defenses and support missions like watching and blocking signals in the future.

The Air Force asked for $559 million in the 2025 budget to keep working on the future CCA air system.

“The aircraft was originally supposed to be used for air defense, but it has the capability to do other tasks,” Kendall said.

The drone fleet is also expected to cost less than making new manned jets, Kendall said. The goal is to make each one cost about $20 million, which is much less than what an F-35 fighter costs now.


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