U.S. F-35s and B-2 Bombers Will Soon Be Armed with the Ultimate Weapon

Kris Osborn
Reuters

Kris Osborn

Technology, Americas

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U.S. F-35s and B-2 Bombers Will Soon Be Armed with the Ultimate Weapon

(Washington, D.C.) Fighter jets will control attack drones from the cockpit, bombers will avert air defenses and real-time intelligence data will be available to attacking forces more quickly -- all due to new iterations of fast-evolving Artificial Intelligence technologies.

Faster computer processors, AI-infused algorithms able to merge or “fuse” sensor information and automated maintenance and checklists are informing emerging pilot tactics aimed at anticipating future threat environments. Various applications of AI now perform a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers. When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.

“The bottom line is the next big thing that is going to enable the US to maintain its qualitative edge is the seamless and ubiquitous sharing of information. Aircraft are going to be part of a sensor-shooter-effector-maneuver ISR complex,” said Ret. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of the The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and Warrior Contributor.

For the F-35 and B-2, for instance, rapid database access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize targeting, ISR and sensor input such as navigation information, radar warning information, images or video.

The F-35, for instance, uses early iterations of artificial intelligence to help acquire, organize and present information to the pilot on a single screen without much human intervention. Often referred to as easing the cognitive burden upon pilots, the effort is geared toward systematically presenting information from a range of disparate sensors on a single screen. The F-35s widely-discussed sensor fusion, for example, is evidence of this phenomenon, as it involves consolidating targeting, navigation and sensor information for pilots.

In the near future, F-35 pilots will be able to leverage AI to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions. At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

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