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Navy’s Next Fighter Likely to Feature Artificial Intelligence

Boeing concept for F/A-XX. Boeing Image

Boeing concept for F/A-XX. Boeing Image

Artificial intelligence will likely feature prominently onboard the Pentagon’s next-generation successors to the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

“AI is going to be huge,” said one U.S. Navy official familiar with the service’s F/A-XX effort to replace the Super Hornet starting around 2030.

Further, while there are significant differences between the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its F-X air superiority fighter and the Navy’s F/A-XX, the two services agree on some fundamental aspects about what characteristics the jet will need to share.

“I think we all agree that we have to work on PNT [Positioning, Navigation and Timing], comms, big data movement between both services,” the official said.

It is unclear how advanced technology like artificial intelligence might help a tactical fighter accomplish its mission. But it is possible that the AI would be a decision aid to the pilot in a way similar in concept to how advanced sensor fusion onboard jets like the F-22 and Lockheed Martin F-35 work now.

However, the visions for both the Navy and Air Force are technologically ambitious and there are differences between the services that still need to be resolved.

On Aug. 27, Air Force Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command (ACC), hosted an “innovation summit” called Air Superiority: 2030 and Beyond at Moffett Field, California, near San Francisco.

The idea behind the summit was to come up with new ideas on how to conduct the air superiority mission.

Both the Navy and the Air Force are hoping to engage the technology industry in Silicon Valley to help overcome the technological challenges for their sixth-generation fighter efforts.

Meanwhile — even though the F/A-XX initial capabilities document (ICD) is caught in the Pentagon’s bureaucracy — the Navy is proceeding full-steam ahead with preparation work for an analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the new fighter.

The AoA for F/A-XX is expected to start sometime in 2015.

  • Paratrooper

    Drones are the key. They can do things humans cant. Maneuver beyond human limitations.

    • Kevin

      even drones can do everythings that human cant
      there is a bunch of thing in human beings can do than what models or computers could do

    • allbuss84

      and at present maneuver to land on an Iranian airfield once the signal is jammed

    • Avatar

      Pentagon wouldn’t want to admit that X-45 is very maneuverable drone but words has gotten around that F/A-18E/F pilots can easily best it all the times.

      • Paratrooper

        for now…

  • captlou

    Seriously…the Navy & USAF have a new fighter, it’s called the F-35. A requirement for F/A-XX is a blatant admission that the F-35 is an abject failure. Congress must ask the Navy that if a new Navy fighter is needed, why the F-35 can’t make the cut. Then admit the F-35 is a failure and put that dog out of its misery. And move on.

    • NavySubNuke

      this is the F35’s replacement – it takes 20 – 25 years to go from concept to deployment so this will arrive just in time for the F35 to age out.

      • vegass04 .

        This is not an F-35 replacement, it is a Super hornet and F-15 replacement. F-35 is a strike platform and F-X will be something like F-15E and FA-XX will be something like Super Tomcat.

  • Olrik

    You can’t afford what you have now, never mind something like this. Twenty years from now the USN may be some sort of coastal defense force equipped with older simple equipment, if the US military survives in its current form at all…

    • OLD GUY

      …..and to think, Willie Messerschmidt designed, built and tested the ME109 in 93 DAYS.

      • Alan Martens

        Yeah, and I don’t think Reich Marshall Goering was hanging over his shoulder telling him how to do it either…And altering the plans midway through the project!


    A real, savvy guy named Norm Augustine once said, “At this rate, we will only be able to afford only one airplane.”. How right he was.

  • Secundius

    Are you going to supply and/or apply the same A.I., Artificial Intelligence to Congress, too???

    • OLD GUY

      Artificial, natural, plant, primate, etc. ANY would be an improvement

      • Secundius

        @ OLD GUY.

        Well they already have a “Peach” in the House.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Gee, it’s deja vu all over again! I remember the military and Navy going through this in the 1960s with a plane designated as the F-111. It was supposed to be a “one size fits all” wonder. We know how that turned out, don’t we now? And I am referring to the F-35 here.

    I’ve said this on these boards before, I’ll say it again: why does history always seem to repeat itself when it comes to our government and military? There have been warplanes successfully adapted by one service from the other in the past. The F-4 Phantom, The A-7 Corsair II, the A-1 Skyraider are the prime examples of that. The KEY reason they were so successful is that they were designed as carrier aircraft FIRST! Navy aircraft are pillars of compromise. They can only be so heavy and so large size-wise because of the limited space on carriers. They have to have landing gear and associated equipment that land-based planes don’t require. If you build a successful carrier-borne aircraft FIRST, then those that do NOT require all the specialized equipment and limits are much easier to produce.

    And what’s REALLY ____ (insert your own word here. mine are a choice between funny and tragic), is that the so-called “next” fighter is still in development. The F-35 was supposed to take the Navy well towards the middle of the century as far as front line service. Who knows if and when the ‘bugs’ will ever be worked out of it? But I take THIS article as a hedge on their (the Navy’s) part that the bugs might NOT be worked out after all. Maybe they should refer to that ‘next fighter’ as the F/A XXXX because of the obscene price tag we can all expect it’s development to carry!

    • OLD GUY

      I remember looking at the A/F version of TFX/F-111.and asking what was the large forging at the base of the tail for? The reply was, “Oh, that’s for the arresting hook, when the Navy gets it, but the redesign to omit it is too costly. If you get to see a F-111 you’ll see it right there. It weighs in at 87#,

    • Alan Martens

      The problem now is that none of the companies that used to design and build carrier aircraft exist any longer. Lockheed and Boeing don’t know squat about it. McDonnell Douglas, Grumman and LTV sure did!

  • CaptainParker

    And just how many BILLIONS will this Buck Rogers technology cost the taxpayer? Haven’t the Brahmins in the Pentagon learned anything from the money pit fiasco that is the F-35?

    • Avatar

      Pentagon is the one who wanted to propagandize F-35 and claim it would be the best fighter in the world.

  • Rob C.

    Well if can get what they want straighten out without having to change what they want on it while their in the middle of the design process maybe the Pentagon can get this thing done and operational verse semi-functional.

  • Avatar

    It’s more likely the term will be used, ‘semi-artificial intelligence’. It can perform it’s own mission parameters set by controllers. But it would be impossible for it to go head to head against Pak-Fa and European’s upcoming Sixth Generation fighter program in air to air combat. It won’t be able to identify the threat on its own without make a mistake by shoot down U.S.-allied fighters. Pilots would be able to beat computerized Semi A.I.

    Pure A.I. would be able to learn and adapt to every nanometer of flight it performs and quickly become more superior over pilots.

    I’d give 8th generation fighter to have a better chance to be flying completely on its own and wallop pilots all the times. My personal opinion is that it would be better if pilot and A.I. works together in same fighter jet.

  • Sharpshooter

    Gee, if they could only induce AI into Congress, maybe this country wouldn’t stagnate under total ignorance!

  • vegass04 .

    Why do they continue to point out that F-X will be a replacement for Raptor while in the same time F-15 is a 40 year old platform. Is this a typo or what??

  • hot stuff..not so sure the 2 airframes will be that similar as the landing gear systems should be completely different, the USAF can have stick LG as they touch down softly compared to the USN. the USAF airframe can be much lighter!!! period…