Navy’s Next Fighter Likely to Feature Artificial Intelligence

August 28, 2014 3:56 PM
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.

Dave Majumdar

Dave Majumdar

Dave Majumdar has been covering defense since 2004. He has written for Flight International, Defense News and C4ISR Journal. Majumdar studied Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and is a student of naval history.

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