Lockheed Martin’s VISTA X-62A Advances Autonomy and Shapes the Future of Air Power
Recently, the world was rocked by a milestone event as the Lockheed Martin VISTA X-62A, a one-of-a-kind training aircraft, was flown by an artificial intelligence agent for over 17 hours. This historic flight marks the first time that AI has been engaged in a tactical aircraft, solidifying VISTA’s place at the forefront of the rapidly advancing field of autonomous flight.
Built in collaboration with Calspan Corporation, VISTA, or Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft, was designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. With its open systems architecture and software that allows it to mimic the performance of other aircraft, VISTA is a crucial tool for advancing the development and testing of cutting-edge AI techniques.
According to Dr. M. Christopher Cotting, the director of research at the USAF TPS, “VISTA will allow us to parallelize the development and test of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques with new uncrewed vehicle designs. This approach will rapidly mature autonomy for uncrewed platforms and allow us to deliver tactically relevant capability to our warfighter.”
Recent upgrades to VISTA, including an updated VISTA Simulation System provided by Calspan and Lockheed Martin’s Model Following Algorithm and System for Autonomous Control of the Simulation, have given the aircraft new capabilities in the realm of AI and autonomy. At the heart of this system is the Skunk Works Enterprise-wide Open Systems Architecture, which provides the power for the Enterprise Mission Computer version 2, also known as the “Einstein Box.”
Additional upgrades, such as advanced sensors and a Multi-Level Security solution, have enhanced VISTA’s capabilities while maintaining its rapid-prototyping advantage, allowing for quick software changes and increasing the pace of AI and autonomy development to meet the pressing needs of national security.
Lockheed Martin has a long history of applying and deploying trusted AI technologies to maximize performance, safety, and situational awareness across all domains. Its implementations keep people in control while allowing them to be safer, more effective, and better equipped to focus on higher-level tasks.
As VISTA undergoes a series of routine inspections, it is clear that it will continue to play a vital role in the development of AI and autonomy capabilities for the U.S. Air Force. Flights are set to resume at Edwards Air Force Base throughout 2023, and the future of air power looks bright with VISTA leading the way.