Air Force Eyes AI for Teaming Fighter Jets With Drones; Will Roper Quoted

Will Roper

The U.S. Air Force has begun to assess whether it can integrate an artificial intelligence platform, Skyborg, into an F-35 or F-15EX fighter aircraft to enable pilots to control the Kratos Defense-built XQ-58 Valkyrie unmanned air vehicle and other drones, Defense News reported Wednesday.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and 2019 Wash100 Award winner, told the publication Tuesday that the service is in talks with Lockheed Martin and Boeing on the plan to team fighter aircraft with drones through the Skyborg program, which is being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“I’m very passionate about doing it, and the F-35 has a wonderful opportunity to do this as part of Block 4,” Roper said. “We might also have an opportunity to do this as part of F-15EX.”

He recently told lawmakers that the service intends to equip Valkyrie with new payloads and sensors to establish connectivity with manned fighter aircraft as the drone becomes a prototype initiative called Skyborg.

Roper also described Skyborg as an AI wingman that would train with pilots or be integrated with fighter aircraft to serve as an assistant to aviators.

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