Requests $6 bn for development
The United States Air Force is asking for a ton of money to build 2000 AI-powered Valkyrie fighters. It’s important to note that these aircraft are not drones. They are capable of assessing and reacting to hostile interference. And much to the consternation of human rights activists, they’re capable of killing.
Performance-wise, they are every bit as capable as their human-flown counterparts. A cruising speed of 900 km/h. An operational altitude of almost fourteen kilometres high. And a range of 5,000 kilometres.
The price tag for each one is reported to be considerable lower than the piloted fighter jets, too. But I can’t quite work this out. The manufacturer, Kratos, says they’ll cost between $3 and $25 million per aircraft. What does that mean? They’re available in Economy, Executive and Platinum variants?
Gallows humour aside, the U.S.A.F. wants AI jets. The U.S. Air Force will get AI jets. It’s the American way.
It’s the future, Maverick. And you’re not in it.
The PR being put out about the Valkyrie XQ-58A is that it’ll be deployed in a wingman role to accompany manned aircraft. And it’s being touted as perfect for suicide missions and thus, for protecting pilots. Not sure about that first part – about being a wingman. Sooner or later, some or other sovereign customer is going to use this baby as a solo mission aircraft. It’s inevitable. And the suicide mission part? It weirds me out a little that such language is used, when it’s only ever been used in terms of extremist political or ideological activities. Can’t they just call them ‘non-return missions’?
Is it just me or is it impossible not to think about the back story of Top Gun Maverick? The part when Rear Admiral Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain points out to Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell that the future of air combat is not about pilots who need to eat, sleep, go to the lavatory or disobey orders.
The U.S.A.F. wants AI jets? Congress will probably get AI to approve the money.
I acknowledge I’m making light of this subject. But newsworthy as it is, I’d rather be writing a story about technology in service of humankind than technology in service of efficient killing.
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