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AI-powered aircraft could give US military huge advantage

Boeing XQ-58A Valkyrie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins/Released)
October 08, 2023

While the use of aircraft powered by artificial intelligence could give the United States Air Force an advantage against foreign adversaries, the potential deployment of the advanced technology is leading to ethical concerns.

According to Fox News, the U.S. Air Force is continuing to develop the XQ-58A Valkyrie aircraft, which is intended to be a stealth aircraft that can be operated by artificial intelligence, providing the military with a much cheaper aircraft that can be flown without risking the loss of human pilots in combat.

“This technology is something we’ll need for the future of defense,” AI expert and founder of the Center for Advanced preparedness and Threat Response Simulation Phil Siegel told Fox News.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie aircraft is currently being developed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions. The aircraft’s first successful test flight occurred in 2019, which took place just a few years after the contract was originally awarded in 2016.

According to The Drive, Kratos has estimated that the XQ-58A Valkyrie aircraft could cost as low as $4 million if the company produced 50 planes each year, marking a significant financial savings for the military compared to the MQ-9 Reaper drone which costs roughly $30 million and the F-35 which costs roughly $80 million.

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Steve Fendley, president of Kratos Unmanned, told Fox News, “The economy of scale is incredible, both from the cost in the first place of the unmanned system because you don’t have any of the expenses of life-sustaining systems and the reliability level that you need for a manned system versus and unmanned system.”

In addition to the cost savings of the XQ-58A Valkyrie, Fendley said the risk is “very, very low compared to the equivalent risk for [a] single manned system.”

Christopher Alexander, Pioneer Development Group’s chief analytics officer, told Fox News that the artificial intelligence powered aircraft will “add tremendous capabilities to military planners” since the aircraft will be able to be used “more aggressively” without as much concern for potential casualties and cost.

Alexander described the AI-powered aircraft as, “amazing proof of concept for a revolutionary Pentagon strategy that relies on less expensive solutions in conflict.” However, the Pioneer Development Group analyst noted that the use of AI-powered aircraft also raises “important ethical concerns.”

According to Army University Press, military experts have previously expressed ethical concerns surrounding civilian casualties that could be caused by AI technology, the potential for increased collateral damage, and the accountability required for AI-powered weaponry.

Nevertheless, Alexander told Fox News that the Department of Defense has managed ethical concerns well so far. Additionally, Fendley has addressed concerns surrounding the company’s AI-powered aircraft.

“There’s a lot of concern, and rightfully so, because I think in many cases our enemies are going to be much more free with what they allow the artificial intelligence agents to do, and I don’t think our country will do that,” Fendley said. “What’s very important to understand is having the capability doesn’t mean that you do it. It’s very easy to put in a system that could be capable of deploying weapons without asking anybody. It’s also very easy to have a constraint system in there.”