How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionising Carrier Operations for the US Navy

In the era of technological advancements, the United States Navy is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance its carrier operations. Beyond combat and precision landings, AI is set to revolutionize how the Navy analyzes data, manages its supply chain, and even anticipates enemy behavior. The future of carrier-based aviation is becoming increasingly reliant on AI, making operations more efficient and safer.

Precision Landings with AI

Night carrier landings are among the most dangerous feats of combat aviation. The image of Maverick, portrayed by Tom Cruise in the "Top Gun" movies, landing a 32,000-lb. F/A-18EF Superhornet on a moving 90,000-ton aircraft carrier in challenging conditions is etched in popular culture. However, the Navy has harnessed the power of AI, particularly Precision Landing Mode, to transform the art of carrier landings into a precise science.

During recent tests, young Navy pilots found the final seconds of carrier landings to be a nerve-wracking experience, requiring nearly 300 separate adjustments to the plane's flight path. Engine power, angle of attack, and alignment to the centerline are just a few of the many variables pilots must control. With AI in Precision Landing Mode, the number of adjustments dropped to single digits, making pilots more confident and transforming a once incredibly challenging task into something enjoyable.

AI in Combat Aviation

The Navy's investment in AI isn't limited to precision landings. AI is being embraced as a shipmate across the fleet. The MQ-25 Stingray drone has demonstrated the capability to refuel other carrier aircraft and enhance satellite communications and reconnaissance for the aircraft carrier strike group. Beyond 2026, Stingray drones are set to become a common sight in all air wings, marking a significant step towards AI integration.

Stealth F-35 fighters and other systems are also incorporating AI, making use of today's equipment with enhanced digital capabilities. Lockheed Martin's CEO, Jim Taiclet, emphasizes the importance of maximizing digital advantages to stay ahead in the evolving landscape.

AI's Role in Military Operations

While AI complements human crews and commanders, it's also proving valuable in tactical management. AI tools can predict enemy missile trajectories and the effects of air strikes, providing a significant advantage in air and sea confrontations. By using AI, the Navy can anticipate enemy behavior, thus staying one step ahead of potential adversaries.

In an era where China is showing aggressive behavior, AI's role in managing combat air patrols and daily operations becomes paramount. The Pentagon's recent announcement of Chinese aircraft intercepting American military planes highlights the need for AI's swift integration.

AI in Supply Chain and Beyond

AI isn't restricted to combat and precision landings. The Navy has partnered with IBM to apply AI to its food supply chain, a crucial aspect of carrier operations. Organizations often underutilize their supply chain data, but AI is set to change that. From managing the flow of ice cream to serving "bug juice," an alternative to coffee and water, AI promises to streamline the supply chain and enhance the efficiency of carrier operations.

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