Viper Lands under Computer Control

Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif., recently demonstrated the first-ever fully autonomous landing of an F-16 fighter, the company announced yesterday. Frank Cappuccio, executive vice president and general manager of the company’s Skunk Work’s advanced development shop, said the “autoland” demonstration is evidence that Lockheed is “prepared to successfully implement autonomous control of unmanned combat air vehicle-type aircraft.” The company said its technology also has applications for manned aircraft. The school provided the modified two-seat F-16, known as the variable stability in-flight simulator test aircraft, used in the trial. Once the onboard safety pilot relinquished aircraft control, an onboard computer took over and directed VISTA’s attitude, glide slope, airspeed, and descent rate until it touched down on the runway, Lockheed said.