UK's next-gen fighter jet has a groundbreaking ‘mind-reading’ helmet

It will also step in when pilots need help.
Ameya Paleja

The Tempest fighter jet, part of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) being built by the U.K. will be equipped with technology that read pilots' minds, BBC reported

Last year, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) awarded a $347 million (£250m) grant to a consortium of companies that includes BAE Systems and Rolls Royce from the U.K., Leonardo from Italy, and missile group MBDA from Europe to develop the sixth generation combat fighter jet, Tempest. 

Intended to replace the fighter jets that are currently in use by the 2040s, the program is focused on technological advances that will likely be a challenge in the not-so-distant future. The consortium aims to use artificial intelligence (A.I.) to bridge the gap between the pilot and the aircraft, and one of the ways to do so is to read his mind.   

Mind-reading technology

The A.I. system is being designed to step in to help when the pilot is overwhelmed. However, instead of the pilot having to ask for help, the system will be able to pick up signs where the pilot is not in control. 

To do so, the pilot's helmet sensors will track the brain signals and other medical data during flight. With each successive flight, the A.I. will amass psychometric and biometric data and store it in a database and map out the pilot's unique characteristics. 

In a scenario where the pilot loses consciousness, the on-board A.I. will know that the aircraft is no longer under the pilot's control and take over.

Apart from this, artificial intelligence systems are also expected to take over the control of the weapons once they are fired by the pilot and ensure that they reach their intended targets. Not to forget the presence of drone swarms, which will be a commonality when the Tempest fighters take to the skies. 

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Developed collaboratively with Japan

Interestingly, as a sixth-generation fighter, the aircraft will share features with other aircraft being developed elsewhere. The consortium has found a partner in Japanese company Mitsubishi that is also working on a sixth-generation fighter, dubbed 'Godzilla', for the Japanese military. 

Leonardo is reportedly working with Mitsubishi to develop an electronic version of the radar instead of the conventional system that bounces off radio signals. That an electronic system will pick up too many signals for a pilot to process also means that an A.I. system will be deployed to control the flow of data to the pilot. 

The extensive use of digital systems on this aircraft will require tweaks to the jet engine as well which apart from powering the aircraft at supersonic speeds also needs to generate power to keep the data crunching online at all times. Last year, we also reported that the governments of the two countries had also agreed to collaborate on the jet engine needed for the aircraft and had earmarked $300 million towards this effort. 

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