The General Dynamics VISTA/MATV NF-16D
Role Experimental aircraft
Manufacturer General Dynamics
(later Lockheed Martin) and
First flight April 1992[1]
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 1
Developed from General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

The General Dynamics X-62 VISTA ("Variable Stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft")[2] is an experimental aircraft, derived from the F-16D Fighting Falcon, which was modified as a joint venture between General Dynamics and Calspan for use by the United States Air Force (USAF). Originally designated NF-16D, the aircraft was redesignated X-62A in June 2021 as part of an upgrade to a Skyborg, with System for Autonomous Control of Simulation (SACS).[3]

The X-62A remains on the curriculum of the Air Force Test Pilot School as a practice aircraft for test pilots.[3]

Design and development

The NF-16D (now X-62A) VISTA in 2019, under a new paint scheme designed by Mike Machat

The NF-16D VISTA testbed aircraft incorporated a multi-axis thrust vectoring (MATV) engine nozzle that provides for more active control of the aircraft in a post-stall situation. As a result, the aircraft is supermaneuverable, retaining pitch and yaw control at angles of attack beyond which the traditional control surfaces cannot change attitude.[citation needed]

The NF-16D VISTA is a Block 30 F-16D based on the airframe design of the Israeli Air Force version, which incorporates a dorsal fairing running the length of the fuselage aft of the canopy and a heavyweight landing gear derived from the Block 40 F-16C/D. The fairing houses most of the variable-stability equipment and test instrumentation. The heavyweight gear permits simulation of aircraft with higher landing sink rates than a standard F-16.[citation needed]

The program was notable for the development of Direct Voice Input and the "Virtual HUD", which were both incorporated into the cockpit design for the F-35 Lightning II.[4]

The VISTA aircraft is operated by the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and maintained by Calspan at Edwards Air Force Base. It is regularly used in student curriculum sorties, special academic projects, and flight research.[3] As of June 2021, VISTA is in the midst of upgrading. In addition to replacing the VISTA Simulation System (VSS) with a newer, upgraded version of the same system, a System for Autonomous Control of Simulation (SACS) will be added in order to operate X-62A as a Skyborg. One application is as autonomously piloted aircraft, perhaps as a robotic wingman to a manned aircraft.[3]

On 18 April 2024, the USAF and DARPA announced the successful engagement of the X-62A against a conventional, human piloted F-16 in the first-ever human vs artificial intelligence dogfight.[5] On May 2, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III said he'd trust the AI with the ability to launch weapons. The Air Force is planning for more than 1,000 AI-controlled warplanes, the first of them to be operating by 2028.[6]


Orthographically projected diagram of the F-16.
Orthographically projected diagram of the F-16.

Data from USAF fact sheet[7] AerospaceWeb[8]

General characteristics


At sea level: Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,460 km/h)
At altitude: Mach 2+

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


  1. ^ Simonsen, Erik (2016). A Complete History of U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions. Forest Lake, MN: Specialty Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-58007-227-4.
  2. ^ Thuloweit, Kenji (20 March 2019). "New VISTA paint scheme gets artist's approval". Robins Air Force Base. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Casem, Giancarlo (30 July 2021). "NF-16D VISTA becomes X-62A, paves way for Skyborg autonomous flight tests". DVIDS. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  4. ^ F-16 Versions - F-16 VISTA / MATV / NF-16D
  5. ^ Losey, Stephen (19 April 2024). "US Air Force stages dogfights with AI-flown fighter jet". Defense News. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  6. ^ Copp, Tara (May 3, 2024). "An AI-controlled fighter jet took the Air Force leader for a historic ride. What that means for war". AP News. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  7. ^ F-16 USAF fact sheet
  8. ^ F-16 page on aerospaceweb.org
  9. ^ "Code One Magazine: Vista F-16 - January 1991". Archived from the original on 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
USAAS/USAAC/USAAF/USAF fighter designations 1924–1962, and Tri-Service post-1962 systems