The US Air Force announced, on Wednesday, April 3, a major advancement in autonomous combat aircraft.

Reshaping the Skies: A Look at VENOM-AFT

In the sprawling expanse of Eglin Air Force Base down in Florida, where the humidity wraps around you like a wet blanket, the Air Force is cooking up something that smells a lot like the future.

It’s a concoction of high-speed tech and old-school jet fuel called the Viper Experimentation and Next-Gen Operations Model – Autonomy Flying Testbed (VENOM-AFT) program, with three F-16 Fighting Falcons playing the role of guinea pigs in a grand experiment that could just turn the whole game of aerial combat on its head.

These aren’t your granddaddy’s F-16s, mind you.

These birds are getting juiced up to serve as flying labs, probing the murky waters where manned and unmanned craft meet and mingle.

The brass aims to cook up some smart software that lets one pilot play puppet master to a whole circus of both manned and drone flyers, a move that could change the face of warfare as we know it.