Air Force Kicks Off Search for 6th-Gen Fighter

Boeing's Proposed F/A-XX 6th-Gen Fighter

Check this out. Rounding out a week of bad news for what’s set to be the Air Force’s mainstay fighter for the coming decades, the F-35, Steve Trimble at Flight Global dug up the air service’s request for information on what might be an F-22 (and maybe an F-35) replacement.

(Pictured above is Boeing’s proposed 6th-Gen Navy jet.)

The Air Force is interested in a plane, dubbed the Next Generation Tactical Aircraft, equipped with: “Enhanced capabilities in areas such as reach, persistence, survivability, net-centricity, situational awareness, human-system integration, and weapons effects,” a November 4, presolicitation noticestates. “It must be able to operate in the anti-access/area-denial environment that will exist in the 2030-2050 timeframe.”

It goes on to say:

The primary mission in the future Next Gen TACAIR definition is Offensive and Defensive Counterair to include subset missions including Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), Close Air Support (CAS) and Air Interdiction (AI). It may also fulfill airborne electronic attack and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities. This is not an all-inclusive list and the Next Gen TACAIR definition will mature and sharpen as the market research and Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA) unfold.

So, the service wants a long-range, do-it-all, stealthy fighter that can take on the most challenging air defenses around 20 years from now.  I’m wondering what role, if any, is this jet playing in the Pentagon’s plan for a “family” of long range strike systems?

Just yesterday, the Air Force’s top requirements officer, Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, said during a breakfast with reporters (including this one), that the bomber portion of the family would indeed work with the current crop of stealth jets such as the F-22 and the F-35 to carry out certain missions. Are service planners now factoring this new bird into the mix, or is it too soon to do that?

Also, what does the service mean by enhanced “human-system integration”? Is the Air Force talking, manned, unmanned or optionally-manned “human-system integration”? A section further down in the document suggests what the service wants:

Of key interest to the Government is technology which is applicable to the following areas (these interest areas are not all inclusive and may change depending on the outcome of the CBA):

The last interest area on the list is:

“Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and Optionally Manned Systems.”

Another item of interest on that list is “Non-kinetic Weapons.”

This sounds an awful lot like a fighter version of the concept the service says it’s looking for in its new bomber (an aircraft it still must sell Defense Secretary Robert Gates on).

Trimble’s take is here.

  • Justin H

    I hope it is tail-less like in the photo. Didnt BAE originally propose a tail-less JSF? Btw I’m not suprised they are thinking 20 years out. The ATF competion with the YF-22 and YF-23 took place back in the 1980’s didnt it? And the F-22 didnt enter service until December 2005.

    • Wildcard

      Yes 1994 – 1996 BAE and McDonnel Douglas and NG JSF concept, it was dropped, one of the concerns regarding stability, which we now know could have been dealt with using TVN.

      • Wildcard

        Actually around the same time the BAE was working on Replica, a two seat L/O manned/unmanned aircraft for the UK’ Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) program. R&D continues, but it looks like Taranis will take its place.

  • Peppers

    So they need some sort manned/unmanned fighter jet, that can dish out and survive laser/DE weapons? Not going to happen. If you can shoot down satellite and ICBMs, anti-access seems like a plausible deterrent.

  • Justin H

    My dream 6th gen fighter = PDE engines, next-gen stealth, can fly manned or unmanned, advanced controls like voice commands and targeting with you eyes, possibly have an active invisibility coating, and equipped with a high power laser and or ramjet missiles.

  • dude

    Why not just pick a F22, take it apart and modify it using the “latest technology” and see whether such 5.5th Gen “F-22 Demo” can do the job described in the pre-solicitation notice? The chance is good that it can and should be far more cost-effective than starting from scratch, again.

    • Nick

      Because the “latest technology” just happens to be the JSF. And last I checked, “cost effective” wasn’t in the Air Force’s vocabulary. Speaking of the JSF, is the Air Force over the damn alternate engine crap yet? At the pace it’s going DARPA will have something more cost effective.

      • Fighterfanboy

        We spend $500,000,000,000 a YEAR! on defence and spent only 28 billion on raptor over 25 years. The reason they stopped Raptor at 187 is because we can to better now. JSF will cost 390,000,000,000 over 25 years for 3000 of them. 150 mil. for each raptor and 130 mil for each JSF. Not cheap but a better deal I guess. Well no the topic, congress wanted the second engine not the Airforce. Write your congressman.

    • blight

      Skunk Works may (or used to be cost effective), but Skunk Works doesn’t build for mass production. That’s the main plant’s job.

    • Fighterfanboy

      New teck must come out. Raptor is old news. Still the best in service, but old news. Can’t let the Russ and China catch us. They’re only maybe 5 to 10 years behind us at this point. To close. JSF has already pasted the Raptor in all put kinetics. Super-sonic that is. Supsonic they’re almost the same. Time to move on. We spend $500,000,000,000 a YEAR! on defence and spent only 28 billion on raptor over 25 years. The reason the stopped Raptor at 187 is because we can to better now.

  • mike j

    Having read the RFI, it’s the same sort of presumptuous committee thinking that spit out the JSF. “More of the same, only better!” This idea will probably have nothing to do with our needs in 20 years. It’s flat out stupid to even try to plan 20 years ahead with the increasing pace of change. They’re basically admitting failure in keeping development cycles under control. I’m getting tired of this.

    • Nadnerbus

      This is so true it hurts. New tech takes a while to get operational, but at the rate we are going, a program will be started by one group of people, and completed by their kids after they grow old and retire. Get the costs and development time under control and make your buy for the threats of the next ten to fifteen years. Anything further is pure guesswork.

    • altor

      I desagree. Tech sector and industry are used to manage very long term projects. And usually there is a big gap between basic research and the comercial production.
      It is true that it is impossible to “predict” the future 20 years ahead, but the nature of engineering is to try to “make” such future.
      And don’t forget the enemy will have the same problem.

  • Justin H

    Mike, I think you are right. I would wait another 10 years before asking for next-gen concepts.

  • William C.

    The USAF and USN should certainly start concept evaluation and things of that nature, but we don’t even have a firm definition of what a 6th generation fighter will include. Today we should be working on those technologies that will be key to our future aircraft, rather than those aircraft themselves.

    Personally I believe our high-end 6th gen fighter should be a relatively large, twin-engined, highly stealthy design somewhat like Boeing’s F/A-XX concept, but with a two man crew. Besides for traditional air-superiority and strike missions. It would also be able to command UAVs and illuminate targets for other less capable aircraft, serving almost like a miniature-AWACs. It would have a carrier-based variant and would feature directed energy weaponry.

    Leaps in engine development are another big WHAT-IF for 6th gen aircraft.

  • Drake1

    The way their going, they will be lucky if they can afford any.

  • joe

    Just bring back the “Brewster Buffalo”…now there was some advanced Technology for it’s time! And Affordable! Ha!

  • tiger

    If your going to gen 6 I want the thing to transform into a damn Gundam that will fly & turn into a manned robot with light sabers!!! Ah, the wonders of japanime.

  • Maxtrue

    William C sounds on target. Won’t lasers and DEW be in theater by 2030? So the 6th Gen will have to have some ability to deflect or absorb lasers. The same surface might also have the ability to bend light and create cloaking effects:

    It might also be the case that the speed of such a fighter could exceed human capabilities to fly. Twenty years from now missiles will be hyper-velocity capable and I rather doubt a fighter could survive without some mega supercruise or scram capability.

    Perhaps this the cause of 6th Gen interest: drones are not very survivable or stealthy. US soldiers risk their lives retrieving downed drones. They are also not very high flying or capable of carrying much load. So after the dronemania has died down a bit, maybe planners see the purpose of manned fighter superiority. We should wait a bit before we move forward which is exactly why we should improve the F-22 until we can replace it. I hear F-22 software will be transferred to the F-35 TO IMPROVE IT, so I wouldn’t claim the F-35 is a more advanced air craft. In fact look at the picture above. Seems like today’s fighter with their tail fins cut off.

    Maybe Gates is just hearing the feedback on Pak-Fa and the reasoning behind reduced sales for F-35s.

  • STemplar

    Probably an acknowledgment that theater the F-22/F-35 were going to operate in, and the level of assistance from our ‘allies’ is something we can’t really depend on. Something that works like a fighter, but with a fighter bomber combat radius, 1500 to 2000 nmi should do nicely. Particularly carrier versions.

  • I say 6th Gen for AF & Navy & add kinetic weapons, Laser pod, EW arrays, improved sensors & Long range Auto Pilot for long missions or make into UAV drones.
    & carry Minigun

  • arias

    I see the f-22 boy lovers are all here. Do this with the 22 do that with the 22. Here is a suggestion, shut the **** up about the f-22. In my mind it is a POS until it proves itself in combat, Send a unit to afghanistan.

    • William C.

      What is wrong with you? We could send some F-22s to Afghanistan and they would be dropping JDAMs in no time. But why would we when we have enough bomb trucks there already? Using F-22s would simply be putting flight hours on aircraft we don’t have enough of.

    • elgatoso

      Why you need a F-22 in Astan???.The Taliban have advanced fighters???

  • Justin H

    Supercruise of mach 2-2.5 would be nice.

  • den

    On the threshold of 6-10 M supercruise only lasers will help

  • Dfens

    You wanna know why everything the DoD does is just one screw up after another? I think this article pretty well sums it up. Kelly Johnson was replaced by a dorked up “design by committee” approach to aircraft design so the blood sucker defense contractors can maximize profits and the military bureaucrats can stay safe in their air conditioned Taj Mahal procurement command centers. Only 15% of our military fights (less than that in the Air Force) so to hell with them.

  • Tmash

    All this money the DoD gives the Chair Force to build wonder planes that never get to use thier high tech capibilies. They could use that money to give us grunts what we need, like lightwieght plates and improved weapons and ammo.( What id give for a .45 or.40 cal siderarm) If the air force wants to build a planes that help in the GWOT. How bout they build a high tech P-47 to provide heavy C.A.S. I mean we’re fighting mujahideen not the galactic empire.

    • twotango

      Why would we start developing planes for wars we are ending? Grunts aren’t going to be fighting the next war, if you couldn’t tell by the hacking and slashing of the Army and Marines. Our leaders do not want to get into another ground war, and for good reason. We are much better at fighting conventional wars, then long drawn out ones. Infantry battalions will only be used for limited operations in the next war (such as securing and holding air fields and air defense sites). The Air Force and Navy will do most of the conventional fighting.

      Sorry to break it to you, but the grunts are going from worthless to pointless.

  • Roland

    I’m ok with Boeng’s proposal. Say make 2000 of them to add to our existing defenses..

    • Maxtrue

      Now that’s smart Roland….it really adds to the conversation.

  • Han Solo

    The Airforce has F99-eyes on what will be a (pull the F-4’s out of the desert) budget in about 10 years when the country is nearly bankrupt.

  • This article ignores the bigger question; what is the capability or technology that will make this Sixth Gen, and not 5.5?

    There’s a couple candidates:
    – As previously mentioned, pulse-detonation engines.
    – Directed Energy Weapons as the new “coin of the realm” weapon, or as a major supplement to missiles.
    – Automation.
    – Ultra-high altitude.

    What do you all think?

    • STemplar

      -Optionally manned.

      -Directed energy weapons (laser, microwave, etc)

      -Extreme combat radius

      • Sven Ortmann

        Many hard kill close-in defence missiles?

        Close-in defence with directional HE EMP warheads against radar-guided missiles?

    • elgatoso

      I like a nuclear propulsion like Tory-III or a quantum Nucleonic reactor.Yes ,I know ,is not politically correct

    • godzillajet

      The f-xx will have Directed energy weapons but the f-22 too when it gets the electronic attack upgrade to replace the EF-111 if you dont agree with me visit :
      And those pulse-detonation engines wont help you without titanium shape they just will give the aircraft extreme supercruise speed and who says that the f-xx wont have those extras?
      It wont have thrust vectoring because it dont needs to dogfight and that it fly mach 3 for long times is not realistic without a titanium shape, the advantages of the f-xx will be:
      – energy weapons
      – advanced stealth
      – supercruise of mach 2.2 or higher
      – a new super radar like the APG-77

  • Brian

    Next gen fighter is going to be a stealthily drone. It takes 20 years to field a new fighter by then, it would be remarkable if any pilot would even dream of actually getting inside one of these high performance and intelligent beasts 2 decades from now. Who would try and fight in an aircraft that needs to turn 30gs and has reflexes that a human could never posses? Sure occasionally one might need some remote guidance but to think that a future fighter can afford to be constrained by the needs of a human is a bit of a stretch.

  • EU__

    what kind of speeds are we discussing with PDEs?

  • EU__

    aurora-like, 6mach?
    or was that scramjet?

    • Aurora was scramjet.

      • elgatoso

        Aurora was Bill Sweetman BS to sell Aviation Week

  • chaos0xomega

    I think this highlights the heart of the problems associated with American defense acquisitions. We are attempting to design something that we need 20 years down the line… today. That’s how we ended up with the F-22 and F-35. Amazingly effective aircraft that have no purpose or application in the reality of today’s engagement. Perfect for fighting the Soviets, not so much Joe Towelhead… and I don’t understand WHY this is the case. Go back to the 40’s/50’s and there was a lead time of only a couple years. And now it takes us 20 years…why? Staying ahead of the tech curve (so to speak) is one thing, but this is bankrupting us and preventing us from getting what we actually need NOW.

    • STemplar

      I think the problem was sticking with the F-22/F-35 programs which were designed for the Cold War theater of operations in the form of Europe and NATO bases. Now in defense of that it’s worth bearing in mind we know now the Cold War was essentially over in the early 90s, but that was when it was ending. It isn’t like there was a peace treaty signed, so they proceeded with the programs not quite knowing what the outcome would be. So they actually were designed for the needs of the day, but it was what tomorrow held we weren’t sure of then at the time.

      Fast forward to the present. We are in a position where we can think in terms of 20 years out and plan without that cloud hanging over us. In theory an aircraft could be designed with the concerns and constraints we think we will be faced with then, instead of what we are dealing with now. I don’ think the F-22 and F-35 are without purpose or use, they just have limitations we’d rather they didn’t.

      The development lead time is really quite obvious, the aircraft are overwhelmingly more complex. The aircraft of the 40’s are essentially high performance crop dusters with machine guns, and the 50’s added jet engines. Microsoft spends years developing OS’s and these aircraft have that level of software development, in something that flies. It is very complex. Now that’s not to say development cycles can’t be shortened, they certainly can, but we aren’t talking 2 years though.

      I would agree there needs to be a continued focus on rapid fielding of equipment needed now. I think the Reaper program and the new COIN planes being considered address some of the current operational needs quite well.

      • chaos0xomega

        Okay, admittedly reducing it to a two year development cycle is a bit much, but surely something in the 5-10 year range would be possible. I feel as though the level of complexity present in modern machinery isn’t the primary issue, so much as the fact that the Air Force (indeed the US military in general) wants “tomorrow’s technology, today.” In my (humble) opinion, ‘tomorrows technology’ should be limited to top secret black project type stuff that won’t be revealed to the public until its obsolete, whereas the bulk of our military forces should consist of modern technologies that are easily accessible and readily available at a good price.

        I mean, Strike Eagle’s (for example) had a flyaway cost of about 30 mil a piece in 1998, thats about 45 mil in 2009 dollars (according to the calculator I found online). They are still perfectly good aircraft, that are relevant to today’s conflicts, and will probably still be suitable for use 20 years down the line. Granted, it won’t be cutting edge, but if you build a new lot of them, tack 10-20 mil onto the cost (if that much) for better avionics, and various other updates, you will have a plane that will be more than good enough to get the job done, and more importantly, you will be able to afford a lot of them. Then you can relegate things like the F-22/F-35 to what I like to call ‘nutcracker’ duty. We won’t need a lot of them, only enough to blow the hole open on enemy air defense systems.

        • STemplar

          There was some fiddling during development as well though. Plus the F35 suffers from the same issue as the LCS to a certain extent, a good idea (commonality of parts) that is a pain to make work (F35B weight issues etc). I would agree though that the dev cycle can be truncated if they stop with req changes mid dev.

          In regards to the F-15 though, that is old systems in the cost analysis. Put new avionics into the mix and you end up with F15SE, which is around 100 million. The advanced block F-16I in the Indian Air Force competition was something like 70 million. No good current numbers on the F35 but the A model is coming in with a similar unit price.

          All of which while interesting of course, still begs the question as to exactly where we are going to need thousands of tactical planes anyway. We are going to keep 3 or 4 hundred Strike Eagles l think, a similar number of A10s, 2400ish F35s at the moment, and the 180 odd F22s.

          The only reason l would support a new plane would be to get a better combat radius so as to be useful in the Pacific theater.

          • chaos0xomega

            Well, in my case, I would like to see a large quantity of aircraft around so that A) I have a better chance of getting to fly around w/ my hair on fire, B) In the event that we ever suffer another Pearl Harbor style attack, we still have something left to fight back with, C) So that we have enough aircraft that we can fight on w/ minimal impact to overall efficiency/combat effectiveness in the event that we suffer heavy losses in a ‘fair’ fight, and D) This quote:

            “In the year 2054, the entire defence budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”

            is sounding less and less far-fetched…

          • praetorian

            334+ F-15E’s where produced for the airforce, after attrition lets say 325 will be around til 2025 or later. 177 F-15C’s ” golden eagles ” and 187 F-22’s.
            Should be a far amount of Updated F-16’s as well

  • Justin H

    F-35 was designed after the Cold War in the 90’s.

    • STemplar

      It was born of a program in the late 80s.

      • Justin H

        The program was from the 80’s but it was designed in the 90’s after the Cold war.

        • STemplar

          The idea for it and what it was going to be doing was born of the operational parameters of the Cold War. The aircraft was designed to be operated in the European theater in the framework of a conflict in Europe.

  • Cola

    They should buy the Typhoon as it is far stealthier than the F-35 or F-22.

    • STemplar

      No it isn’t.

    • Taxandrian


      I, being an ethnocentric European, don’ t believe the Typhoon is stealthy at all. It’s a good plane but that’ s all.

      This proposed FB-41 (or whatsitsname) will be too expensive to buy. Simple as that. Same problem persists, wishful thinking. The US is ” the greatest country in the world” (sic) so it needs the greatest weapons. Tell that to Porsche, Henschel, Krupp and Messerschmidt. They tried but lost out to swarms of less sophisticated (actually crappy) weapons.

      Quality has an advantage but so does quantity. Having fifty superduper jets to fight off two thousand Su-35s (Chinese version?) is NOT going to work. Even if you wish it to.

      Maybe better to re-open the F-15 lines (or rather F-14, I hate F-15s looks.) and cram all the ‘ 22 electronics in there. Fuck stealth.

      (Fuck stealth means: it’ s good to have a small detachment of highly trained, well supplied elite pilots fly advanced stealth jets for special ops. It’s NOT good to treat your entire military as if it were Delta Force.)

      • praetorian

        I hear you Taxandrian, I just think your wrong on some of your points. The SU-35’s are just starting to roll off ths assembly lines in Russia. With only 45 on order, hardly a threat. The Chinese where having problems replicating the engines for thier Shenyang J-11 and tried to order new engines from Russia. I have not heard, but i think the Russians are not going to sell them the engines and will not sell them the SU-35. I might be wrong ? On the other hand the F-15 lines are still open, and most of the F-14’s where destroyed, in large part because Iran was somehow still getting parts for thier F-14’s.

      • chaos0xomega

        True that. Besides that, it’s looking that Russia/China are developing better and better radar, its only a matter of time before the F-22/35 (and B-2) is rendered unstealthy.

    • Justin H

      You’re joking right?

  • Cola

    LOL, LOL, LOL, you people don’t know what you are talking about i’m afraid. Typhoon is far stealthier than any US fighter be it F-35 or F-22, its all in the shape.

    • Justin H

      Its considered by every expert on Earth to be a 4.5 gen fighter, NOT a 5th gen. It doesnt even have internal weapons bay.

      • Sven Ortmann

        It’s not stealthy, but surely few true experts fall for this silly “generation” marketing hype.

    • chaos0xomega

      Troll be gone.

    • elgatoso

      You never though to quit smoking pot???

    • Show me the data.

  • Pierre

    None because with a PDE you can’t loiter on CAP for example at efficient speed with a PDE.. Jet enigne propulsion is the only way to go, at least for the next 50 years anyway.

    • Justin H

      loitering is for UAVs and UCAVs.

  • Cola

    Oh the lasers would never be ready in time either, I an remember the talk of lasers as weapons on aircraft going back 50 years or so now and yet we still have AAM and cannon.

  • Bill

    I take it that lasers qualify as “non-kinetic weapons”?

    • Mastro

      Its a rather weasely way of saying “lasers” – that’s the Pentagon for you.

  • john

    I think what the USAF and DOD is trying to do two things, 1) Develop a replacement for the F-15E and 2) learn from learn from their mistake in developing the F-22/F-35 combination.

    I think the USAF is realising their mistake in developing two fighters instead of one, if you thing about it, F/A18E does the same job which the USAF uses two aircraft for e.g. either the present F-15C/F-16C combination or the proposed F-22/F-35A combination. So developing a replacement for all three versions of the Super Hornet/Growler would make sense for the Navy and which the USAF could also use to replace the remaining F-15C’s and the F-15E’s at the same time.
    The F-35 project has been a complete cock-up and the Americans can’t afford another one like it, so it makes sense for both services to cooperate to develop a common aircraft, especially if you remember the recent USAF report on the proposed development of a new Bomber recommended that it worked in cooperation with sea based Recon, SEAD and Air Dominance aircraft as well as land based ones.

    • chaos0xomega

      The F-18 is a very different animal from the 15/16. Yes, it can fulfill the functions of either aircraft, but it is nowhere near as capable as either one. In fact, if you look at the costs of aircraft over the years, whenever roles were condensed into newer airframes, the cost of that airframe increased disproportionately. If anything, this “jack of all trades, master of none” concept that we seem to pursuing is making us spend MORE money on something that is not quite as capable.

  • danf

    As a nation we can either afford the entitlement state or national defense, not both. It’s clear europe has made the choice and have given up on national defense. I suspect America will go the same direction. So the facts are, this aircraft will never fly. Most likely the F35 will never fly in meaningful numbers. The sub-text is that no one in the west cares about arcane ideas like the nation any longer

    • William C.

      Well don’t give yourselves up to that sort of thinking. Fight it!

      • Vitor

        By “fight” you mean “print money” ?

    • Mastro

      Frankly- we should probably cut back- Mexico and Canada can be kept at bay for now.

      So China gets stronger? Let them have Taiwan- they will just continue to make stuff for Walmart- the only people who want a war are the Pentagon and some Chinese generals- they will get one if we let them.

  • arias

    One thing the feds need to do is perform a major house cleaning, get rid of all the trash and start fresh on some things. I also think they should make it to where the people get to vote on every law that congress tries to pass because we all know everybody in congress wants to add what they want on every bill.

  • olav

    It’s pretty exciting that someone is pushing the technology envelope by requiring technologies and techniques that border on sci-fi. The out-of-the-box thinking is amazing.

    The people who design these aircraft must be geniuses.

  • Musson

    The skin will be covered with mirrored glass to survive laser attacks.

    Then, if it’s shot down, the enemy will have 7 years of bad luck.

  • Davis

    The thing better cook me dinner too.

  • Stimpy

    where is the gun?

    • Michael

      That will probably be left out based on the same logic that the gun was left off of the F-4.

  • Chops

    If they do to their new plane what they did to the F22-the most advanced fighter in the world- they will build 10@ 10bil. ea. then scrap it.

  • superraptor

    To free up funds for this 6th generation fighter project, the F-35 program should be severely curtailed with discontinuation of the F-35B altogether. Continue production of an upgraded
    F-22 (at 20 planes/yr) which probably could be transitioned to 6th generation status within the next 15 years. Meet 2nd tier threats with upgraded F-15s, F-16s, F-18s and UCAVs.
    400 billion dollars for the F-35 program? Who is kidding who?

    • Justin H

      I would cut 25%-50% of the planned F-35s. No disrespect to the Marine Corp, but do they REALLY need fixed-wing attack aircraft?

      • STemplar

        I would cut the USAF buy in half, no need for a 1 to 1 replacement of F16s with F35s. I frankly would dump the C model and keep the B. I think the B gives us far more operational flexibility and the C does very little the Super Hornets don’t already do. The X45/47 looks very promising and it will have far greater range than the C model and with the same stealth payload.

        • chaos0xomega

          Well, heres the problem, we need to start retiring F-16s, and we need to replace them with something, as Congress has mandated that the USAF maintain 2500 fighter aircraft for air sovereignty/defense purposes.

          And I don’t know why you would say dump the C. The C model is good to go, as is the A… its the B model thats causing us all the problems. Not only that, but have you compared the B and the C? The B sacrifices a lot of capability in order to take off and land from an amphib, its really not going to be of very much use to general naval aviation.

      • Riceball

        Yes, as they’re a critical part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) concept. The Corps has its own fixed winged assets to provide organic air support and STOVL aircraft allow us to operate planes off of assault carriers that are part of a MEF, MEB. or MEU. Granted I’m not sure that we need something like the F-35 as a replacement for our Harriers but we do need something that we can take along on a float and work off of expeditionary airfields until either a full carrier or the Air Force can come along to provide even more close air support if needed.

        • chaos0xomega

          Well, its looking like the Marine Corps is going to be undergoing a significant overhaul in the near future anyway, I’m guessing the MAGTF concept (at least as we know it right now) will probably fall by the wayside and be replaced with something new.

    • john

      The F-35C is the most vunerable to cancellation as the US Navy has the F/A18 Super Hornet which is still in production and will be in service until at least 2040, with Boeing already developing it’s replacement and with the X-47 and possibly the GA Sea Avenger UCAVs challenging it’s role as a stealth attack fighter. Only the British and the Canadians have said they would buy that variant, but the Canadian Opposition Parties have said they would review that decision. Both the USAF and the USMC are desparate to put their respective variants into service as soon as possible, so I can see the Charlie being cancelled within a year.

  • BMilller

    The Vectoring engine improves steering and control as long as she is burning; I bet the concept is sluggish when the lights out. The G capability far exceeds human survivability. the suit they use for short term high G functions isn’t enough for this plane; the X35 does things programming is the only thing saving our eager adrenaline junky fighters pilots. This the near last of what will round out the aerial arsenal, The revamping of the F22 to beable to talk to the F35 and the rest of the shield so there is 360* degreee 3-D view of the theatre. Giving the Pentagon a complete view of what is taking place on the battle arena. a shereical view.


  • Justin H

    Here is an idea, give the 6th gen fighter 2 smaller size PDEs, and 1 smaller size jet engine. Like out of the F/A-18, and stick the jet engine between the 2 PDEs. That way you can loiter at subsonic speeds using the jet engine. Then when you wanted to go supersonic you just turn it off and switch on the 2 PDEs.

    • elgatoso

      You are talking about Pulsed Detonation Engines??? They are not operational yet.

      • Justin H

        Not yet, but a 6th gen fighter prototype wont fly for another 10-15 years.

  • ohwilleke

    The U.S. military has the largest fleet of military aircraft in the world. If any airforce can ever afford to have specialized military aircraft, it is us.

    Why not instead issue a pre-solicitation notice calling for proposals for combatant aircraft, manned or unmanned, ready to enter service by 2020 for the U.S. military for no more than $50 million, no more than $100 million, and no more than $150 million per plane, in 2011 dollars, firm price, no limit on number of proposals per company permitted?

    We could then see what the industry comes up with, instead of setting requirement before the people making the request even really know what is in the realm of the possible.

    My intuition is that the military would be better served by several kinds of specialized combatant aircraft in the under $50 million per plane category, with current technology but not newly invented technology, in a short time frame, than by a $300 million a piece Swiss Army Knife fighter.

    • chaos0xomega

      Exactly right. As I pointed out earlier, the cost per aircraft has risen disproportionately relative to inflation as we have crammed more and more capability into a single airframe. Granted, that might not be the actual cause, I haven’t done such an in depth study, but its certainly the trend.

    • STemplar

      Because that cost isn’t going to exist for any aircraft. There are pretty much no systems available for much less than $100 million at the moment. The unit costs on the A model, or an advanced block F16 come in at just under that number. The Typhoons and Rafales are coming in at around or just over $100 million and the proposed F15SE is in that range as well.

      By the time 2020 roles around the $100 million dollar plane is about $135 million, the $50 is about 67 million and the 150 is over 200 and that assumes about 3% inflation. No one in private industry is going to invest money in 2011 that in 2020 you’re going to pay them less money for. That makes no business sense at all.

      I’m ok with costs going up as long as a couple things are met. First and foremost the system simply works, not a real big request l don’t think. Secondly that we have done our homework and really looked at what we will need the system for, to include where it will be operating. So it’s specs are suitable to the likely missions.

      The problem with so many of the systems we are currently wrestling with is that they were either conceived during the Cold War, and simply not suited to the theater they will be used in, or they just plain don’t work. Feel free to hack away at your favorite programs.

      The F35 is without a doubt having numerous problems. Although I don’t know if it was this site or another but l found the recent tracking of the Space X launch in Florida by an airborne F35 over 800 miles away to be very interesting.

  • Justin H

    Or if PDEs arent read by then, they can use this DARPA program. I know they are already working on a Mach3 turbine for the Navy’s RATTLRS missile. But Vulcan would be capable of Mach4.

    Program Manager: Dr. Arthur Mabbett

    The goal of the Vulcan demonstration program is to design, build, and ground test a Constant Volume Combustion (CVC) technology system that demonstrates a 20% fuel burn reduction for a ship based power generation turbine. CVC has been under development for more than a decade. Considerable progress has been made and the technology is believed mature enough to enable a dramatic new system capability. CVC, when combined with turbine engines, offers the ability to design a new class of hybrid turbine power generation engines and Mach 4+ air breathing engines. The Vulcan system will consist of a full scale CVC, a compressor, and a turbine. CVC architectures could include Pulsed Detonation Engines (PDEs), Continuous Detonation Engines (CDEs) or other unsteady CVC architectures. The CVC demonstrated in the Vulcan program would have direct application to aviation turbine engines, ship propulsion turbine engines, high mach air breathing engines, and commercial power turbine engines.

  • Mike G.

    Meanwhile, BUFF, (as in B-52) keeps on flying. We gotta put that plane up there with the DC-3 / C-130 / etc. Multi-purpose aircraft generally excell in no area, Do we really need an F-35? Unless it is a drone?

  • 123123

    ahh. I love the future!

  • godzillajet

    This fighter wont be very agile, look at the engines how can this have thrust vectoring?
    And that this thing will fly mach 3 is questionally it will be much smaller,so a lower range and payload than the f-22 and with a titanium shape it will be like the f-22 to heavy to reach mach 3 for long times, its stealth looks like the one of the b-2 which ist the stealthiest aircraft. It might be more realistic that it supercruises at speeds of mach 2.2 or higher. Its strongest weapon might be an airborne laser but it is much cheaper to upgrade f-22 and f-35 with a laser instead of wasting money for a next gen. Fighter that might not be 6th gen. But the problem ist that the navy needs something to replace the super hornets the JSF will replace the c-hornet and the f-22n was terminated and it migh be possible that the same happens with the f/a-xx I dont want to say with that ,that the f/a-xx will be bad, no it will be good, very good on great distance but that was it

  • adam

    i hope that it also traspires into a eurofighter replacement aswell

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