Mark Collins- What USAF Sixth-Generation Fighter?

Further to this story,

Northrop Grumman studies F-X [USAF], F/A-XX [USN] technologies

Artist’s conception of sea-based version of Northrop Grumman’s NGAD aircraft. Source: Northrop Grumman…

the US Air Force looks like it’s having a major re-think of the nature of future aerial warfare (RCAF?):

USAF backs off sixth-gen ‘fighter’ in quest for air supremacy

The US Air Force will begin an extensive campaign of prototyping and experimentation relating to new air superiority technologies, including new aircraft types, after completing a wide-ranging examination of future air battle concepts and weaponry.

According to service officials, there’s no “silver bullet” or “exquisite” next-generation fighter jet that will single-handedly evade and counter the types of surface-to-air, air-to-air, anti-satellite, electronic attack and cyber threats that are springing up around the world, particularly if going up against a nuclear-armed state like Russia or China.

Instead, the air force will proceed with many parallel technology development efforts, like new propulsion systems, airframes, directed energy weapons and hypersonic missiles, to develop a “family of systems” – including longer-range, higher-payload platforms to launch volleys of weapons at targets from “standoff” distances and others that will swoop in for direct attacks.

Lt Gen James “Mike” Holmes, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, says his team is moving away from terms like “fighter” and “next-generation” and will instead look at completely different ways of doing air warfare in the future.

His personal ambition would be to have an “operationally representative configuration” of this future air superiority network in place by 2025. The service has even delayed by one year its F-X or Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) analysis of alternatives to avoid ending up with requirements for another generation of fighter.

“F-X would have been most likely like a sixth-generation fighter and would have had a 20 or 30-year development programme,” Holmes said at an Air Force Association forum in Washington DC on 7 April. “What we want to try to do is solve the problem faster than that by looking out across the range of options and building what we’re capable of building instead of waiting for the next generation.”

…the air force has concluded that only a highly networked collection of weapon systems will be capable of tackling future threats, not just one or two new platforms with long development cycles. By contrast, it has taken more than 16 years for the service to produce its first war-ready combat squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35As, and the F-22 also took longer than planned…


USN Admiral on the Wings of Fighter Things to Come, Including…

6th Generation USAF, USN Fighters: Don’t Try Joint Like F-35

The US Should Never Develop Another Joint Fighter

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


3 thoughts on “Mark Collins- What USAF Sixth-Generation Fighter?”

  1. Meanwhile what the USN’s EA-18Gs are doing today (might help keep Super Hornet line open):

    ‘Growlers’ Success Prompts Rethinking Of Operations
    Growlers are the ‘big dogs’ in electronic attack pack

    The Navy needs additional EA-18Gs, affirms the Hudson Institute, noting in a recent report that the force requires 11 EA-18Gs for each of the Navy’s 10 carrier and five expeditionary squadrons, a total of 165.

    “The Navy’s current program of record calls for a total of 135 EA-18Gs,” or nine per squadron, the institute reports. “The Navy would need to procure an additional 30 EA-18Gs.” The Navy will have to rely more on EA-18G Growlers for future jamming missions, institute analysts say.

    “Equipped with the Next Generation Jammer [under development by Raytheon], the EA-18G will be capable of providing coherent jamming at increased power, interrupting enemy effects chains,” the institute says. “This capability assists the penetration of not only F/A-18E/F aircraft or other joint force aircraft, but also F-35Cs. The proliferation of [enemy] L-band radars and other lower-frequency fire-control radars would counter the X-band optimization of the F-35C. The ability of the EA-18G to jam these other radars allows carrier strike and air warfare packages the ability to counter enemy sensors and provide jamming coverage for weapons, significantly increasing weapon probability of arrival.”..’

    Mark Collins

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