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The Sixth Generation Fighter

Written by on Friday, August 23rd, 2013

It’s time! What? We haven’t even fielded the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a fifth generation fighter and we’re already talking about a sixth generation fighter? How can this be? Well, it really comes down to the life expectancy of the fourth generation fighters that drives the timeline for the sixth generation fighters and as schedules begin to be written for the demise of the fourth generation fighters, it’s time to start designing the sixth generation fighter.

With fourth generation fighters manning the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, we must look at when they start to reach the end of their service life. Fourth generation fighters include an aircraft with high agility, sensor fusion, reduced signatures, some stealth and active electronically scanned arrays, which the FA-18E/F Super Hornet is considered. The FA-18E/F Super Hornet has a service life of 9,000 hours and the current expected timeline for the aircraft life is in the late 2020s and early 2030s. It seems odd that an aircraft that is literally today still entering into the fleet is already being planned for retirement but with long lead development, it’s the nature of the business.

As with any fighter program, the better the plan, the better the aircraft and the sixth generation fighter is no exception. The U.S. Navy has asked valium cheap online industry for a Request for Information (RFI) to explore possibilities for its future FA-XX to replace the FA-18E/F Super Hornet and as expected, the big three aircraft manufacturers (Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman) have responded with designs and concepts that might shape the sixth generation fighter.

Some concepts include an aircraft that can morph its shape depending upon the mission, whether high supersonic speed is required or high endurance is required, the shape would fit the mission. Other concepts have included both manned and unmanned options with hypersonic speeds in excess of five times the speed of sound. Still others gravitate to an increased reliance upon futuristic avionics which can embed active electronically scanned arrays into the wing and body of the airframe to essentially make the entire aircraft a sensor that can perform passive or active tasks.

Regardless of the eventual design and shape of the sixth generation fighter, it’s obvious that the U.S. Navy needs to hurry the development along because in less than twenty years the Super Hornet will be hitting its life expectancy but more importantly, if the development of a sixth generation fighter follows the path of the JSF and its schedule, some would argue that we’re already behind timeline.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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