Fifth generation fighters are the most technologically advanced jets ever built. They were designed to operate with the help of digital programs and fly-by-wire to counter the threats they counter on the battlefield. Sophisticated avionics, stealth technology and super maneuvrability advantages over older jets gives them domination in the sky. Some of the advanced fifth generation aircrafts are Lockheed F-22 Raptor , F-35 Lighting II, Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chinese Chengdu J-20. Other ongoing projects are Japanese Mitsubishi ATD-X, the South Korean KF-X and the Indian-Russian FGFA Fifth generation fighter projects.
Now,the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Russia and China are all in early planning stages for a so-called “sixth generation” of fighter jets. The jets won’t fly until the 2030s, but governments around the world are already exploring, a conceptualized class of fighter aircraft design more advanced than the fifth-generation jet fighters which are currently in service. Some of the proposed are Russia’s Mikoyan MiG-41, Taiwan’s Advanced Defense Fighter, United Kingdom/ Italy/ Sweden’s Tempest, United States Air Force’s F-X / Penetrating Counter Air, United States Navy’s F/A-XX, China’s J-XX program, Japan’s I3 fighter, and France/ Germany/ Spain – Dassault\Airbus FCAS.
The need for next-generation aircraft has arisen because of many factors: advanced anti-air defense systems (missiles, decoys, etc.) like S-400 being fielded, advancement in counter stealth technologies, directed energy weapons, and hypersonic technologies. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies, and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
Over the next five years, the US Air Force proposes to invest $9.8 billion on the new air dominance family of systems. U.S. Air Force is seeking an extra $147 million to fund early development of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) or Penetrating Counter Air Fighter (PCA). In its “Air Superiority 2030” study released in 2016, the Air Force described a long-range, stealthy sensor-shooter called “Penetrating Counter Air,” which would act as NGAD’s central node networked with sensors, drones, and other platforms. The Air Force would use prototyping to speed along with key technologies in the hope of maturing them early enough for inclusion in advanced aircraft fielded in the early 2030s.
The result would be a networked family of fighters — some more interrelated than others — developed to meet specific requirements and including best-in-breed technologies aboard a single airframe. One jet might be optimized around a revolutionary capability, like an airborne laser. Another fighter might prioritize state-of-the-art sensors and include artificial intelligence. One might be an unmanned weapons truck. During his talk at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in Sep 2020, US Air Force (USAF) acquisition chief Dr Will Roper said the service had already built, flown and broken records with a prototype of its next fighter jet.
Mikhail Pogosyan, the General Director of Russia’s aircraft-building giant Sukhoi, stated that the sixth generation of Russian combat aviation would be divided into eight different aircraft and concepts. The eight different aircraft and concepts had plasma stealth capabilities, anti-stealth capabilities, directed energy weapons, cyber attack capabilities, integrated self-protection, electronic attack, and sophisticated integrated air defense systems.
Russian Sixth Generation jet fighter was expected to enter service in the Russian Air Force in 2030-2050 timeframe. Russia has been testing various hardware elements designed for a future 6th generation fighter jet on a 5th generation prototype currently undergoing flight trials, TASS news agency reveals.
On the other hand, China’s sixth-generation fighter will come into being by 2035 or earlier, said Wang Haifeng, a chief architect at Chengdu Aircraft Research and Design Institute that designed the J-20 fighters, in a Global Times (GT) report. Although there aren’t a lot of details available about the capabilities and features of the fighter but Wang stated that it could have the application of artificial intelligence, extreme stealth, and omnidirectional detection. He added that the fighter may have laser weapons, self-adapting engines, and hypersonic weapons.
Japan has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the lead contractor to develop its next stealth fighter, which is due to launch in the 2030s, per the Associated Press. Currently, known as the F-X, the upcoming stealth fighter is part of Japan’s plan to have a stronger and larger military to be prepared for any potential threats from neighboring China and North Korea.
Several European countries are also developing cutting-edge fighters. At the recent Paris Air Show, a model of a German-Spanish-French stealth jet was unveiled as part of the Future Combat Air System or FCAS. Earlier, the United Kingdom unveiled a model of the “Tempest” platform at the famous Farnborough Air Show. Tempest is the proposed sixth-generation fighter aircraft concept under development for the UK Royal Air Force by the Team Tempest consortium consisting of BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce, MBDA UK and the Ministry of Defence. It was launched with great spectacle as part of the UK’s Combat Air Strategy in 2018 and is due to enter service in the mid-2030s, using swarming technology to control drones while in flight. Analysis by PwC, commissioned by BAE Systems on behalf of Team Tempest, found that the project to develop a future fighter will contribute at least £25bn to the UK’s economy and support an average of 20,000 jobs a year between 2026 and 2050.
However, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies fellow Justin Bronk cautions that Tempest might not be the all-round solution armed forces are seeking. “There are notable drawbacks to proceeding with an optionally piloted solution for future combat aircraft, as they promise to retain the downsides of both crewed and uncrewed systems without the main benefits of either approach,” he says. “An optionally piloted fighter aircraft would have to have extremely complex software capable of high levels of lethal autonomy in flight, whilst also still paying the weight, space and signature design penalties of a cockpit and life support systems.”
Some countries are even skipping the 5th generation jet completely. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — have concluded that doing so is so time-consuming and expensive that it makes more sense to focus on tomorrow’s jet fighter technology than try to catch up with today’s. France has abandoned any attempt to develop an indigenous fifth-generation fighter and has moved resources directly to the development of a sixth-generation fighter aircraft. Canada is working toward developing a 6th generation “Arrow II”, or “Super Arrow”.
Japan and Great Britain have signed an agreement to explore the idea of jointly developing a new fighter for fielding in the 2030s. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the two countries will “exchange information on their ambitions” and “advise each other of their capabilities.” Finally, Germany is also looking to develop a sixth-generation fighter, also named Future Combat Air System (FCAS). UK is reported to have invited India to co-develop sixth-generation fighter aircraft Tempest
6th Generation Fighter Requirements
“It must be able to operate in the anti-access/area-denial environment that will exist in the 2030–50 timeframe,” says USAF. “The future system will have to counter adversaries equipped with the next-generation advanced electronic attack, sophisticated integrated air defense systems, passive detection, integrated self-protection, directed energy weapons, and cyber-attack capabilities,” according to USAF. The next criterion could be the disproportionately higher speed of the fighter compared to previous generations of machines.
A2/AD environment can be countered by technologies that Increase Standoff & Accuracy that provide Higher Platform & Weapon Survivability as well as the ability to eliminate air defense from a safe distance. Alternative PNT for Contested EM Environments, Greater Lethality in Smaller Form Factor, Adaptable Effects / Mission Flexibility, Assured Weapons C2, Ad Hoc networking, Affordable in Quantity, Expedite Future Technology Insertion and Reduce Logistic Support according to AFRL.
“The emerging operational environment demands long-range, survivable, penetrating, persistent systems with deep magazines to prevail against a numerically superior adversary.” Tom Vice, president of Northrop’s aerospace sector, laid out his vision for a long-range, potentially unmanned fighter, featuring laser weapons and advanced “cyber resiliency” to counter threats in the increasingly connected world of 2030.
Lockheed Martin has called for greater speed, range, stealth, and self-healing structures. Northrop Grumman is looking at a supersonic tailless jet, something never created before due to complexity. Britain’s BAE Systems has proposed a modular design, which would allow a UFO-like rhombus-shaped jet to separate into different functions while in mid-flight.
Boeing plans to have supercruise and fly faster and further than the F-35 Lightning II. Boeing is out with new concept art for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation fighter jet, a sleek, tail-less design featuring conformal engine inlets and what looks like a manned cockpit. “It looks more like a fighter-bomber than a pure fighter, The tail-less airframe, thin swept wings and conformal shaping suggest a stealthy, penetrating aircraft that may be able to fly supersonic. The silhouette of a pilot inside the cockpit indicates Boeing is banking on the Air Force sticking with at least an optionally manned platform for the future capability,” according to Aviation Week.
“We are moving into a future where aircraft need to be looked at as not just elements of their own, but as a system of information nodes – sensor – shooter – effectors. It is about creating an entire system of systems that is self-forming and self-healing with a greater degree of awareness than an adversary can achieve, and a much greater degree of survivability,” Ret. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, former planner of the US air attacks in Operation Desert Storm said.
US’s Next-Generation Air Dominance
Currently, the United States has two projects: the Air Force’s ‘Penetrating Counter-Air’—a long long-range stealth fighter to escort stealth bombers—and the Navy’s FA-XX. So far, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and Northrop-Grumman have unveiled sixth-generation concepts. The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid-2030s. The two services were working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. The U.S. Navy is laying the groundwork to field a new fighter jet sometime in the next decade.
The Navy wants a crewed fighter, as opposed to an uncrewed aerial vehicle. It also wants up to 50 percent greater range. A longer-range will enable the NGAD to fight farther from the aircraft carrier, helping keep the big ship out of range of enemy weapons such as Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles. The Navy needs an entirely new fighter, a so-called “clean sheet” design that isn’t a derivative of an existing aircraft. This would allow the Navy to build exactly the plane it wants.
While third- and fourth-generation fighters could easily extend their range and weapons load by hanging fuel tanks and munitions off the fuselage and wings, fifth- and sixth-generation fighters must carry both internally to preserve the airplane’s stealthy shaping. A newer fighter may have a shorter range and carry fewer weapons, but it’s a calculated tradeoff to ensure airplane and pilot will survive to fly more combat sorties. A new adaptive cycle engine, currently under development, adds a third stream to the existing afterburning turbofan engine design, allowing a pilot to optimize the engine for high performance or long range. General Electric, which is developing an adaptive cycle engine for the F-35, believes the new engine will increase the jet’s range by 35 percent.
What might an all-new NGAD look like? The aircraft could be a two engine, multi-role fighter, capable of tackling air-to-air and air-to-ground roles in the same mission. It would be stealthy, incorporating the latest radar-signature-reducing technology. It would almost certainly be a large plane, both to accommodate larger fuel tanks and a larger internal weapons bay.
During his talk at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference, US Air Force (USAF) acquisition chief Dr Will Roper said the service had already built, flown and broken records with a prototype of its next fighter jet. Built under the classified Next Generation Air Dominance, the prototype aircraft utilised a bigger emphasis on digital design to design, assembly, test and fly the aircraft in record time. Roper said: “NGAD has come so far, that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world and it’s broken a lot of records in the doing.”
Roper added: “The more amazing commercial technology becomes, the more amazing our military technology is going to have to be to overcome the advantages that are available to all,” “The last area that we have to have strategic agility is in being able to computerise or virtualise everything about our development and production, assembly, even sustainment of systems so that we can finally get past the tyranny of the real world and take learning and feedback into the digital one.”
Three industrial technologies enable a Century Series approach for NGAD and will set requirements for participants, the Air Force’s acquisition executive Roper said. The first is agile software development — a practice where programmers quickly write, test and release code, soliciting feedback along the way from users. The second, open architecture, has long been a buzzword in the defense community, but Roper said industry often uses it to describe a system with plug-and-play hardware. NGAD, ideally, would be fully open, with interchangeable hardware and the ability for a third party to develop software for the system.
The final technology, digital engineering, is the most nascent and possibly the most revolutionary, Roper said. While aerospace engineers have used computers for decades to aid in the creation of aircraft, only recently have defense companies developed 3D-modeling tools that can model an entire life cycle — design, production and sustainment — with a high level of accuracy and fidelity. The process would allow companies to not only map out an aircraft in extreme detail, but also model how a production line would work using different levels of manning or how maintainers would carry out repairs at a depot.
Under next-generation air dominance, we’re investing in a family of systems,” USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com, explaining that “we’re going through the analysis of alternatives now, and that will help define the capabilities of the future.” USAF General Mike Hostage said they are searching for an aircraft with enhanced capabilities in areas such as reach, persistence, survivability, net-centricity, situational awareness, human-system integration, and weapons effects. PCA could fly as early as 2028.
“Air Force’s future dominance will rest not on a single platform, such as a sixth-generation fighter jet, but on an integrated, networked family of systems,” said Brig. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, who led the Air Superiority 2030 enterprise capability collaboration team (ECCT). That combination of penetrating and stand-off capabilities includes a fighter plane, but also a number of, space, cyber and electronic warfare assets. What that means is that the fighter jet of the future might look more like a sensor node than the dogfighters of the past, Grynkewich said.
The U.S. Navy is pursuing Next Generation Air Dominance F/A-XX fighter. It should have the technological capability to be unmanned, maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins. Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions. “Some important areas of consideration include derivative and developmental air vehicle designs, advanced engines, propulsion, weapons, mission systems, electronic warfare and other emerging technologies,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Chatmas told Warrior. Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Saab’s future electronic attack aircraft
Outlining an increasingly complex and challenging anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environment, Jonas Grönberg, the company’s Head of Product Management for Fighter EW, argued that the emergence of new low-band early warning radars means “low observability is no longer a substantial defence for strike aircraft”, advocating instead “high-powered electronic attack to deny shared situational awareness and targeting data, and to negate data networks”.
Saab in 2013 began its in-house study to characterize the future air operating environment so as to inform key requirements and technologies for combat aircraft in the 2035–40 period. One key conclusion to emerge from this work was the requirement for a credible AEA capability, supporting the suppression of enemy air defenses/destruction of enemy air defenses, improving aircraft survivability, and enable penetration of the A2/AD screen. “It turned out that EW came out as a common enabler,” Grönberg told Jane’s in a subsequent interview. “The survivability of any platform will require much enhanced EW capabilities. Even the latest low observable technology will not render an aircraft invisible.”
Central to Saab’s thinking is the development of a self-contained (in cooling and power) electronic attack (EA) pod suitable for two-seat variants of the JAS 39 Gripen or other twin-crew fighter aircraft. EA pod concept studies and design, including the build of engineering mock-ups, have been founded on the reuse of technology building blocks previously developed for the Gripen E’s internal self-protection EW suite. The pod design developed by Saab incorporates VHF and UHF antennas in fin surfaces, with L-band and S-band active electronically scanned array antennas, based on gallium nitride technology, fitted front and rear.
The second element of the triad is a miniature air-launched decoy to perform both distraction and stand-in jamming. Saab has conceptualized a small, long-range, long-endurance decoy vehicle with an EW payload that can locate and identify threats and targets, and distract enemy air defence resources. The decoy will support an attack on a target defended by surface-to- air missile systems by acting as a stand-in jammer.
The third piece of the new concept is the development of a back-seat electronic warfare officer (EWO) station embodying advanced sensor data fusion and decision support techniques. Saab has already prototyped the EWO human machine interface in the simulator, and has shown it to the Swedish Air Force
Russia testing various hardware elements for a future 6th generation fighter jet
The russian sixth generation fighter jets planned to be unveiled by 2025 will consist primarily of swarms of unmanned aircrafts flying at hypersonic speed with developers saying that the jets would be able to transit through space. The unmanned drones will be equipped with electromagnetic pulse weapons which can disable electronics at a 10km range. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is reportedly working on developing a sixth-generation fighter jet to enhance the air defence capabilities of the nation. Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi has presented designs for the sixth-generation fighter, which are planned to be both manned and unmanned.
Vladimir Mikheev, advisor to deputy general director of the Radio-electronic Technologies Concern stated in July 2019 that the 6th-gen aircraft will have space capacities and will be pilotless. At the press conference dedicated to Russia’s future jet, head of Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev said that the plane would have both a manned and an unmanned version. Bondarev said that the shift to unmanned aircraft is in part because the human body “has limits,” presumably for both long flights and extreme maneuvers. Drone equipment, he said, is “much more functional and low-maintenance,” and “can withstand any g-force.” The aircraft must also be able to “fly at hypersonic speed, be multifunctional, super-maneuverable and unnoticeable.” China is planning its sixth-generation fighter jet, J-28 with the capability to conduct accurate conventional hits to counter the nuclear threat from the entire solar system.
As reported by the TV channel “Zvezda”, the top-secret aircraft, about which limited information began to appear in the press under the name of Yu-71, is part of the project 4202, related to the national missile program. The new aircraft is capable of reaching speeds above 11 thousand kilometers per hour, is super-maneuverable and is capable of maneuvering into the near outer space. Russian officials are said to be referring to the jet as ‘Pigeon’ due to its tail design. Officials are planning for the jet to have a twin-tail configuration, which will allow it to use its own shockwaves to increase lift and decrease drag.
Russian designers have already started work on the creation of a sixth-generation fighter jet, according to director-general of the Foundation for Advanced Research Andrei Grigoryev. The aircraft’s body will be made of a highly durable and lightweight composite material. The fighter jet must possess not only supersonic speed but must be able to attain hypersonic – over Mach 6-7 – speeds at certain stages of flight.
Sputnik news reports, “It turned out that Russian scientists have found a way to use the plasma cloud, which gets created during the flight of an aircraft at hypersonic speeds.” Thanks to the plasma “cushion”, the machine can fly into the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 4-5 km/s. Moreover, it moves not by the laws of aerodynamics or ballistic trajectory — but by means of a “broken” path. In addition to this, the plasma cloud can absorb radar radiation. Naturally, during the flight on a “broken” path, a powerful G-load of over 20 g will occur inside the flying machine. Therefore, hypersonic aircraft are likely to be unmanned
“To destroy such a hypersonic aircraft will be problematic even with the help of lasers. After all, for pointing the laser “gun”, one needs to aim at a flying machine, which can change its trajectory by almost 90 degrees, and the laser beam is bound to miss for sure,” according to Sputnik news. Russian sixth-generation fighters will be fitted with a unified electronic warfare system, which will serve as radar, an electronic warfare system, a data transmission system, and as communications equipment. Additionally, it will function as a navigation system and as an IFF transponder.
“Number Six” needs a new and powerful engine able to function not only in the atmosphere, but also in airless space. It cannot be excluded that one of the tasks of the new craft will involve exiting into open space and flying in an orbital trajectory. Also needed are a new antenna system and avionics system capable of functioning effectively and stably in all flight modes and all circumstances and of maintaining constant communication with ground and air command centers and spacecraft, as well as an onboard electronic warfare system designed not only to suppress the communication and control systems of a potential opponent but also to neutralize air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles.
“Standalone solutions that will be applied in the sixth-generation fighter are now being tested on the fifth-generation jet as well as on the ground-based equipment. Separate elements of the flight and navigation system have already been installed on PAK FA”, Mikheyev said.
Russia’s future sixth-generation fighter well as its next generation unmanned aircraft could be equipped with what is described as a “radio-photonic radar.” Photonic radars “will be able to provide radio wave imaging when an image has greater details with the possibility to identify the target type,” the RTI Group told TASS. According to the state-owned TASS news agency, Russia’s RTI Group is expected to complete preliminary research and development—as well as built a mockup—of a X-band radio-photonic radar. That “will determine a principal scheme of building the radio-photonic locator,” the RTI Group told TASS . That should allow the company “in several years to build prototypes of super-light and small-size radars for unmanned aerial vehicles.”
China developing a family of 6th generation fighters
China is developing a family 6th generation fighters: one heavy fighter, one medium-sized fighter as well as a variety of stealth unmanned combat platforms, such as “dark sword”. Year 2020 will be the deadline of China’s sixth generation fighter, according to report. A paper published by GT, authored by Yang Wei, the chief designer of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter, the next-generation fighter jet is being planned to trump all of the features that are currently possessed by a fifth-generation fighter.
China’s sixth generation fighters will include artificial intelligence, have multiple unmanned aerial vehicles under their command and be equipped with directed-energy weapons like lasers and high-power microwaves, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator,said.
Experts believe that the Chinese flying machine called Wu-14 can be the only serious rival to the Russian hypersonic machine. This device underwent trials in 2014. It was found that, like the Russian apparatus, the Chinese was capable of maneuvering at supersonic speeds of 11 thousand kilometers per hour.
The new prototype tetrahertz radar currently being tested by Chinese scientists may eventually be used to outfit the People Liberation Army’s sixth-generation fighter aircraft, according to a Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin .According to Kashin, Russia is also developing its own tetrahertz radar which is expected to be used to outfit sixth-generation fighter aircraft, as well as the later modifications of fifth-generation aircraft like the Sukhoi Su-57; and it would be safe to assume that China intends to do.
Tetrahertz radars are potentially capable of obtaining images of objects hidden behind obstacles, and can even negate the radar-absorbent coating of stealth aircraft, possibly making them a game changer in airborne warfare. If installed aboard a surveillance aircraft or a satellite, these radars can be used to detect submerged submarines or concealed ground installations. Such radars can also be employed for non-military purposes such as geological survey, underwater and underground exploration and rescue operations, Kashin added.
China to counter the nuclear threat from the entire solar system
An awarding ceremony for winners of “Feng Ru Aviation Tech Elite Award” was held on September 16th 2015. And in the stories of Shenyang Aircraft Institute’s general designer Wang Yongqing, “special mission aircraft, the next-generation jet fighter and catapult launching and arrested deck-landing were mentioned. A Russia media have recently exposed that China’s Aviation Research Institute No. 611 is doing research for the development of J-28, its sixth-generation fighter jet. It is said that J-28 is able to conduct accurate conventional hit to counter the nuclear threat from the entire solar system.
The laser weapon a J-28 carries is so strong that it can melt a nuclear missile launched from any planet or satellite in solar system. The report says as the United States has conducted enough survey to know the Mars, it is expected that the US will establish a nuclear missile base in 2018. J-28’s speed is so high that even if it fails to intercept a missile the first time, it can chase the missile to hunt it. In addition, it is such a wonderful stealth fighter that it cannot be detected by either radar or radio telescope. J-28 will also act as an information platform or a node of the battlefield network transferring enemy targets information to whole C4ISR system in real-time to provide decisive decision-making as well as utilizing information from network to maximizing combat performance.
Besides, the 6th generation fighter can complete routine air combat and ground attack missions within the atmosphere, and implement accurate precision strikes on selected remote targets from near space.
Japan is looking to develop a large, twin-engine, two crewman aircraft to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter. The country’s sixth generation fighter concept, nicknamed Future Fighter, is a large fighter designed for long range missions against China in the East China Sea and possibly North Korea. Currently Japanese F-15 and F-2 fighters flying missions in the East China Sea can only operate from a handful of local airfields—fighters with a longer range fighter could operate from more airfields farther away.
The Asian nation has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the lead contractor to develop its next stealth fighter, which is due to launch in the 2030s, per the Associated Press. Currently known as the F-X, the upcoming stealth fighter is part of Japan’s plan to have a stronger and larger military to be prepared for any potential threats from neighboring China and North Korea.
The F-X will supposedly have a stealthy design, it’s in the name after all, and offer interoperability with U.S. fighter jets, per Popular Mechanics. One of its top priorities will be air-to-air combat, as Japan’s F-35s already cover air-to-air and air-to-ground multi roles. Another top priority will be long-range, as Japan may need to defend the country further above the East China Sea, and it will have the capability to direct up to three combat drones. It’ll also most likely be equipped with a Joint New Air to Air Missile, a UK/Japan project, but may not carry a gun. Japan doesn’t domestically produce aircraft-mounted guns, although we’ll have to wait and see whether Mitsubishi decides to commission an outside contractor for that role.
The UK also announced its ambitious ‘Tempest program’ in 2018 to develop sixth-generation fighters that will replace its fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons is expected to be a fighter complementing the F-35. Report UK’s “post-2030 combat aviation force structure” highlighted a possibility of the UK committing to a next generation fighter program to potentially replace the Eurofighter Typhoon post-2030. The UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) will replace the Eurofighter Typhoon starting in 2040. FCAS might be an unmanned aerial vehicle; the UK has been quietly testing the Taranis combat drone since 2012. Unlike current drones, Taranis is being developed to attack aerial targets in addition to ground targets. Unmanned is an option for FCAS, but the UK Ministry of Defense has admitted the program could still result in a manned fighter.
With BAE System leading the program along with the Royal Air Force, Rolls Royce will contribute engines while European firm MBDA will integrate weapons and Italian company Leonardo will develop sensors and avionics. It is expected to take its first flight in 2035.
Germany and France Join hands on future air combat system
France and Germany reached an agreement in 2017 to jointly work on the future air combat system, which was followed by the signing of a high level common operational requirements document (HLCORD). We see the Future Combat Air System as being a family of systems composed of manned and unmanned platforms that need to operate in a collective and collaborative way. We see a great future with the current [Eurofighter] platform, and we are developing the New Fighter also as a key element of this Future Combat Air System,” Noguier said.
FCAS will replace the German Air Force’s aging fleet of Tornado IDS strike aircraft and supplement the Eurofighter Typhoon. According to Telegiz, the “FCAS will likely be a twin-engine, twin-tail aircraft piloted by two crewmen”—which actually sounds a lot like what Japan wants—to be operational in the 2030 to 2040 airframe.
FCAS will be a “system of systems” that combines manned and unmanned aircraft into one operational unit. FCAS could be both manned and unmanned, and manned versions could fly alongside and control unmanned versions. The twin-tail stealth design would be a twin-seat design, which would see it operate in a wider battle network, potentially as a command and control asset or UCAV/UAV mission commander.
A consortium of Dassault Aviation and Airbus has been awarded a contract to undertake a joint concept study (JCS) to support the development of a next-generation combat jet. The contract represents the first-ever award by Germany and France under the future combat air system (FCAS) programme. Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier said: “This new step is the cornerstone to ensure tomorrow’s European strategic autonomy. The two-year JCS will include identifying preferred baseline concepts for key components of the FCAS, including next-generation fighter (NGF), unmanned systems such as remote carriers (RCs) and a system of systems FCAS architecture and associated next-generation services.
Meanwhile, Safran has teamed up with MTU Aero Engines to develop and produce the engine for the proposed fighter jet.
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