6th Generation Fighter –
The F-22 Raptor Replacement is taking shape
F-22 Raptor, currently perhaps world’s best fighter will be replaced, question is by what and when?
US Air Force is finalizing requirements for the next generation fighter that‘ll probably enter service as early as 2033. Program known as Penetrating Counter Air, or 6th Generation Fighter will replace F-22 Raptor in front line service.
F-22 Replacement became urgent in recent years with development in Russian capability, namely Su-57 Stealth Fighter and a formidable S-400 Long range Air Defence System.
F-35 and F-22 won’t be relegated in to reserve or retired, just US requirement for more advanced capability is becoming more evident with growing confidence among potential advisories, namely Russia and China.
6th Generation fighter concepts aren’t new, however US Air Force is keen at acquiring advanced 6th Generation Fighter technology early on, just as China, Russia and Japan are about to field 5th generation fighter. Giving US Air Force significant technological advantage over other nations.
The technology behind 6th Generation fighter is still on a drawing paper and much of it is still speculation, However capability to command up to a dozen or a swarm of drones in mid-air from co-pilots seat and execute high precision attacks or swarm attacks on enemy positons is already being tested by USAF.
Laser weapons, is another concept US Air Force as well as US Navy and Army are exploring, giving that edge over your enemy at very long range is crucial, early test with high speed drones have made laser cannons something worth considering, after all using weapon that is relatively light compared to current 30mm cannons, allowing planes to stay airborne for much longer due to weight savings.
GE’s Adaptive cycle Engine being developed for the 6th Generation fighter will also help 6th Generation fighter gain 30% greater range on same fuel, coupled with before mentioned combat payload savings, 6th generation fighter could have combat range of 1700km and ferry range of nearly 5000km.
Advanced Air Dominance Missile and Small advanced capability missile will replace current generation of advanced air to air AMRAAM missile which is relatively old technology. New missiles will have greater range, be more maneuverable and faster.
USAF plans to replace AIM-120 AMRAAM with SACM Missiles as early as mid 2030s, in time for 6th Generation Fighter service entry. Missile will have greater range, reported at 120km, thrust vectoring engine, “small design, low-weight ordnance with hyper-agility, high loadout and a compressed carriage capability.”
In line with US Air force requirements, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin unveiled their own 6th Generation fighter concepts. Tailless, stealth and super manoeuvrable concepts could soon become reality. Question is not of if, but when?