What to Expect From Sixth Generation Combat Aircraft

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Improved fifth- and new sixth-generation manned and unmanned aircraft also are being planned to carry wide-area optical and electronic surveillance, explosive and non-explosive weapons and offer an intricate view of the surrounding networks that might affect them.

Also part of the advanced fight formula will be communications, including command and control, that can function even when under network attack.

Maj. Gen. Tom Andersen, Air Combat command’s director of requirements says..

“We’ve stood up a Sixth Gen Fighter office here, and we’re starting to figure out what those attributes should be,” Andersen says. “Survivability will be huge, so how do you do that – with speed, stealth or some combination? Affordability is critical because $500 million per air vehicle doesn’t do much good [in a tough budget environment].

“If we start right now, 2030 is about the time you get a sixth gen fighter on the line,” Andersen say. “That’s about the time all the F-15s, F-15Es, F-16s and A-10s are programmed to be out of the inventory. At that point all you have is the F-35. I think [Sixth Gen] will have to be capable being [optionally] manned. The cost margin between manned and unmanned is now only about 3-5% delta. We have to be prepared to go either way.”

Depiction of weapon system possessed by a 6th Gen Combat Jet

The equipment on these new aircraft designs will also be innovative. It will, for example, exploit new segments of the electromagnetic spectrum,electronic attack, network invasion and generation of high power microwave pulses as weapons will also be part of the formula.

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