Northrop Grumman has stood up a pair of teams dedicated to developing a “sixth-generation” fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, years before the US Navy or Air Force intends to issue requests for information on potential replacements for current aircraft.
The Air Force and Navy have begun preliminary planning for what is referred to as next-generation air dominance, or “sixth-generation” fighters. After working together on the F-35 joint strike fighter, the two services are looking at procuring their own respective jets.
The Navy’s program is dubbed F/A-XX, while the Air Force’s effort is known as F-X. In September, Col. Tom Coglitore, Air Superiority Core Function Team chief at Air Combat Command, told Defense News he wants to see Milestone A acquisition activity in early fiscal 2018.
Northrop is looking at a supersonic, tailless airplane design as a potential solution. making a system optionally manned would be relatively easy Grumman.
Navy F/A-XX developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.
Boeing F/A XX concept
Navy officials are not only meeting with established development teams like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, but “outside the box” efforts including not focusing on manned or unmanned platforms and FoS approaches are to reduce costs and make it more effective. One option could create a minimum cost F/A-XX that uses high cost, high performance weapons to defeat threats; according to the Navy’s Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network concept, an individual platform would not need to have a full suite of sensors and rely on off-board data-linked information from other platforms to provide targeting information and guide weapons launched from the platform. Rather than be a Super Hornet or F-35C that can engage on its own, the F/A-XX could be a “truck” with longer-range weapons with linked fire control. The F/A-XX platforms will be made to carry missiles, have power and cooling systems for directed energy weapons, and have sensors that can target small radar cross-section targets; cyber warfare platforms at a tactical level as part of a FoS are being explored. While the Navy is working with the U.S. Air Force on a next-generation tactical fighter, there is significant disagreement over the Air Force’s claims that adaptive-cycle jet engine technology, where the ratios of bypass and compression airflow can be made variable to improve efficiency, can be scaled to benefit a carrier-based fighter.
The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets, Aboulafia added.
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, he explained.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself
SOURCES- Wikipedia, defence news, defence tech