Sixth Generation Super Hornet Could Give up on Being Stealthy

State-of-the-art stealth technology may be less effective against increasingly modern, next-generation air defenses. Newer technologies for air defenses allow them to detect on multiple frequency bands, network to one another through faster processing speeds and track approaching aircraft at further and further distances.

Russia and China are already working on new networked air defenses coupled with new radars operating in the UHF and VHF-bands that threaten to neutralize America’s massive investment in fifth-generation fighters. Fighter-sized stealth aircraft are only optimized to perform against high-frequency fire control band radars operating in the Ku, X, C and portions of the S-band

The US navy F/A-XX next gen fighter program is analyzing technology and will soon be building prototypes. Mass production will likely be around 2030.

The next generation fighter will gain access primarily by suppressing enemy air defenses.

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.”

There are near term efforts such as the ongoing initiative to outfit 170 F/A-18E/F Block II fighter jets with a next-generation infrared sensor designed to locate air-to-air target in a high-threat electronic attack environment.
Infrared search and track, or IRST, system, is a long range sensor that searches for and detect infrared emissions, Navy officials said. Slated to be operational by 2017, the system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability.