A 76 page report by the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments Trends in Air-to-air combat : Implications for future air superiority by John Stillion indicates that dogfighting jet capability no longer matters.
Trends from the database of air combat since 1965 show the rise of long range missiles and a steep decline in dog-fighting. Of the 33 U.S. kills in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, only four involved any maneuvering at all. 25 years on, the power of long range sensors and missiles is only greater, meaning that traditional fighter attributes such as speed, thrust-to-weight ratios, and turn radius are even less important to success today and in the future.
Stillion concludes that speed will not help future aircraft because higher speeds mean higher heats from engines and along leading edges and other aircraft surfaces. More combatants will rely on Infrared Search and Track Systems (IRST) because Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) jammers will disrupt search radars. So enemies will be looking for heat with those IRST sensors and fast planes will be easier to spot.
One industry source who has read the study said that, “Stillion makes a very good case that we should rethink our strategy. Why invest in the sixth generation fighter to create a ‘super F-22′? Such an aircraft will only offer marginal improvements over the F-22 at great cost.
One common airframe could provide a strike version, an air-to-air missile version for self defense, a nuclear aircraft, an air superiority version fitted with directed energy weapons, and planes for airborne early warning and ground surveillance missions.
Bigger sensors and bigger, longer range missiles and drones would be the winning system.
A future US Air Force with a fleet of roughly 400 long range aircraft with modular systems.
An updated version of the 1960s TV show Thunderbird 2 could be the future US battleplane
The airframe could also have swappable weapon pods.
Although just changing different types of missiles would be as simple as switching the bullets by changing the cartridge in a machine gun.
The Long range bomber would be the basis of future combat aircraft. It would be an adaptable mothership with drones and long range missiles.
What big eyes you have
Incorporating the largest and most effective sensors would be key. So the long range battleplane could have the largest and longest range sensors. This could mean carrying a large sensor dish like the AWACS planes.
Secure and reliable communications with satellites and the global sensor network would also be critical.
Supermarionation and classic Thunderbirds
SOURCES – Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments, scribd, breaking defense, youtube
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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