US Air Force and Navy look to operationalize a future system of systems by 2025 instead of building a Sixth Generation fighter

The USAir Force’s new view – that the F-22 and F-35 replacement may be a system of systems and would include unmanned aerial vehicles – puts the service squarely in line with the Navy. In 2015 Navy Secretary Ray Mabus predicted that the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter would be the last traditional manned fighter the Navy would buy. In January the Navy began a requirements study for the Next Generation Air Dominance program – the effort formerly known as F/A-XX, or the sixth-generation fighter program – and Navy aviation leadership told USNI News that the effort would be conducted with input from the Navy but not in a joint manner.

The US Air force is looking for faster and more flexible upgrades of components and modules of a larger system.

Various aspects of a future System of Systems

  • integrated network systems
  • operationalize combat-focused space and cyber forces
  • increase range and payload
  • increase speed, manoeuvrability and stealth for the air space penetration components
  • Modest investments will also be made to upgrade and life-extending fourth-generation aircraft and modernize the F-22 Raptor
  • Leverage automation and machine learning

The goal is to operationalize a future air superiority network by 2025.

The sixth generation fighter project (F-X) would have turned into a 20 to 30-year development program. Instead, the Air Force plans to start an AOA in January, 2017, to look at options for “what we can get short of a 20 or 30 year leap”. The planning effort, called “Next Generation Air Dominance,” is scheduled to be complete by the middle of 2018.

The US Air Force will likely leverage existing bombers into Arsenal planes with more drones and missiles.

The Air Force seems likely to integrate with the US Navy’s vision of a kill web or tactical cloud. They will put data up in the cloud and users are going to go grab it and use it as a contributor to a targeting solution.

Mixing computing clouds, big data, with navy ships, planes and missiles

In 2014, the Office of Naval Research laid out the foundation of the Tactical Cloud concept

SOURCES – USNI, Air Force, DARPA, Office of Naval Research