Ozair
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USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:50 pm

I thought it would be worth creating thread to discuss the USAF Penetrating Counter Air concept and perhaps 6th gen aircraft movement in general. Some info was available in this previous thread on the Boeing concept for the F/A-XX https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1026351

We know the USAF is very interested in a PCA capability and see this as their 6th gen platform. I’d like to understand what people see as the defining factor of a 6th gen aircraft and how this will advance further than current and emerging 5th gen aircraft.

Some factors for me include adaptive engines and designed for Directed Energy Weapons. There is talk of increased RCS reduction against low frequency radars although I’m not sure how much further that can go over current designs. I’d like to see consideration of how a 6th gen platform may integrate with UCAVs in a way that will differ from 5th gen and adapted designs. Finally what sensors and systems could truly define 6TH generation, is it a move to LIDAR, increased IR spectrums, higher or lower frequency traditional radars, continued evolution of datalinks?

Some of the talk is about larger aircraft with more range and payload, the USAF have specifically called out increasing stealth while the USN is looking for increased speed. How about using the 6th gen as essentially a mothership for small UCAV fleets that can be rearmed and refuelled in flight?

What partners will the USAF pursue, if any, on their PCA, will it be a single service aircraft, will the USN eventually have to tow the line and incorporate a variant of PCA for carrier use?

Below is an article indicating that already the cost of this type of platform is going to be significant as well as some suggestion on what qualities the USAF would be looking to acquire. While the F-22 saw significant reductions with the F-22 buy the F-35 has been reasonably stable. How many will USAF realistically need especially in light of their desire to increase the number of squadrons and improve overall readiness of their fighter fleet.

Budget watchdog warns this fighter could cost three times that of the F-35

A next-generation air superiority jet for the U.S. Air Force, known by the service as Penetrating Counter Air, could cost about $300 million in 2018 dollars per plane, the Congressional Budget Office states in a new study.
At that price, PCA would be more than three times that of the average F-35A jet, which is set at about $94 million to capture both the expense of early production lots and the decline in cost as the production rate increases, according the report, which predicts the cost of replacing the Air Force’s aircraft inventory from now until 2050.
This sum, while not an official cost estimate from the Pentagon, represents the first time a government entity has weighed in on the potential price tag for PCA.

The CBO estimates the Air Force will need 414 PCA aircraft to replace existing F-15C/Ds and F-22s, the Air Force’s current fighters geared toward air-to-air combat. It also surmises that the first aircraft will enter service in 2030, based on the service’s stated desire to begin fielding PCA around that time frame.
The reason for the whopping price tag?
Part of it comes down to the cost of new technology.
“The PCA aircraft would probably have a greater range and payload, as well as improved stealth and sensor capabilities, than today’s F-22; those characteristics would help it operate in the presence of the high-end air defenses that DoD believes China, Russia, and other potential adversaries may have in the future,” the CBO states.

The other reason comes down to history.
The Air Force doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to producing stealth aircraft at the low costs initially envisioned by leadership. Both the B-2 and F-22 programs were truncated in part due to the high price per plane — which in turn contributed to the production rate never accelerating to the point where unit costs begin to decrease. The early years of the F-35 program were also marred by a series of cost overruns that eventually prompted the Pentagon to restructure it.
“Containing costs for the PCA aircraft may be similarly difficult,” the report states.
The Air Force has said little about PCA since the release of the Air Superiority 2030 flight plan in 2016, which stated a need for a new fighter jet that would be networked into a family of systems of other air, space, cyber and electronic warfare technologies.
“The replacement may not be a single platform,” Gen. Dave Goldfein, the Air Force’s chief of staff, told Defense News earlier this year. “It may be two or three different kinds of capabilities and systems. And so as we look at air superiority in the future, ensuring that we’re advancing to stay ahead of the adversary, we’re looking at all those options.”

Although Air Force leadership won’t say exactly what it’s doing to develop PCA or when a new jet may be coming online, it’s clearly making investments. In the fiscal 2019 budget, the service requested $504 million for “next-generation air dominance,” its portfolio of future fighter technologies and weapons. The Air Force expects to ramp up funding to $1.4 billion in FY20, hitting a high in FY22 with a projected $3.1 billion in spending.

According to the CBO’s analysis, Air Force procurement of new aircraft could peak at about $26 billion in 2033, as the service buys both the F-35 and PCA. Those two fighters, together with the B-21 bomber, are set to be the largest drivers of cost as procurement reaches its height in the mid-2030s.
“Although the Air Force could probably modify both retirement plans and replacement schedules to smooth out the 2033 peak, the average annual costs of procuring new aircraft would still be higher than in the recent past: $15 billion in the 2020s, $23 billion in the 2030s, and $15 billion in the 2040s,” the report states.
Dealing with an upcoming bow wave
CBO’s estimates included 35 platforms that will be replacing legacy systems, with six programs making up more than 85 percent of the projected procurement costs cited throughout the report: the F-35, PCA, the KC-46A, the B-21, the C-130J cargo plane as well as the yet-unannounced C-17 replacement.
The report envisions a future where the Air Force is allowed to retire all of its legacy fighter and attack aircraft — the A-10, the F-15, the F-16 and even the F-22 — in favor of three aircraft: the F-35, PCA and a light attack aircraft configured to take on low-threat missions.
The Air Force has yet to decide whether to buy a light-attack aircraft or how extensive its purchase may be, although the service is expected to put out a request for proposals by the end of the month.
“Funding for new fighter aircraft makes up about half of the total projected costs of procuring new aircraft,” the CBO states, with the F-35 set to be the most expensive program through the 2020s until PCA takes its place in the early 2030s.

The Air Force could decrease costs in a couple of ways, although all of them come with significant drawbacks.
For one, it could extend the lives of its legacy fighter and attack aircraft, and delay programs like PCA. However, the CBO notes that “obtaining replacement parts can be both difficult and expensive, and a refurbished fleet may not provide as many available and mission-capable aircraft as a new fleet.”
If the service wants to increase the availability of its inventory without paying the high price associated with developing a new stealth fighter, it could retire its legacy F-15s and F-16s and buy new ones. That option is probably more expensive, but would result in aircraft that are more reliable.
The Air Force could also defer the PCA program while allowing some of its legacy aircraft to be retired, the CBO posits.
However, Air Force leadership contend that the service is already too small, with Secretary Heather Wilson arguing that the number of operational squadrons needs to increase from 312 to 386 — a goal that necessitates buying more aircraft.

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/12 ... e-fighter/

Some other articles on the USAF 6th gen.
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/ ... look-26451

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/air- ... ?r=US&IR=T

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-sho ... r-designs/

A few concept images
Image

Image

Image
 
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kanban
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 12:26 am

6th Gen aircraft will be defined by both the manufacturers PR departments, and the military trying to spoof something over on congress. :duck:
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:00 am

Ozair, what do you think the future fight will be?
 
Ozair
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:05 am

DigitalSea wrote:
Ozair, what do you think the future fight will be?

A broad question, I should ask what context you consider future fight to be and what timeframe? Do you mean the key future adversary or situation or something else?

Broadly I think we are moving away from non-state conflict as the predominant scenario and will move towards increased state on state conflict. What that state on state conflict is over will probably be things like diminishing resources, independence, information access, direct cyber action and probably half a dozen other things. I can see state on state conflict occurring across the Middle East and Asia in traditional hot spots and potentially Africa where we could see a repeat of the Cold War but this time between China and the US. I also feel like we are not far off something big happening again with Israel and its neighbours.

How that will look from a military stand point is hard to predict but some constants I think will continue into the future include
- Dominance of airpower
- Fragility of land warfare vehicles
- Continued upgrade of existing platforms in an attempt to keep up and perhaps linked to this the inability for many nations to afford new systems or one for one replacement
- Increasing use of unmanned systems
- Value of special operations units to major powers

Some things I think will likely change
- Return of the dominance of the naval surface platform through improved defensive measures like DEW and unmanned systems
- Impact of cyber across the battlespace, including impacting civilian and military infrastructure
- The impact of AI on to name a few communications, decision making and manufacturing
- Contestability of space

I’m not sure if the above is what you were asking about. In the context of 6th gen fighters I have already laid a few things I think will change or will lay the foundation for how these platforms will operate. Perhaps AI will be the next big leap for 6th gen aircraft with the traditional second seat for larger platforms being occupied by an AI with the human there to make critical decisions?

Obviously I have no crystal ball so the above could all be completely wrong...
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:59 am

Thank you for your thoughts. That's why it's difficult to know where to focus your resources, who knows what the future fight will be? We spent the last 2 decades along with an obscene amount of resources and dollars in environments that didn't require a lot of advanced tactical/strategic air support. We forced the aging of aircraft that didn't need to be used because we weren't properly prepared for it. Now we're faced with a crisis to rush the F-35 in so that we don't have to refurbish severely aging aircraft. Could we be absorbed into another regional conflict that doesn't require advanced capabilities to fight? Maybe, maybe not - It's hard to say. In the interest of humanity and world peace, I hope another near-peer adversary never requires a heavy response from the US Military.
 
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keesje
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:37 am

It's a natural thing this must happen. By 2026, the national defense industry in the U.S. is projected to have more than 2.1 million workers at firms employing 10,000 people or more. https://www.statista.com/statistics/684454/forecast-of-employment-in-the-national-defense-industry-us-by-firm-size/

Wait for congress to come up with alarming foreign "6th Gen" fighter threats soon. Dismissed / downplayed until yesterday, millions are invested spreading the news, highlighting probably Russia, Chinese air force aggression. Use new media, nationalism, Hollywood, Lexington Institute, incidents to get the perceptions in. In the interest of humanity, world peace, 2.1 million+ industry jobs and the $600billion defense budget.
https://taskandpurpose.com/china-h-20-stealth-bomber/

Innovation will be key if the US Department of Defense wants to keep up in an ever-changing world. Awesome weapons will be ours :cloudnine: I feel more should be spend on Defense in the US. :cool2:

Image

In e.g. UK the Education budget is twice the Defense budget. In the US Defense budget is nearly 6x the Education budget. It is part of a deeply embedded culture / industry. Don't dare to question..
"Never mistake motion for action." Ernest Hemingway
 
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cpd
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:45 am

That last image is really old - I've seen a lot of cold water poured on that design.

I've seen a lot of plans and designs for various fighter concepts, the first image resembles some of them.

The best solution for a 6th generation fighter would be a stealthy drone, one that isn't too expensive. That way large numbers of them could be fielded.
 
bigjku
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 1:06 pm

keesje wrote:
It's a natural thing this must happen. By 2026, the national defense industry in the U.S. is projected to have more than 2.1 million workers at firms employing 10,000 people or more. https://www.statista.com/statistics/684454/forecast-of-employment-in-the-national-defense-industry-us-by-firm-size/

Wait for congress to come up with alarming foreign "6th Gen" fighter threats soon. Dismissed / downplayed until yesterday, millions are invested spreading the news, highlighting probably Russia, Chinese air force aggression. Use new media, nationalism, Hollywood, Lexington Institute, incidents to get the perceptions in. In the interest of humanity, world peace, 2.1 million+ industry jobs and the $600billion defense budget.
https://taskandpurpose.com/china-h-20-stealth-bomber/

Innovation will be key if the US Department of Defense wants to keep up in an ever-changing world. Awesome weapons will be ours :cloudnine: I feel more should be spend on Defense in the US. :cool2:

Image

In e.g. UK the Education budget is twice the Defense budget. In the US Defense budget is nearly 6x the Education budget. It is part of a deeply embedded culture / industry. Don't dare to question..


Education spending in the US is local not federal. Total US spending on just K-12 education was $668 billion in 2015. If you add in higher education expenses it would be significantly higher.

Indeed the UK defense budget being low is the reason that the US spends a lower multiple on education than does the UK. In per student terms the US spends significantly more, around 25-30% more per student.

But continue with your false narrative. You either don’t understand how a federal system works or you just want to push your narrative and deliberately make up nonsense. The viewer can judge and take their pick accordingly.
 
morrisond
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 6:17 pm

I think a lot better idea would be to build a lot more B-21's(300 in Total?) which I'm guessing will have provisions for directed Energy Weapons - and the space and payload to carry the first Generation. Plus as a drone controlling aircraft an Extra person on Board to direct them.

Combine that with a revised F-22B (Cleaned up F-22A with F35 Avionics, increased internal fuel and new Combined Engine's for a lot better range) as escorts. Those could be coming off the lines by 2025.

PCA with Directed Energy I'm guessing will take a lot longer than 2030 to miniturize the systems enough to get there. I think PCA may be more like 2040
 
mxaxai
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 7:12 pm

Ozair wrote:
Broadly I think we are moving away from non-state conflict as the predominant scenario and will move towards increased state on state conflict.

I would disagree. Not much has changed since the cold war and any major, prolonged state-on-state conflict between near peers will leave both in ruins. What might happen more often are small skirmishes, like around the paracel islands. Hugely onesided conflicts may also increase, like the Russian intervention in Georgia. But the smaller, weaker countries (or wanna-be-countries) will never be able to compete directly and are still very likely to resort to unconventional warfare.
Air superiority has been of little use in these conflicts; from Vietnam to Syria. Wars are won on the ground. I would personally like to see more focus on how aviation can support anti-terrorist operations better. Flexible air transports like the V-22 will play an important role, while that of jets outside of reconnaisance will diminish.

So that's where 6th gen fighters will (have to) shine: As battlefield managers. Sensor fusion including remote controlled assets creating a clear picture of the battelfield, with the pilot(s) as human-in-the-loop to make decisions and relay information to ground forces. The FCAS already wants to go in that direction with a heavy focus on providing the pilot easily understandable information. Hence two pilots (or much heavier reliance on an autopilot) are necessary, one for guiding aircraft and drones and the other to process battlefield information.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:46 pm

Is it difficult for the USAF to divorce itself from the need for manned aircraft? How does that impact (handicap) Next Gen aircraft development?
 
bigjku
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 8:55 pm

DigitalSea wrote:
Is it difficult for the USAF to divorce itself from the need for manned aircraft? How does that impact (handicap) Next Gen aircraft development?


I don’t think unmanned fighters are realistic in the near term. People are going to want a data link to have a man in the loop for weapons release in most cases and that is vulnerable at numerous points along the communications chain.

I think it’s a pipe dream. For recon and weakly opposed strike actions? Sure. For highly opposed airspace and shoot/no shoot decisions I don’t see it. Not yet.
 
Ozair
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:34 pm

mxaxai wrote:
I would disagree. Not much has changed since the cold war and any major, prolonged state-on-state conflict between near peers will leave both in ruins. What might happen more often are small skirmishes, like around the paracel islands. Hugely onesided conflicts may also increase, like the Russian intervention in Georgia. But the smaller, weaker countries (or wanna-be-countries) will never be able to compete directly and are still very likely to resort to unconventional warfare.

Fair enough although I guess I don’t define state on state as being long protracted engagements, at this point in time no nation has enough munitions to maintain a decent campaign past a month or so anyway.

mxaxai wrote:
So that's where 6th gen fighters will (have to) shine: As battlefield managers. Sensor fusion including remote controlled assets creating a clear picture of the battelfield, with the pilot(s) as human-in-the-loop to make decisions and relay information to ground forces. The FCAS already wants to go in that direction with a heavy focus on providing the pilot easily understandable information. Hence two pilots (or much heavier reliance on an autopilot) are necessary, one for guiding aircraft and drones and the other to process battlefield information.

So the question I have is what difference would a 6th gen bring over 5th gen platforms that could meet those needs? Feedback from 5th gen aircrew is on how much of an increase the F-35 over the Eurofighter in displaying and contextualising information. Is there much room for further improvement?

With remote controlling assets DARPA is already testing drone swarms for A2AD that could/would be operated by B-21s and F-35s.

These drone swarms survived without GPS

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said it successfully demonstrated the ability of drone swarms to operate in the face of enemy jamming.

DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program seeks to develop sophisticated software to enable groups of existing unmanned systems to work together, under a single person’s control, as they conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. The goal is for CODE’s human operator to monitor the swarm without micromanaging it, and instead to allow the autonomous drones to improvise and adjust as they pursue their mission.

The program manager has compared CODE technology to wolves hunting in coordinated packs.

DARPA tested the technology during a recent three-week series of exercises at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The CODE systems, which included as many as six live and 24 virtual drones, collaborated to navigate, search, and engage both pre-planned and pop-up targets. According to a Nov. 19 release from the agency, the CODE-equipped systems demonstrated an ability to “adapt and respond to unexpected threats in an anti-access area denial environment.” This included preventing communications and GPS signals.

When communications were degraded or denied, CODE vehicles were able to maintain their mission plan and accomplish mission objectives without direction from humans, the agency said.

“The test series expanded on previously demonstrated approaches to low bandwidth collaborative sensing and on-board planning. It demonstrated the ability to operate in more challenging scenarios, where both communications and GPS navigation were denied for extended periods,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager for CODE.

The CODE program will continue under DARPA until it’s anticipated conclusion in spring 2019.

The program’s software repository will then be transitioned to the Naval Air Systems Command.

https://www.c4isrnet.com/newsletters/un ... thout-gps/

In the context of the above, 6th gen platforms would almost certainly be just extending what is done with a 5th gen platform and I therefore don’t see that as a distinguisher to the generational change.

bigjku wrote:
DigitalSea wrote:
Is it difficult for the USAF to divorce itself from the need for manned aircraft? How does that impact (handicap) Next Gen aircraft development?


I don’t think unmanned fighters are realistic in the near term. People are going to want a data link to have a man in the loop for weapons release in most cases and that is vulnerable at numerous points along the communications chain.

I think it’s a pipe dream. For recon and weakly opposed strike actions? Sure. For highly opposed airspace and shoot/no shoot decisions I don’t see it. Not yet.


I tend to agree, at least for the foreseeable future a man will be in the loop for a lot of decisions. There is also the potential for EW to restrain the ability of unmanned aircraft to operate autonomously, notwithstanding the article linked above, so a manned system that has heavy AI integration would be a logical next step.

Was thinking more on this and considered that changes to the man machine interface may be a means to differentiate the next generation? Probably this change is too far away for the current planned and developmental systems to arrive in 2040 and therefore PCA and FCAS etc may be comparable to a 5.5 gen (in the way Rafale, Eurofighter and Super Hornet are between 4th and 5th gen fighters today) while further man machine interface developments will elevate future platform to the 6th gen level. Improvements to the man machine interface likely provide the ability to remove a lot of the human reaction time and allow the machine to respond much faster to direct input.

Some info on man machine interface work going on, https://web.stanford.edu/~shenoy/Press/ ... st2018.pdf
 
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smithbs
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:05 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Ozair wrote:
Broadly I think we are moving away from non-state conflict as the predominant scenario and will move towards increased state on state conflict.

I would disagree.


I think I side on mxaxai's side - state-on-state seems unlikely at this time. ISIS has shown that sub-national conflicts can still be a big deal across several states, and maybe the closest chance we've had lately to actual state-on-state has been Ukraine vs Russia. Even in that case, both sides stopped short of declaring old-fashioned war for good reasons. I think maybe 30-40 years ago, such provocations would have resulted in outright war. Today's highly interconnected world might be succeeding in preventing outright state-on-state massive-scale conflict (thank God), while the same forces assist in massive social up-swells that can lead to sub-national conflict. That leads us to sub-state actions, which requires force on the ground.

Then again, one always prepares for the last war they fought. Fewer prepare adequately for what the future may bring.
 
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TWA772LR
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:38 am

We still rely heavily on 4th gen fighters and are barely fielding 5th gen fighters. Why do we need a 6th gen so soon?
When wasn't America great?


The thoughts and opinions shared under this username are mine and are not influenced by my employer.
 
Ozair
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:23 am

TWA772LR wrote:
We still rely heavily on 4th gen fighters and are barely fielding 5th gen fighters. Why do we need a 6th gen so soon?

From a 2010 brief the intent was
the USAF seeks a fighter with "enhanced capabilities in areas such as reach, persistence, survivability, net-centricity, situational awareness, human-system integration and weapons effects,"

But you make a good point. If PCA did somehow arrive on schedule in 2030 then it will serve alongside a host of 4th and 5th gen aircraft. Not necessarily a bad thing as the 5th and 6th gen aircraft can operate in contested environments while the 4th gen take the low intensity conflicts and function as bomb trucks as required. In practise though it makes for a complex and expensive logistics chain, hence the recent thoughts about the wholesale retirements of fleets of aircraft to reduce costs.

Much of the commentary also sees 6th gen as being a system of systems in the same vein as the European FCAS proposals which shouldn’t be a surprise. How much that translates into an actual family of systems or a single primary platform is still up for debate. Associated systems have a habit of being cancelled or delayed…

smithbs wrote:
I think I side on mxaxai's side - state-on-state seems unlikely at this time.

Fair enough although when we talk future fight as the initial question was phrased I think we are discussing at least 10-15 years into the future. The Pentagon, at least directed by Mattis but this refocus has been going on for a while, has made a point of indicating they believe state on state is again emerging as the primary threat.
“Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity,” claimed Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist while releasing the Pentagon’s $686 billion budget request in January. “It is increasingly apparent that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian values and, in the process, replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II.”

https://fpif.org/the-pentagon-is-planni ... nd-russia/

Overall I am really less concerned about trying to predict an uncertain future as much as I am interested in the initial question of how and what a 6th gen aircraft will become. I have no doubt that even if the USAF spent the next 20 years fighting counter-insurgency that we will see development of a 6th gen fighter aircraft.
 
Ozair
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Fri Dec 28, 2018 9:27 pm

An interesting slide posted on another forum from the USN Tailhook conference earlier in the year. The USN currently see the Super Hornet begin to be replaced by the NGAD in the early 2030s. The end result is the SH gone from the USN by 2040 and that looks to include the Growler as well based on the slide info.

Image

Apparently the intent of the USN is to define the requirements for the Super Hornet replacement by the end of 2019 so we should see by the end of next year at least what the USN see as potentially 6th generation capability.
 
texl1649
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Fri Dec 28, 2018 9:50 pm

I can’t take the US Navy projections or contributions seriously at this point. Neither political party in the USA wants to project power remotely as much as in the past seven decades; it seems inevitable to see a drastically reduced carrier force. That reduction will not allow the USN to dictate anything on this 6th gen concept in the next 20 years, imho, as they just won’t have funding they’re willing to sacrifice flat tops for new aircraft past the present F35/18 combo.
 
SuperiorPilotMe
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sat Dec 29, 2018 6:28 pm

6th and 7th gen fighters will be little more than frontline flying drone control stations and we’ll need only 10 or so of them at a time.
Stop the stupids!- Claus Kellerman
 
mxaxai
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Dec 30, 2018 11:53 am

Ozair wrote:
But you make a good point. If PCA did somehow arrive on schedule in 2030 then it will serve alongside a host of 4th and 5th gen aircraft.
[...]
I have no doubt that even if the USAF spent the next 20 years fighting counter-insurgency that we will see development of a 6th gen fighter aircraft.

The discussion in the F-15x thread and your news posts on the F-35 got me thinking: What can the F-35 not do? Because that's the gap a 6th gen fighter will have to fill.
And right now it seems like the F-35 is very good at everything. But it hasn't been used in anger yet and actual combat often differs from simulations and exercises. So a lot of the advancements will likely be as-of-yet unknown shortcomings of the F-35, similar to how the F-15/16 was a reaction to the experiences won in Vietnam. Of course this is a difficult target for the FCAS, whose developers have no access to USAF experiences and will have to design more around what they perceive as the largest weaknesses of the F-35 (and Eurofighter / Rafale).

If the next 15 years see primarily anti-terrorist missions then any 6th gen fighter will be at least partially optimised for that role. If we do see international conflicts rise again then that it will take a different direction. One thing to note is that the F-35 is not best at anything, it's a jack of all trades. If experience shows that new countermeasures require specific abilities, e. g. higher speed & maneuverability, better stealth or more powerful radars & electronics, that will probably be a key driver for the PCA/NGAD/FCAS (or whatever it will be called). If the F-35 proves well suited for all missions then there is no need for a 6th gen fighter.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Dec 30, 2018 4:55 pm

mxaxai wrote:
The discussion in the F-15x thread and your news posts on the F-35 got me thinking: What can the F-35 not do? Because that's the gap a 6th gen fighter will have to fill.
And right now it seems like the F-35 is very good at everything. But it hasn't been used in anger yet and actual combat often differs from simulations and exercises. So a lot of the advancements will likely be as-of-yet unknown shortcomings of the F-35, similar to how the F-15/16 was a reaction to the experiences won in Vietnam. Of course this is a difficult target for the FCAS, whose developers have no access to USAF experiences and will have to design more around what they perceive as the largest weaknesses of the F-35 (and Eurofighter / Rafale).

If the next 15 years see primarily anti-terrorist missions then any 6th gen fighter will be at least partially optimised for that role. If we do see international conflicts rise again then that it will take a different direction. One thing to note is that the F-35 is not best at anything, it's a jack of all trades. If experience shows that new countermeasures require specific abilities, e. g. higher speed & maneuverability, better stealth or more powerful radars & electronics, that will probably be a key driver for the PCA/NGAD/FCAS (or whatever it will be called). If the F-35 proves well suited for all missions then there is no need for a 6th gen fighter.


Have to see what Russia and China come up with to counter the F-35.
 
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Slug71
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Dec 30, 2018 5:10 pm

I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 12:31 am

Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.


What about delivering unguided bombs in contested airspace?
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 1:42 am

mxaxai wrote:
Ozair wrote:
But you make a good point. If PCA did somehow arrive on schedule in 2030 then it will serve alongside a host of 4th and 5th gen aircraft.
[...]
I have no doubt that even if the USAF spent the next 20 years fighting counter-insurgency that we will see development of a 6th gen fighter aircraft.

The discussion in the F-15x thread and your news posts on the F-35 got me thinking: What can the F-35 not do? Because that's the gap a 6th gen fighter will have to fill.
And right now it seems like the F-35 is very good at everything. But it hasn't been used in anger yet and actual combat often differs from simulations and exercises. So a lot of the advancements will likely be as-of-yet unknown shortcomings of the F-35, similar to how the F-15/16 was a reaction to the experiences won in Vietnam. Of course this is a difficult target for the FCAS, whose developers have no access to USAF experiences and will have to design more around what they perceive as the largest weaknesses of the F-35 (and Eurofighter / Rafale).

If the next 15 years see primarily anti-terrorist missions then any 6th gen fighter will be at least partially optimised for that role. If we do see international conflicts rise again then that it will take a different direction. One thing to note is that the F-35 is not best at anything, it's a jack of all trades. If experience shows that new countermeasures require specific abilities, e. g. higher speed & maneuverability, better stealth or more powerful radars & electronics, that will probably be a key driver for the PCA/NGAD/FCAS (or whatever it will be called). If the F-35 proves well suited for all missions then there is no need for a 6th gen fighter.


I think the Germans and French decided they need more range and capability than the F35 can offer. I think a two man cockpit is a requirement.

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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:50 am

DigitalSea wrote:
Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.


What about delivering unguided bombs in contested airspace?


The F-22, F-35, B-2, B-21 etc will still be around for a long time for that. But even that will become less relevant for the same reasons.
When you have small hypersonic stealth missiles with good range, precision, and power that can be fired from land sea or air well outside of detection ranges, the game changes.
Lazers are also not to far away. And probably a new generation of ICBMs.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:21 pm

DigitalSea wrote:
Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.


What about delivering unguided bombs in contested airspace?

Unguided bombs are cheap. They are used against low value targets. Those targets will not contest their airspace, unless terrorists somehow find a way to reliably attack jets.
If there is a small risk of countermeasures that is too large for crewed platforms, you can always use drones. They'll carry unguided ammunition because they can strike from a much closer distance.
Need to precisely strike a well defended target? Cruise missiles. I think Russia & China have been working on super/hypersonic versions ...

The separation between drones and cruise missiles will likely diminish over time, primary difference being that a drone can be reused but needs to carry fuel for the way back. Coordinating those attacks will become more important than piloting the delivery vehicle.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:33 pm

mxaxai wrote:
The discussion in the F-15x thread and your news posts on the F-35 got me thinking: What can the F-35 not do? Because that's the gap a 6th gen fighter will have to fill.

That is really a big part of the question I am asking, what is the defining characteristic that will separate the 6th gen apart. Right now from what I see being developed in PCA and FCAS I don’t see a significant distinction between the F-35 and those airframes.

mxaxai wrote:
And right now it seems like the F-35 is very good at everything. But it hasn't been used in anger yet and actual combat often differs from simulations and exercises.

Well technically it has seen combat in Afghanistan but I understand what you are saying. How the F-35 may dominate conflicts, perhaps in a similar way the F-15 did over the Bekaa valley and has done so since, will be interesting to see. Certainly Red Flag and others exercises give us a taste of how it and the F-22 would change a near peer conflict.

mxaxai wrote:
So a lot of the advancements will likely be as-of-yet unknown shortcomings of the F-35, similar to how the F-15/16 was a reaction to the experiences won in Vietnam. Of course this is a difficult target for the FCAS, whose developers have no access to USAF experiences and will have to design more around what they perceive as the largest weaknesses of the F-35 (and Eurofighter / Rafale).

Those lessons should be evident enough that FCAS will be able to customise itself based on that operational experience.

mxaxai wrote:
One thing to note is that the F-35 is not best at anything, it's a jack of all trades. If experience shows that new countermeasures require specific abilities, e. g. higher speed & maneuverability, better stealth or more powerful radars & electronics, that will probably be a key driver for the PCA/NGAD/FCAS (or whatever it will be called). If the F-35 proves well suited for all missions then there is no need for a 6th gen fighter.

I expect a technology will be developed that will require a new generation. As I already stated above that may be some DEW or perhaps man machine interface or AI etc that will be unique or specific enough to require an airframe/operating concept customised around it.

mxaxai wrote:
DigitalSea wrote:
Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.


What about delivering unguided bombs in contested airspace?

Unguided bombs are cheap. They are used against low value targets. Those targets will not contest their airspace, unless terrorists somehow find a way to reliably attack jets.
If there is a small risk of countermeasures that is too large for crewed platforms, you can always use drones. They'll carry unguided ammunition because they can strike from a much closer distance.
Need to precisely strike a well defended target? Cruise missiles. I think Russia & China have been working on super/hypersonic versions ...

The separation between drones and cruise missiles will likely diminish over time, primary difference being that a drone can be reused but needs to carry fuel for the way back. Coordinating those attacks will become more important than piloting the delivery vehicle.

This is the wrong way around. Very few if any drones carry unguided weapons. They more than manned platforms today are reliant on guided weapons for accuracy and timeliness. If we look at MQ-1, MQ-9, the CH series, the Hermes 450 etc they are all equipped with guided A2G missiles such as Hellfire or HJ-10 and JDAM or LGBs. I can’t remember an image of a MQ-9 with an unguided weapon. A JDAM guidance kit is so cheap it makes little sense to use a non PGM weapon on most missions and accept the lower CEP and operational limitation.

The question is how recently are US or others dropping unguided munitions in combat?

The B-52 has recently dropped unguided bombs on targets in Afghanistan and Syria but it certainly won’t be doing that in an airspace contested environment. The B-1B has used PGMs exclusively in Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria, as have the rest of US forces. Some info on recent US bombing with unguided munitions is here, http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/16 ... he-terrain

Russian forces have used large numbers of unguided weapons over Syria and we have seen clearly the indiscriminate nature of their targeting. The Saudi’s have used some unguided weapons in Yeman, such as cluster munitions to equal international condemnation.

With weapons that will equip 5th and 6tth gen platforms I see little need or usefulness for unguided munitions. Guided weapons typically allow for smaller warheads which can often mean smaller overall weapons, increasing the operational effectiveness of the platform by carrying more and reducing collateral damage. We also haven’t seen 5th gen weapons emerge yet to equip 5th gen platforms. For low threat conflicts the USAF is investigating the OA-X concept and should have enough other platforms around for the foreseeable future if that specific scenario is required.

Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.

While I broadly agree remember that as weapon range and capability increases the launch platform will likely have to identify those targets from longer distances or faster or automatically via its sensors. If you look at the targeting cycle, F2T2EA, then the delivery platform still have to do the find/fix/track/target before it gets to engage and actually uses the weapons.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:36 pm

keesje wrote:
I think the Germans and French decided they need more range and capability than the F35 can offer. I think a two man cockpit is a requirement.

Keesje the Germans and French have decided no such thing. They have not even defined the requirements for FCAS so it is very presumptuous to claim that they need more range and capability over the F-35, or that a 2 man cockpit is required.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:26 am

Ozair wrote:
Slug71 wrote:
I have my doubts. I think the "delivery platform" will become less relevant as time goes on and more emphasis/development going into the weapons themselves. Weapons are becoming far more sophisticated and capable.

While I broadly agree remember that as weapon range and capability increases the launch platform will likely have to identify those targets from longer distances or faster or automatically via its sensors. If you look at the targeting cycle, F2T2EA, then the delivery platform still have to do the find/fix/track/target before it gets to engage and actually uses the weapons.


Very valid point. But there will always be AWACS/AEW&C and land/sea radar which will also improve. As will the network capabilities. Stealth and radar will be always be a cat and mouse game. I think it makes more sense for a stealth AWACS/AEW&C, than a stealth refueling aircraft to be honest. And a stealth EW aircraft.
I think as weapons range and capability improve, the refueling requirement will diminish. It will eventually all move to Space/Satellite anyway.

I imagine the homing capabilities could be passed from one platform to another (including satellite) mid-flight at some point. If it isn't already there.
The delivery platform would only need to get close enough for the range of missile.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:40 pm

Ozair wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
I would disagree. Not much has changed since the cold war and any major, prolonged state-on-state conflict between near peers will leave both in ruins. What might happen more often are small skirmishes, like around the paracel islands. Hugely onesided conflicts may also increase, like the Russian intervention in Georgia. But the smaller, weaker countries (or wanna-be-countries) will never be able to compete directly and are still very likely to resort to unconventional warfare.

Fair enough although I guess I don’t define state on state as being long protracted engagements, at this point in time no nation has enough munitions to maintain a decent campaign past a month or so anyway.


I think near peer state on state engagement don't need to leave both in ruins. Since the advent of PGMs surprise attacks have a good chance of success. One fighter can now reliably take out a bunch of fighters on an enemy bases in one mission.
I would not be surprised at all that, if surprise can be achieved, modern same level forces can wipe out the other sides ability carry out large combined operations within one night to a fairly high degree. Invasion and occupation may be a different issue, but the other sides ability to reply in kind would be gone.
How long would the six day war have been if Israel had ample PGM supplies at the time?

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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:04 am

What defines a 6th gen? I'll have a shot.

4th gen I would define as high agility and medium range with moderate supersonic dash capability.

4.5 gen adds sensor fusion to the 4th gen airframe.

5th gen would add stealth only.

6th gen will add sustained supersonic performance over long distance.

Firstly the F-22 does not fit the definition of sustained supersonic performance. It has very low internal fuel for its size. Even with the efficiency of supercruise it provides little speed advantage over the other larger 4th and 5th gen fighters that could just use moderate afterburner to provide similar speeds.

I expect the PCA to be able to supercruise at F-22 speeds for over 5 times the distance without any overheating.

The F-22's rough combat profile is 500nm subsonic inbound, 100nm supercruise and 500nm subsonic outbound. The Penetrating counter air will be minimum 1000nm subsonic inbound, 500nm supercruise and 1000nm outbound.

The F-22 top speed is heat limited to slightly above its supercruising speed. Its theoretical top afterburner speed would probably be very high. The PCA might solve the heat issue and be able to hit mach 3 with afterburners and have enough fuel to actually reach that speed in combat situations.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:21 am

RJMAZ wrote:
What defines a 6th gen? I'll have a shot.

4th gen I would define as high agility and medium range with moderate supersonic dash capability.

4.5 gen adds sensor fusion to the 4th gen airframe.

5th gen would add stealth only.

I like the Air Power Development Centre definition,

The Royal Australian Air Force Air Power Development Centre Bulletin proposed a classification in 2012:[1]

1. mid 1940s to mid 1950s. subsonic, no radars or self-protection countermeasures, unguided bombs and unguided rockets, no afterburners : F-86, MiG-15, MiG-17
2. mid-1950s to early 1960s. air-to-air radar, semi-active guided and infrared missiles, radar warning receivers, supersonic level flight : F-104, F-5, MiG-19, MiG-21
3. early 1960s to 1970. multi-role fighters, look-down/shoot-down, off-bore-sight targeting, Semi-active radar homing missiles, beyond visual range : MiG-23, F-4, Mirage III
4. 1970 to late 1980s. head-up displays, fly-by-wire, Swing-role fighters : MiG-29, Su-27, F/A-18, F-15, F-16, Mirage 2000
4.5. late 1980s into the 90s. (half generation from a reduction in military spending) stealth technology, Radar-absorbent materials, thrust vectoring, Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, Network Warfare, multirole missions : F/A-18E/F, F-15SE, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, Dassault Rafale
5. 2005- stealth technology, multispectral sensors, networked : F-22, F-35, PAK FA, Chengdu J-20



RJMAZ wrote:
6th gen will add sustained supersonic performance over long distance.

Do you think that is it? Sustained supersonic performance doesn't seem a generation defining characteristic to me.

RJMAZ wrote:
I expect the PCA to be able to supercruise at F-22 speeds for over 5 times the distance without any overheating.

The F-22's rough combat profile is 500nm subsonic inbound, 100nm supercruise and 500nm subsonic outbound. The Penetrating counter air will be minimum 1000nm subsonic inbound, 500nm supercruise and 1000nm outbound.

The F-22 top speed is heat limited to slightly above its supercruising speed. Its theoretical top afterburner speed would probably be very high. The PCA might solve the heat issue and be able to hit mach 3 with afterburners and have enough fuel to actually reach that speed in combat situations.

So a sizeable aircraft then. With likely two AETD engines that are very efficient it will still require a significant amount of fuel to go the distances you are suggesting. Do we define 6th gen as diminished maneuverability, based on that required size, compared to previous generations or simply that modern missiles and DEW will render super maneuverability redundant?

Question is, what does Mach 3 provide that significantly enhances over existing capabilities, especially with the emergence of hypersonic missiles which will probably move into the A2A and surface to air arenas?
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:08 pm

Ozair wrote:
Do you think that is it? Sustained supersonic performance doesn't seem a generation defining characteristic to me.

You underestimate how difficult it will be to offer sustained supersonic performance while maintaining decent agility. You need a massive fuel fraction and fuel capacity much higher than most would expect.

We are talking about a design that will most likely be half way between an F-22 and SR-71. Averaged specs are below.

Length: 19m, 32m = 25.5m
Wingspan: 13.5m, 17m = 15.5m
Empty weight: 19.7T, 30T = 25T
Max takeoff: 38T, 78T = 58T
Fuel load: 8.2T, 36T = 22T
Fuel fraction: 0.29, 0.54 = 0.46

The best aerodynamics, structural techniques, materials and highest thrust to weight ratio engines need to be combined to get such a big aircraft to turn.

Ozair wrote:
So a sizeable aircraft then. With likely two AETD engines that are very efficient it will still require a significant amount of fuel to go the distances you are suggesting. Do we define 6th gen as diminished maneuverability, based on that required size, compared to previous generations or simply that modern missiles and DEW will render super maneuverability redundant?

Yes very sizeable with a minimum of 20,000kg fuel.

I think maneuverability will be similar to 4th and 5th gen on average. Like the Flanker family it will probably be G limited when the centre fuel tank is filled.

If we assume the AETD engines have 50,000lb of thrust we can estimate thrust to weigh ratios using my averaged specs above. Fully fueled it has a thrust to weight similar to the F-35. However at 50% fuel capacity its thrust to weight ratio equals the F-22.

The large mass will be difficult to change direction at low speed but at supersonic speeds it will be very easy to sustain 9G. It would not surpirse me if the pilot seat goes fully lay flat durung sustained turns.

Ozair wrote:
Question is, what does Mach 3 provide that significantly enhances over existing capabilities, especially with the emergence of hypersonic missiles which will probably move into the A2A and surface to air arenas?

Mach 3 won't get used very often but it will get used in similar situations where F-15's have hit mach 1.5. These probably include chasing or intercepting other fighters or avoiding SAM's.

Penetrating counter air will probably transit subsonic over friendly territitory as it is still the most efficient way to fly. Supercruising will probably be around mach 1.5 when fully loaded but could supercruise as fast as mach 2 once the aircraft becomes lighter after burning fuel or dropping weapons. Physics and aerodynamics hasn't change much so you can accurately estimate. Mach 3 dash will be used when needed.

A mach 5 missile fired against a mach 3 aircraft in a tail chase will have a very difficult time catching up.

Flying at mach 3 and 80,000ft means most enemy medium ranged missiles have to be launched far infront of the aircraft. A simple 90 degree 9G turn puts the aircraft outside of the NEZ of these missiles.

Only large long ranged missiles such as the S400 will be able to hit PCA but I actually think we will see tiny anti-missile missiles used to hit the SAM's head on. They'll need very little thrust to hit the missiles coming from below.

Flying at mach 3 speed will reduce reaction times to attacks and allows it to cover a very large area to protect B-21's quickly when threats appear.

It can chase down and kill any fighter that disengages due to its massive speed and range advantage.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:08 am

You can't define 6th Gen without knowing how China is going to approach the situation. For 5th gen, they are already looking at mass drone/swarm control via C2 or forward deployed aircraft, that will factor in what dictates our 6th Gen approach. The United States isn't always going to be the party who decides what will constitute the NextGen fighter.
 
RJMAZ
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:03 pm

Controlling drones will be added to F-35's and B-21's. So that will not be a defining characteristic of a 6th gen fighter.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:01 am

RJMAZ wrote:
Ozair wrote:
Do you think that is it? Sustained supersonic performance doesn't seem a generation defining characteristic to me.

You underestimate how difficult it will be to offer sustained supersonic performance while maintaining decent agility. You need a massive fuel fraction and fuel capacity much higher than most would expect.

I don’t doubt the complexity of getting that balance right, I’m just not sure it defines the next generation of future air combat.

RJMAZ wrote:
Yes very sizeable with a minimum of 20,000kg fuel.

I think maneuverability will be similar to 4th and 5th gen on average. Like the Flanker family it will probably be G limited when the centre fuel tank is filled.

If we assume the AETD engines have 50,000lb of thrust we can estimate thrust to weigh ratios using my averaged specs above. Fully fueled it has a thrust to weight similar to the F-35. However at 50% fuel capacity its thrust to weight ratio equals the F-22.

The large mass will be difficult to change direction at low speed but at supersonic speeds it will be very easy to sustain 9G. It would not surprise me if the pilot seat goes fully lay flat during sustained turns.

Interesting, that would probably require some changes to G suits and other associated equipment to handle the different angles and positions let alone how the cockpit might have to move with the pilot. Do you envision the aircraft having a traditional cockpit window/canopy or see it as potentially a windowless box using sensors and projected screens for visibility?

RJMAZ wrote:
Mach 3 won't get used very often but it will get used in similar situations where F-15's have hit mach 1.5. These probably include chasing or intercepting other fighters or avoiding SAM's.

Penetrating counter air will probably transit subsonic over friendly territitory as it is still the most efficient way to fly. Supercruising will probably be around mach 1.5 when fully loaded but could supercruise as fast as mach 2 once the aircraft becomes lighter after burning fuel or dropping weapons. Physics and aerodynamics hasn't change much so you can accurately estimate. Mach 3 dash will be used when needed.

A mach 5 missile fired against a mach 3 aircraft in a tail chase will have a very difficult time catching up.

Flying at mach 3 and 80,000ft means most enemy medium ranged missiles have to be launched far infront of the aircraft. A simple 90 degree 9G turn puts the aircraft outside of the NEZ of these missiles.


Flying at mach 3 speed will reduce reaction times to attacks and allows it to cover a very large area to protect B-21's quickly when threats appear.

It can chase down and kill any fighter that disengages due to its massive speed and range advantage.

There are some tactical benefits to the higher speeds you are suggesting but I’m not convinced the benefits would be worth it for the trade-offs required. Some significant development work will have to go in to stealth materials that allow for those higher speeds, unless the expectation is the PCA won’t be a stealth design (with the USAF appearing to strongly favour stealth characteristics).

The USN has hinted that they favour EW enhancements and speed over stealth for their future platform but they have less experience operating stealth aircraft and likely have some lessons to learn in the next few years after the F-35C goes IOC.

In the context of chasing down or protecting aircraft such as the B-21, I would suggest the better plan is to place the speed in the weapons than in the aircraft and use hypersonic missiles to protect assets at longer ranges. With networked warfare any targets the B-21 couldn’t protect itself from could potentially be targeted cooperatively with long range high speed missiles.

RJMAZ wrote:
Only large long ranged missiles such as the S400 will be able to hit PCA but I actually think we will see tiny anti-missile missiles used to hit the SAM's head on. They'll need very little thrust to hit the missiles coming from below.

The USAF is apparently looking at this already with the below program so I suggest this could feature on aircraft from the middle 2020s.

USAF working on new defensive missile for fighters

US industry could be competing within three years to develop a new self-defence missile for fighters aimed at countering the latest generation of Russian- and Chinese-made air-to-air weapons, says a top Lockheed Martin executive.
For several years, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and several contractors, including Lockheed, Raytheon and Boeing, have been researching concepts and subsystems that could be used in a new kind of air-to-air weapon.
In Lockheed’s concept, this miniature self-defence munition (MDSM) – about half the size of a 3.7m (12ft)-long Raytheon AIM-120D AMRAAM – would boast a limited capability to shoot down opposing aircraft in short-range engagements, says Frank St. John, vice-president of tactical missile and combat manoeuvre systems, speaking on 15 March at Lockheed’s annual Media Day.
But the main purpose of the weapon, also known as the small advanced capabilities missile (SACM) would be to intercept and destroy incoming enemy missiles, such as the long-range, Chinese-made PL-12 and Russian-made Vympel RVV-BD.
“I know that MSDM and SACM and all of those things are responses to those threats in some way as a self defence capability for our aircraft,” St. John says.
St. John estimates the air force could be ready to launch a competition in 18 to 30 months for the new weapon, which, if funded, would add to the internal-carriage arsenal of the F-22 and F-35.
Lockheed’s concept is based on a hit-to-kill weapon that destroys a target with kinetic power alone. Powered by a small rocket motor, it would leverage technology developed for the upgraded PAC-3 missile segment enhancement (MSE) Patriot missile. Lockheed is continuing to study radar and imaging-based sensors for terminal guidance, St. John says.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... rs-423185/


Final question is does the USAF have both the appetite and budget to develop the platform you are suggesting, a significantly larger very high speed aircraft that will require a decent advancement on current material science? If they eventually developed it would they be able to acquire it in sufficient numbers given you would expect all those capabilities in one platform would put it past the US$300 million price tag we have seen suggested and potentially up near B-21 US$500 million levels or beyond.
 
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:35 am

Ozair wrote:
I don’t doubt the complexity of getting that balance right, I’m just not sure it defines the next generation of future air combat.

I think moving anyway from the short range fighter model is what makes it a generational change. Eliminating or severely reducing the need for tankers.


Ozair wrote:
Interesting, that would probably require some changes to G suits and other associated equipment to handle the different angles and positions let alone how the cockpit might have to move with the pilot. Do you envision the aircraft having a traditional cockpit window/canopy or see it as potentially a windowless box using sensors and projected screens for visibility?

The aircraft will definitely have windows. However visibility will be severely reduced in the rearward direction. Bubble canopies are the main restriction of top speed as the glass warps in most fighters. Pictures of the F-22 having the canopy cut open with a chainsaw come to mind. Going to an F-111 style canopy will be more than good enough.

I expect the F-35 style helmet to be able to project all flight information while the pilot sits near horizontal and allow the pilot to see behind him.

The seat reclining and ejection mechanism would be trivial considering the budget.

Ozair wrote:
There are some tactical benefits to the higher speeds you are suggesting but I’m not convinced the benefits would be worth it for the trade-offs required. Some significant development work will have to go in to stealth materials that allow for those higher speeds, unless the expectation is the PCA won’t be a stealth design (with the USAF appearing to strongly favour stealth characteristics).

We are already there technology wise. The F-35 coatings are already much more durable than the F-22. The F-22's coatings could already handle mach 2. The F-22's speed is limited due to the canopy warping and rear fuselage heating due to the engines. The F-35 has shown that it can use fuel as a heatsink to reduce some of this engine heat.

So simply swapping the canopy to an F-111 style and circulating that fuel around the airframe will allow F-22 levels of supercruise to be sustained for the whole mission. Nothing new needs to be developed besides the adaptive engines.

The mach 3 idea is really only theoretical. It may well be digitially speed limited to reduce heat with higher speeds allowed only at higher altitudes. The aircraft would still accelerate extremely fast up to this digital limit and then throttle back to a low afterburner setting. Even mach 2.5 over such large distance gives a massive advantage.

Based on the specs I gave previously based on two 50,000lb class engines. Range might be as follows:
5000nm subsonic at mach 0.8
3000nm supercruise at mach 1.6
1500nm afterburning at mach 2.5

All are roughly 3 times the range of the F-22 if you exclude the overheating.

So it could fly an F-35 subsonic mission profile entirely at mach 2.5. Or it could travel subsonic and fly as far as the B-21.

Ozair wrote:
Final question is does the USAF have both the appetite and budget to develop the platform you are suggesting, a significantly larger very high speed aircraft that will require a decent advancement on current material science? If they eventually developed it would they be able to acquire it in sufficient numbers given you would expect all those capabilities in one platform would put it past the US$300 million price tag we have seen suggested and potentially up near B-21 US$500 million levels or beyond.
Think about the supporting assets.

As we know four F-35's can do the job of more than a dozen 4th generation aircraft as a strike package.

In a peer to peer conflict with China (sorry China) lets look at the air dominance role. Four F-22's would have to get paired with their own tanker and a pair of F-35's to escort that tanker. The F-22's would have to rotate in and out from the tanker in pairs to provide two air dominance aircraft over enemy territory. The tankers would have to remain just outside enemy detection range with the F-35's as escorts over the east china sea.

With the Penetrating Counter Air, two aircraft could take off from Japan, fly subsonic over the east china sea and then provide two air dominance aircraft over enemy territory. They could maintain that dominance for the same duration as the other package.

Two PCA's will easily cost less to purchase and operate than a package of four F-22's, two F-35's and one KC-46.

I believe the USAF realising the short range fighter model is flawed is why the F-22 was cancelled so quick. The push for the F-35 to have excellent range for such a small fighter is another clue. Penetrating counter air is the solution to the failed short range fighter model.
 
RJMAZ
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:54 pm

https://amp.news.com.au/technology/inno ... f88188f38b

Image
Boeing

Image
Lockheed

The canopy and wing sweep definitely points towards mach 3 territory.
 
User avatar
Balerit
Posts: 602
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2015 9:14 am

Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:23 pm

Gripen E is a 6th generation aircraft according to this article:

[url]
https://hushkit-net.cdn.ampproject.org/ ... ripen-e%2F
[/url]
Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (retired).
 
mxaxai
Posts: 902
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:29 am

Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:54 pm

Balerit wrote:
Gripen E is a 6th generation aircraft according to this article:

[url]
https://hushkit-net.cdn.ampproject.org/ ... ripen-e%2F
[/url]

The article is basically an advertisement for the Gripen E, with an interview with its Head of Marketing & Sales.
I also can't make sense of this sentence:
The Gripen has a history of punching above its weight class, with the C/D frequently entered in procurement competitions against the middle-weight Typhoon, Gripen and late-life F-16.

Did the Gripen win competitions against itself?
 
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Balerit
Posts: 602
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2015 9:14 am

Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:10 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Balerit wrote:
Gripen E is a 6th generation aircraft according to this article:

[url]
https://hushkit-net.cdn.ampproject.org/ ... ripen-e%2F
[/url]

The article is basically an advertisement for the Gripen E, with an interview with its Head of Marketing & Sales.
I also can't make sense of this sentence:
The Gripen has a history of punching above its weight class, with the C/D frequently entered in procurement competitions against the middle-weight Typhoon, Gripen and late-life F-16.

Did the Gripen win competitions against itself?


I think it should read Rafale, not Gripen. What I'm thinking here is that 6th Generation is really about sensors and not so much on stealth, maybe even a step backwards in technology. It's no use building a multi billion dollar airplane that might not even last a week under combat conditions.
Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (retired).
 
estorilm
Posts: 612
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:25 pm

IMHO IR signature is going to be the new "stealth" in the future - I'd say "it isn't so difficult to make a stealth aircraft these days" - but that's purely based on the success of the United States and Lockheed. Infrared signatures are one of those fundamental things that you can't (at the moment) really hide - at least with the type of thrust required to be a meaningful fighter. There are scenarios where a cheap aircraft with good IRST (and directional vectoring by some sort of AWACS-type aircraft) could theoretically find a 5th gen. Of course the US would likely have better AWACS assets and it would come down to stealth vs. non-stealth (hmm, tough one) but I could really see IRST suites becoming far more advanced and capable in the future, given Russia and China's lack of success in developing 5th gen fighters. I see them moving to a more defensive mindset where they integrate advanced sensors onto older/cheaper established fighters.

My second opinion here is that 6th gen won't be manned. Controversial, sure.. but it's just black and white here. The IMMENSE AMOUNT of crap required to support a human inside of an aircraft is absolutely crazy. Displays, ejection systems, oxygen generation systems, pressurization, radios, then the SPACE required for a pilot and freedom of movement, visibility (canopy, drag, etc) - it just goes on and on and on. Keep all that weight on the ground, certification will be 1/3rd the cost and maintenance will be exponentially easier.

The aircraft will be smaller, solving RCS, thrust, range, and even max g-load issues. Considering the BILLIONS we spend to get even the slightest advantage in fighter design / technology, this seems like an absolute no-brainer to me. I know there will be issues, but compared to creating a MANNED 6th gen, you solve infinitely more problems than you create.

Again, just my $.02
 
Ozair
Topic Author
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Re: USAF PCA and other 6th gen fighters

Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:30 pm

estorilm wrote:
IMHO IR signature is going to be the new "stealth" in the future - I'd say "it isn't so difficult to make a stealth aircraft these days" - but that's purely based on the success of the United States and Lockheed. Infrared signatures are one of those fundamental things that you can't (at the moment) really hide - at least with the type of thrust required to be a meaningful fighter. There are scenarios where a cheap aircraft with good IRST (and directional vectoring by some sort of AWACS-type aircraft) could theoretically find a 5th gen. Of course the US would likely have better AWACS assets and it would come down to stealth vs. non-stealth (hmm, tough one) but I could really see IRST suites becoming far more advanced and capable in the future, given Russia and China's lack of success in developing 5th gen fighters. I see them moving to a more defensive mindset where they integrate advanced sensors onto older/cheaper established fighters.

US stealth already includes significant IR reduction with increased bypass and cooling air, fuel used as a heat sink and “topcoat” IR reduction being applied to the F-22 and F-35.

The issue I have with a reliance on IR is that what happens if it is cloudy or wet? IR becomes essentially useless and the aircraft has to roll back again to traditional radar sensors that operate 24/7. I see IR as a valid additional sensor but I don’t see it replacing radar as the primary sensor due to their limitations. The use of AESA and advanced radar modes have come a long way in developed LPI techniques that makes detection or identification of the radar very difficult.

estorilm wrote:
My second opinion here is that 6th gen won't be manned. Controversial, sure.. but it's just black and white here. The IMMENSE AMOUNT of crap required to support a human inside of an aircraft is absolutely crazy. Displays, ejection systems, oxygen generation systems, pressurization, radios, then the SPACE required for a pilot and freedom of movement, visibility (canopy, drag, etc) - it just goes on and on and on. Keep all that weight on the ground, certification will be 1/3rd the cost and maintenance will be exponentially easier.

I agree that going fully unmanned is a possibility, although somewhat remote, for a 6th gen platform. How do you see this happening, unmanned with AI control or unmanned with reachback to a central location or a forward deployed asset?

Interesting comments about removing the aircrew being such a factor. I read an aerospace journal article quite a few years ago that indicated or the LRS-B the additional of aircrew contributed to approximately 4% of the design. The LRS-B had always been considered with the potential to operate manned or unmanned so to know that the difference between those two is so small puts the “customisation” required for aircrew in perspective. Yes a fighter is a smaller airframe and the pilot may form a larger percentage of the platform design and systems but I doubt significantly so.

estorilm wrote:
The aircraft will be smaller, solving RCS, thrust, range, and even max g-load issues. Considering the BILLIONS we spend to get even the slightest advantage in fighter design / technology, this seems like an absolute no-brainer to me. I know there will be issues, but compared to creating a MANNED 6th gen, you solve infinitely more problems than you create.

Creating a new wholly unmanned platform would likely require significantly more development money than if the “meatbag” is left in the aircraft. Testing and even traditional flight would likely be easier. Additionally I would expect that a wholly unmanned platform would seek additional performance from the aircraft, likely requiring a much more comprehensive flight test regime than today although the test program could be executed with less threat to life.

Balerit wrote:
I think it should read Rafale, not Gripen. What I'm thinking here is that 6th Generation is really about sensors and not so much on stealth, maybe even a step backwards in technology.

So increase sensors but do little to avoid the increased sensors of the adversary? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Success in air combat historically remains with the element of surprise and being able to shoot first, forcing your opponent onto the defensive. 5th gen platforms continue to enforce those traits. Increased sensor capability assists in those scenarios but only if paired with longer ranged weapons and an attempt to reduce your own detectability.

Balerit wrote:
It's no use building a multi billion dollar airplane that might not even last a week under combat conditions.

Are you inferring that a 6th gen aircraft won’t survive combat over a week or won’t be capable of flying due to maintenance issues? There is extensive knowledge and understanding of operating aircraft at high sortie rates for long durations. The defining issue in sustaining fast jet capability, or jet capability in general, typically ends up being a lack of aircrew and not platform maintenance.

But it is doubtful that a 6th gen is likely to be any more difficult to sustain and maintain than a 5th gen and no more so than a 4th gen aircraft. Engine and systems have come a long way from the 80/90s. For example a Gripen E using a derivative engine designed in the early 90s in 2050 would struggle to reach the availability, long term durability and self-aware technology expected of 6th gen aircraft’s engines.

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