RIP F-35: The Air Force's Sixth-Generation Fighter Could Make Everything Obsolete

RIP F-35: The Air Force's Sixth-Generation Fighter Could Make Everything Obsolete

Current work on a futuristic 6th-gen fighter - to come after and fly alongside upgraded F-35s -- includes development of stealthy drone fighters, hypersonic flight, lasers, new precision weaponry and advanced AI able organize targeting data in milliseconds.

Interestingly, anticipated speed and range of enemy weapons and sensors continues to motivate ongoing discussion about whether “dogfighting” itself could become obsolete. Identifying, and potentially destroying an enemy aircraft before being seen is a key premise informing F-35 strategy. While the stealth fighter is engineered to dogfight, its Electro/Optical Targeting System and Distributed Aperture System are specifically designed to enable early detection of enemy fighters. The concept is, quite simply, to destroy an enemy before you yourself are seen, potentially preventing an enemy from coming close enough to require a dogfight.

This concept, in fact, informs the basis for a 2015 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study which found that future Air Force fighters might benefit from being much larger and less maneuverable. This would enable them to carry more weapons, draw upon more on-board power and integrate more heavier weight sensors, antennas and other key warfare assets. However, while an interesting suggestion, few are of the mind to think that any kind of 6th Gen fighter would not need to reach unprecedented levels of speed and maneuverability.

Kris Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This first appeared in Warrior Maven here