Multi-Role fighter (MR-X) F-16 Replacement ("4.5 Generation Fighter")

Josh_TN

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I had just assumed F-35 was the F-16 replacement?

EDIT: ah, I see, they want something more cost effective. I don't buy that. The fly away costs between an F-16/18 and an F-35 aren't that great. And while the operating costs are significantly higher, I can't imagine that going through the R&D of a new airframe and then building out the infrastructure for that new airframe would result in operating cost savings over aircraft life.

If they need more cheaper to operate 4th gen a/c, buy more F-15. The training and parts are already mostly there, bases can accommodate them, and there is zero development costs - they are already buying 140+ of them anyway. Drape as much A2G as you want on it.
 
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starviking

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I had just assumed F-35 was the F-16 replacement?

EDIT: ah, I see, they want something more cost effective. I don't buy that. The fly away costs between an F-16/18 and an F-35 aren't that great. And while the operating costs are significantly higher, I can't imagine that going through the R&D of a new airframe and then building out the infrastructure for that new airframe would result in operating cost savings over aircraft life.

If they need more cheaper to operate 4th gen a/c, buy more F-15. The training and parts are already mostly there, bases can accommodate them, and there is zero development costs - they are already buying 140+ of them anyway. Drape as much A2G as you want on it.
I think it could be useful having a high-performance fighter to offer in the market for people who cannot get, or cannot afford the F-35.
 

Josh_TN

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I had just assumed F-35 was the F-16 replacement?

EDIT: ah, I see, they want something more cost effective. I don't buy that. The fly away costs between an F-16/18 and an F-35 aren't that great. And while the operating costs are significantly higher, I can't imagine that going through the R&D of a new airframe and then building out the infrastructure for that new airframe would result in operating cost savings over aircraft life.

If they need more cheaper to operate 4th gen a/c, buy more F-15. The training and parts are already mostly there, bases can accommodate them, and there is zero development costs - they are already buying 140+ of them anyway. Drape as much A2G as you want on it.
I think it could be useful having a high-performance fighter to offer in the market for people who cannot get, or cannot afford the F-35.

Then that should be something LockMart funds itself, not DoD.
 

Fluff

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A new lightweight but long range fighter?
I'm struggling to see this as a fighter.

Right now im seeing subsonic, straighter wing, longer wing, more pylons, 2 engines(biz jet).

If enemy fighters turn up, having got past the F22/F35 FXX and everything else, then 1 or 2 aircraft carry a missile carrying drone, and the 'fat alberts' turn for home.
 

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I had just assumed F-35 was the F-16 replacement?

EDIT: ah, I see, they want something more cost effective. I don't buy that. The fly away costs between an F-16/18 and an F-35 aren't that great. And while the operating costs are significantly higher, I can't imagine that going through the R&D of a new airframe and then building out the infrastructure for that new airframe would result in operating cost savings over aircraft life.

If they need more cheaper to operate 4th gen a/c, buy more F-15. The training and parts are already mostly there, bases can accommodate them, and there is zero development costs - they are already buying 140+ of them anyway. Drape as much A2G as you want on it.
Maybe cheaper to use the F35 aerodynamics, and strip out the expensive stuff? Ditch the RAM etc.
 

Wyvern

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What about a modernized F20?
It wouldn't make much sense, considering that the F-5 is going out of service and that is a 40 year old design that never caught on, meaning it would be expensive to revamp it.
 

elmayerle

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What about a modernized F20?
F-20 would need some major changes to be functional. Probably better to go with a new design. It really, really needs a larger wing to get wing loading down to a reasonable number.
 

Colonial-Marine

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Perhaps something like the Boeing Model 24 or Northrop Low Cost Fighter with an F100 or F110 engine? Is the F119 still in production?

I have my doubts about this however. The USAF has a lot on their plate already and DC will probably be looking for things to cut in the coming years.

I would love to see all of this digital engineering, rapid prototyping, "Digital Century Series" stuff come to fruition but from what I know of aircraft manufacturing getting a production line up and running is still a huge, costly, and time consuming investment. If they could do it as easy as they hope they should start with a modernized F-22 as proof-of-concept rather than a new lightweight fighter.
 

kaiserd

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if such an aircraft was actually required/ a wise investment why not just buy new-build F-16s?
And wouldn’t any aircraft in this general class also be over-kill and miss-match for almost all low threat anti-terrorist/ insurgency type scenarios?
Is the point to provide US forces what they need or to provide portions of US industry with what they think they need to sell while also hoping to hobble other rivals (like LM and the F-35 program).
 

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I actually have always seen the F-35 more as an F-117A replacement. I saw them making room for it in the force structure by replacing the F-16, as the USAF has always used it, the F-16, operationally, more as a bomber than a fighter. However, I think what is happening is the USAF is finding out the F-35 costs way more to operate than they originally budgeted for the program. So, I think they are looking for something that's less costly for typical operations (Not first week of battle). The question is, what level of LO would it require? Super Hornet levels? I would love to see them bring back the trapezoidal wing F-16 design (That's not the XL).
 

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So, just pure guess work here, but it sounds like the USAF is finally admitting that Lockheed is in way over their heads and they will never have even close to the number of F-35s they need to replace the Viper, let alone the Eagle. Something the Navy realized and admitted years ago when they cut the number of F-35s theyplanned to purchase by two thirds.
 

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After reading a Flight article about this I'm left somewhat struggling to picture the role this new fighter would fulfill. Obviously this isn't purely a "somewhat downgraded export" project as the initiative comes from within the Air Force itself. Notions about "generations" of aircraft aren't very helpful in almost any context anymore but my first associations in terms of form factors and capabilities fall somewhere between, say, India's TEDBF and South Korea's K-FX. Perhaps the statement is also a roundabout way of acknowledging that "loyal wingmen", mixed swarms, developments in sensors, extended range requirements and such have rendered "maximum stealth" solutions a bit less attractive than they were before? Or that in certain situations quantity and simplicity is preferred over quality?
 

djfawcett

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Sometimes I really wonder about conclusions reached in this forum. "Guess work" is an understatement. Just how can it be deduced that USAF now realizes Lockheed is way over their heads. If that is remotely true, the US is in a crap load of trouble! We all better start practicing our Chinese and Russian if that be the case!
 

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Sometimes I really wonder about conclusions reached in this forum. "Guess work" is an understatement. Just how can it be deduced that USAF now realizes Lockheed is way over their heads. If that is remotely true, the US is in a crap load of trouble! We all better start practicing our Chinese and Russian if that be the case!
Seeing as you couldn't be bothered to quote me, despite clearly responding to my comment, I struggled with whether to respond or not. But, fuck it, I'm bored so let's go.

Since 2006, when the Lighting first entered production, Lockheed has built about 615 total aircraft. Now granted, they had some extremely low production numbers for the first few years as they were still developing the plane and in 2020 they built 120 aircraft. But the US needs, officially, over 2,400 aircraft. Lockheed planned to build 141 planes last year, but well, covid. Now, if every single one of those planes were delivered to the US, it would take almost fifteen years to deliver enough planes to the US (2,456 total minus the 375 that had already been delivered by June of 2020). Except not all of those planes are going to the US. All of the countries that ordered planes want there's too. So foreign customers need to be accommodated too. At best, it's going to take 20 years from this point for the US to get all the F-35s they want. By that point, the first planes delivered are going to be almost 40 years old themselves and in need of replacement (if not earlier). So I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that Lockheed is in over their heads and will never be able to supply enough fighters to meet the demand.
 

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Come to think of it, re: my earlier post, I'm reminded of the Boeing/Saab T-7 project which seems to have proceeded without a hitch. Perhaps, without saying it quite out aloud, Gen. CQ Brown in thinking in terms of a US version of Gripen E? A special "Super Gripen", optimized for homeland duty, dare I say a contemporary take on the venerable F-106, a single engine delta? This would also have very, very interesting ramifications for the Nordic region, potentially a "band of Gripens" stretching from the Baltic sea over the GIUK gap into Canada and all the way to the US? Potential for fast design, cost effectiveness and a short lead time to IOC.
 

SSgtC

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Come to think of it, re: my earlier post, I'm reminded of the Boeing/Saab T-7 project which seems to have proceeded without a hitch. Perhaps, without saying it quite out aloud, Gen. CQ Brown in thinking in terms of a US version of Gripen E? A special "Super Gripen", optimized for homeland duty, dare I say a contemporary take on the venerable F-106, a single engine delta? This would also have very, very interesting ramifications for the Nordic region, potentially a "band of Gripens" stretching from the Baltic sea over the GIUK gap into Canada and all the way to the US? Potential for fast design, cost effectiveness and a short lead time to IOC.
Is the Gripen, or even an upgraded version, really an improvement over a Block 70 F-16 though?
 

isayyo2

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While I appreciate this equally refreshing and troubling change of direction, I do wonder about the necessity of this all.

Agreeing with @SSgtC, how surprising, what would a clean design really offer over a Block 70/72/F-21? The F-16 line in South Carolina is hot and could be expanded, as can the F-15 line in St. Louis; FY 83 had F-15 and F-16 production at 52 and 120 units. Should a new F-16 have DSI, EOTS, and -132 engines tacked on? Wouldn't hurt. We already have Have-Glass V and APG-83 rolled out. Is this a slap to the face for our original F-35 partner nations? I sure think so, and I bet Canada is smug over this too.

Canceling the F-22 production and F136 development was a cock-up and something we should all agree on. If we would have just stayed on course instead of penny pinching and finding new countries to bomb I really doubt we'd be in this bad of a predicament.

Do NGAD/PCA/FA-XX need to be 6th gen? Why not 5.5 gen?
 
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starviking

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I would assume, engineering-wise, that the F-16 and F-15 are at least old hat structurally, aerodynamically, and in the databus/software area too. I’m willing to be corrected if they are not.

A well-run programme could produce a more efficient, maintainable, and survivable plane that slots right in to digital maintenance systems pioneered by the F-35. And a plane coming on line when the Viper and the Eagle are looking their age. That’s not a bad thing, and keeps American/Western defense diplomacy active too - not ceding ground to Russia or China.
 

starviking

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Come to think of it, re: my earlier post, I'm reminded of the Boeing/Saab T-7 project which seems to have proceeded without a hitch. Perhaps, without saying it quite out aloud, Gen. CQ Brown in thinking in terms of a US version of Gripen E? A special "Super Gripen", optimized for homeland duty, dare I say a contemporary take on the venerable F-106, a single engine delta? This would also have very, very interesting ramifications for the Nordic region, potentially a "band of Gripens" stretching from the Baltic sea over the GIUK gap into Canada and all the way to the US? Potential for fast design, cost effectiveness and a short lead time to IOC.
Is the Gripen, or even an upgraded version, really an improvement over a Block 70 F-16 though?
The new versions carry the Meteor long-range missile, and have improved stealth. But I guess it all depends on what you are going to do with it.
 

perttime

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Come to think of it, re: my earlier post, I'm reminded of the Boeing/Saab T-7 project which seems to have proceeded without a hitch. Perhaps, without saying it quite out aloud, Gen. CQ Brown in thinking in terms of a US version of Gripen E? A special "Super Gripen", optimized for homeland duty, dare I say a contemporary take on the venerable F-106, a single engine delta? This would also have very, very interesting ramifications for the Nordic region, potentially a "band of Gripens" stretching from the Baltic sea over the GIUK gap into Canada and all the way to the US? Potential for fast design, cost effectiveness and a short lead time to IOC.
Is the Gripen, or even an upgraded version, really an improvement over a Block 70 F-16 though?
Depends on what you want.
The Gripen might be considered a modern day F-20. You can afford more of them but one cannot carry as much as even an F-16.
 

UpForce

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Is the Gripen, or even an upgraded version, really an improvement over a Block 70 F-16 though?
There are head to head comparisons of said F-16 and Gripen on the web aplenty (of which I have scarcely seen any) but I was perhaps trying to project forward in terms of whole systems and strategic necessities and opportunities. Have these aircraft ever been considered simultaneously in any procurement process? Not saying this was altogether thought through as an argument but Boeing/Saab may indeed have something going on, or at least the good Gen.'s statement could be seen as egging such partnerships on. "Super Gripen" coupled with Boeing's ATS could be an idea. Mind you, "clean sheet" should imply more than a new variant of an existing fighter, so "Super Gripen" mostly stands in lieu of a yet-to-exist T-7 like Boeing/Saab fighter project through evolution of the "affordable gen 4.5" Swedish design and production process.
 

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What about a single-seat T-7? Relatively low-cost and more suited for lower-level conflicts.

But Brown wants advanced sensors, modern open-mission systems and so its going to be relatively costly, its still going to need active and passive defences to survive in high-threat enviroments, the USAF is unlikely to build a fighter it can't deploy alongside the F-35 fleet. Some LO features are inevitable.

I find his comment "get there faster" as odd, the F-16 has never been a slouch. Presumably he means more than Mach 1.6 at supercruise?

Brown is also perhaps dangerous in saying the USAF could get along with 4.5 or 5-minus (whatever the hell 5-minus means) fighter after having insisted for over three decades that only the F-35 could survive in a modern peer conflict. This is an admission that the later F-16s and F-15EXs are actually more than suitable for most tactical situations. Congress seems notably picky about what they spend money on and this would need a good rationale.

Isn't this just opening the door for more lobbying by LM and Boeing to keep their F-16 and F/A-18 production lines open another twenty years?
 

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Brown is also perhaps dangerous in saying the USAF could get along with 4.5 or 5-minus (whatever the hell 5-minus means) fighter after having insisted for over three decades that only the F-35 could survive in a modern peer conflict. This is an admission that the later F-16s and F-15EXs are actually more than suitable for most tactical situations. Congress seems notably picky about what they spend money on and this would need a good rationale.

Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't the whole rationale behind the F-35 that it was the plane that went in in the first days of conflict, hit the critical targets, and degraded enemy air defences enough that non-stealth/lower-stealth planes could operate in theatre?
 

Jimmo952

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Brown is also perhaps dangerous in saying the USAF could get along with 4.5 or 5-minus (whatever the hell 5-minus means) fighter after having insisted for over three decades that only the F-35 could survive in a modern peer conflict. This is an admission that the later F-16s and F-15EXs are actually more than suitable for most tactical situations. Congress seems notably picky about what they spend money on and this would need a good rationale.

Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't the whole rationale behind the F-35 that it was the plane that went in in the first days of conflict, hit the critical targets, and degraded enemy air defences enough that non-stealth/lower-stealth planes could operate in theatre?

You are remembering correctly.
 

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IMOHO, getting there fast is about getting there en masse quicker
Stealth airframe need special basing infra that shorten and narrow their war ready environments. Something that J10's, and Su27s don't have.
There is also the sensitivity of exposing stealth assets in a long Phoney war preceding any future conflicts as much as leaving allies exposed to Chinese or Russian market penetration that invariably alter your geopolitical stance.

Also the Ferrari analogy is more interesting as it illustrate the aspect of the needs to save and protect your best assets by deploying and marketing less sensitive technology.
See it as a buffering fighter.

That's why I refer to it as a new Light weight fighter but with range as the F-15 itself might be too heavy in term of cost ownership but her range probably being today seen as a minimum. (in fact I planned if I had time to post a Zwilling F-20 profile ;). *

* OMG I am gonna be flagged as a heretic!
 
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riggerrob

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After reading a Flight article about this I'm left somewhat struggling to picture the role this new fighter would fulfill. ... "loyal wingmen", mixed swarms,

What if the USAF bought plenty of unmanned "loyal wingman" variants of the new airframe, plus a handful of manned versions.\?

Manned versions - in USAF service - would legitimize the airframe for export. If the USA suspects that foreign customers might not be 100 percent loyal (to the USA) then simple software down-grades could quickly ground the foreign fleet of fighter/bombers.

Definitely need a single engine to keep costs within reason.
 

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What if the USAF bought plenty of unmanned "loyal wingman" variants of the new airframe, plus a handful of manned versions.\?
Makes sense, this is the same thing Rostec is proposing right now on the other side of the pond. It has the potential to provide more resources and much more flexible than a fleet of expensive manned fighters.
 

Wyvern

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What about a single-seat T-7? Relatively low-cost and more suited for lower-level conflicts.
I believe a single-seat T-7 (or at least a combat capable variant) has been rumoured to be on the cards as a competitor to the KAI F/A-50, and as a replacement to the venerable F-5. It would make sense for the ANG to replace their oldest F-16s with combat capable T-7s, although I do believe that is does lack in performance, but it ticks the other boxes, and a variant with a more powerful engine would make sense, and is feasable. The only other options would be upgraded Gripens, manufactured in the US, or heavily redesigned F-16s. I don't think an all new design is completely necessary, but, it would be nice to see something new.
 

TomS

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Brown is also perhaps dangerous in saying the USAF could get along with 4.5 or 5-minus (whatever the hell 5-minus means) fighter after having insisted for over three decades that only the F-35 could survive in a modern peer conflict. This is an admission that the later F-16s and F-15EXs are actually more than suitable for most tactical situations. Congress seems notably picky about what they spend money on and this would need a good rationale.

Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't the whole rationale behind the F-35 that it was the plane that went in in the first days of conflict, hit the critical targets, and degraded enemy air defences enough that non-stealth/lower-stealth planes could operate in theatre?

You are remembering correctly.

I'm not sure he is. JSF was also sold as an aircraft that would fly VLO with internal weapons for "Day One" strikes, then revert to a non-VLO configuration with external weapons for follow-on operations after the IADS was knocked down to manageable levels. Hence the extensive external hardpoints.
 

Wyvern

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What if the USAF bought plenty of unmanned "loyal wingman" variants of the new airframe, plus a handful of manned versions.\?
Makes sense, this is the same thing Rostec is proposing right now on the other side of the pond. It has the potential to provide more resources and much more flexible than a fleet of expensive manned fighters.
What about a fleet of optionally manned fighters? They can be both manned or unmanned, depending on what the mission states, giving even greater flexibility. I have read on the internet that there was a planned optionally manned version of the F-35, but I don't remember from where. If the USAF was going to go so far as to make a stealth optionally manned aircraft, why not make a conventional one?
 

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I'd start with a Low intensity wing of these:

1613764459369.png


Then refurb F16's for ground pounding.

Then a wing of F35's without the expensive parts, but can be added to later, so you have attrition replacements for the 'full' F35's. And a big pool of aircrew.

Add in a few hundred loyal wingmen and your all good five years from now.

Dont forget: the excellent is the enemy of the good!
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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F-35 is a fine plane, but simplicity and maintainability took a back seat to stealth and advanced capability. The promise that you could have your high end stealth fighter capability and it also be cheap to buy and easy to maintain was always magical thinking. Buy costs were supposed to come down due to scale of production, which they have to some extent, but maintainability....

The idea of software updates in real time on a mission terrifies me as an IT Engineer.

The key question is where you position this design sizewise. One F414-EDE for reduced SFC and enhanced durability seems like a good starting point.
 

djfawcett

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Sometimes I really wonder about conclusions reached in this forum. "Guess work" is an understatement. Just how can it be deduced that USAF now realizes Lockheed is way over their heads. If that is remotely true, the US is in a crap load of trouble! We all better start practicing our Chinese and Russian if that be the case!
Seeing as you couldn't be bothered to quote me, despite clearly responding to my comment, I struggled with whether to respond or not. But, fuck it, I'm bored so let's go.

Since 2006, when the Lighting first entered production, Lockheed has built about 615 total aircraft. Now granted, they had some extremely low production numbers for the first few years as they were still developing the plane and in 2020 they built 120 aircraft. But the US needs, officially, over 2,400 aircraft. Lockheed planned to build 141 planes last year, but well, covid. Now, if every single one of those planes were delivered to the US, it would take almost fifteen years to deliver enough planes to the US (2,456 total minus the 375 that had already been delivered by June of 2020). Except not all of those planes are going to the US. All of the countries that ordered planes want there's too. So foreign customers need to be accommodated too. At best, it's going to take 20 years from this point for the US to get all the F-35s they want. By that point, the first planes delivered are going to be almost 40 years old themselves and in need of replacement (if not earlier). So I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that Lockheed is in over their heads and will never be able to supply enough fighters to meet the demand.
What you are really trying to say is that the United States is in over their heads with the F-35 program. "This is just pure guess work" but if Lockheed is not capable of producing the aircraft, I will guarantee you neither are Boeing and Northrop. Maybe all three should form a partnership like ULA where all three can manufacturer the plane (they have truly shown the way what two mega companies can do when partnered up - LOL). Ooooppppssss ...... they sort have already done that given the sharing of component manufacturing. So we are back to square one, it appears everybody "is in way over their heads."
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I'm not doubting Lockheed Martin's technical capability. The airforce wanted a Formula One car, and claimed it would cost the same as a standard Toyota and be as reliable and easy to maintain. The vendor politely entertained the notion this was possible.
 

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