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

Jimmo952

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Is this a real concept, because it looks like a fan-art, and it's too early in the program to have come up with a fully fledged design, imo.

There is no program. The images and specs are based on speculation.

Right now, there is a study underway to determine the best force mix for the USAF moving forward.

The results of that study may or may not result in the USAF pursuing a new aircraft type.

There does seem to be enthusiasm in the Airforce for the new digital engineering paradigm. It seems to be breeding confidence that new designs could be brought into existence much faster than in the last fifty years or so.
 

Foo Fighter

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A bunch of people get together and draw up a fictional airframe and requirement we have no proof exists and talk like a hot air balloon. What can we take from this? Not a single thing. I can draw an aircraft that comes out of speculation but I'm not going to go out and say it's a 5th gen minus or sixth gen aircraft. Frankly this sort of conjecture does nothing for anyone and while the pictures are pretty, it is laughable that they made any kind of potential from it. Example, there is talk the RN are looking into catapults for the QE class ships for drones, this means they are rethinking everything and are about to fit EMALS and fly F-35C and this is why they are reducing the number of B models.
 

helmutkohl

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i'm not really sure what all the confusion is about

the guy said he intentionally chose the F-16XL for his fan art
and is openly stating that this is just to promote his new book.

and with the media going nuts over it and not actually reading what was written, this image has spread way too far.
In the end he got what he wanted, attention for his new book.
 

LowObservable

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It's a what-if exercise, and not a bad one. (Less contrary-to-the-laws-of-physics than things that are out there seeking investments.) Unfortunately, people who are turning it into an extended whinge about the media. And by people, I mean "the usual suspects who would hyperventilate themselves into a coma if they ever had to meet the average journo's deadlines."

What-if's can be useful, and should be encouraged, because we make most of our defense mistakes at the requirements stage. Like adding literally tons to the empty weight of an aircraft so a few of them can carry a certain radar. Or designing a stealth ship and arming it for shore bombardment. Or demanding super-low RCS from a helicopter that will operate nap-of-the-earth. Early and lively discussions at the unclassified level might have helped avoid some of these.
 

Jimmo952

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It's a what-if exercise, and not a bad one. (Less contrary-to-the-laws-of-physics than things that are out there seeking investments.) Unfortunately, people who are turning it into an extended whinge about the media. And by people, I mean "the usual suspects who would hyperventilate themselves into a coma if they ever had to meet the average journo's deadlines."

What-if's can be useful, and should be encouraged, because we make most of our defense mistakes at the requirements stage. Like adding literally tons to the empty weight of an aircraft so a few of them can carry a certain radar. Or designing a stealth ship and arming it for shore bombardment. Or demanding super-low RCS from a helicopter that will operate nap-of-the-earth. Early and lively discussions at the unclassified level might have helped avoid some of these.

You raise a good point about our mistakes largely coming at the requirements stage.

We've been shockingly bad at that.
 

autoeac

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Fan art - but very thoughtful fan art. Lockheed should propose a new version of the 16 with that cranked arrow wing, a new inlet and updated equipment. Boeing did it with the F18 and basically did a complete redesign and put into production in relatively short order.
 

Michel Van

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Looking on current development at F-35, F-22 and coming of F-15EX and new F-16V block71/72

The F-35 had to replace the F-16 years ago and it's production is slow and expensive (total program cost insane...)
For F-22 they even stop the production in 2011 after 195 units.
Now the F-15EX jump in as replacement? supplementary? for F-22
and has to operate with F-35 in combat

now with new F-16V for Bahrain
why do I have this sneaking suspicion
that Successor for USAF F-16 is the F-16V block71/72 ?

it would make sense, cheaper to build because production line is still there
upgrade electronics system with parts from F-35 program and you got low cost fighter comparison to F-35
but if that is better choice only the future can tell
 

Archibald

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Buy KF-X :p - or pour a shitload of dollars into it to accelerate the program.
- South Korea already paid a good chunk of the development cost...
- It looks like a miniature F-22 (so reasonably stealth)
- it has Superbug American & proven engines (F414s).
- And unlike a F-16, it's a whole new aircraft so tons of growth potential plus some serious VLO DNA right from the beginning.

What's not to like ? :cool:
 

TomcatViP

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More or less 70 aircraft per year is slow?!!
To my knowledge this is the most mass produced fighter aircraft today. By far.
 

haavarla

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More or less 70 aircraft per year is slow?!!
To my knowledge this is the most mass produced fighter aircraft today. By far.
I agree. Its not slow by any means of metric. Yes you have to divide them between different countries, but i don't see USA, USN and USM being in such bad stage right now. Perhaps the USN with its F-35C is the one suffers the most. But they can order more SH if they want.
 

tequilashooter

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4chan opinion..png

Were there any political or military related figures that have bashed the F-16, F-18 or F-22s as much as this aircraft like image above that anyone is aware of in my curiosity or countries like China and Russia, officials from their countries just don't have freedom of speech to bash their own 5th gens to as much as the same we are doing? Screaming arrows for F-18s, agm-183s for new F-15s of course new the f-16 replacement make it sound like it the F-35 will barely be used. Did this shift occur because of.

1. costs of flight hours/maintenance?
2. Are there still too many issues to fix based on DOD report that they have to make this transition to other programs( F-15EX/f-16 replacement production) until those issues are resolved?
3. Many new hypersonic air to ground missile programs to be carried by other aircrafts suggest better options to weapons currently used on F-35 for cost effectiveness and probability of success?
4. 5th generation program trying to constantly deal with new technology progression from adversary nations that higher gen aircraft or more special purpose role aircrafts are needed? Like using F-16 replacements and F-15EXs until we begin to transition to NGAD to fulfil requirements of those new emerging threats?
 

shin_getter

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Sometimes I wonder about the cost effectiveness of "counter-procurement" strategy to military success. Why bother shooting when newspapers costs nothing and can delivery decisive effects. How much money does it take to buy like every op-ed spot on a given topic anyhow?

In the grim darkness of future war, there is only clickbait~
 
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Archibald

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Hmmm Rafale annual production numbers is... better not to think about it (SIGH)
 

Josh_TN

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@DWG : be aware that F-35 avionics performances, particularly in the fusion domain are a direct results of the VLO performances.

Parting one from another wouldn't be rational.

I'll have to disagree with you there. Sensor fusion is purely dependent on computing power - taking every bit of data, tagging it with time and position to cross-correlate over multiple sensors into a single picture. Stealth may permit you to get a bit closer to acquire data, but processing that data is purely a computational issue. A non-stealth design doesn't have to compromise antennae design, and moderate output power, for low-observability, so can potentially gather greater amounts of data at longer ranges.
Well, in execution computational, in setup, it involves a vast amount of software which is I think a key component of F-35 cost overruns. But I would agree the low RCS doesn't have a direct impact on sensor fusion other than allowing the aircraft to get closer to potential targets.
 

Josh_TN

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F-35 production is slow... SLOW...
I think it would be more fair to say production is slow for the huge customer base it is equipping - three different orgs in the US alone. I wouldn't particularly call a dozen airframes a month slow. It does seem that the USAF and USN can't get them fast enough to maintain their numbers and is falling back on F-15/F-18 purchases.
 

DWG

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F-35 production is slow... SLOW...
I think it would be more fair to say production is slow for the huge customer base it is equipping - three different orgs in the US alone. I wouldn't particularly call a dozen airframes a month slow. It does seem that the USAF and USN can't get them fast enough to maintain their numbers and is falling back on F-15/F-18 purchases.
144 and headed for 160 is comparable with a lot of other combat aircraft.
 

DWG

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144 and headed for 160 is comparable with a lot of other combat aircraft.
Not to any modern aircraft. By a HUGE margin.
Name a combat aircraft that has exceeded a 144/annum build rate in the past 20 years. That's three times the Eurofighter peak build rate, six times the Gripen build rate and a dozen times the Rafale build rate. J-11, J-15 and J-20 have build rates around the Gripen or Rafale levels. The Russian build rates are so low you practically have to express them on a per decade basis.

144 or 160/annum is back to what we were seeing in the '80s. It's not the 240+/annum of the F-16's production peak, but it is comparable with many of the other combat aircraft in production at that time.
 
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GARGEAN

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144 and headed for 160 is comparable with a lot of other combat aircraft.
Not to any modern aircraft. By a HUGE margin.
Name a combat aircraft that has exceeded a 144/annum build rate in the past 20 years. That's three times the Eurofighter peak build rate, six times the Gripen build rate and a dozen times the Rafale build rate. J-11, J-15 and J-20 have build rates around the Gripen or Rafale levels. The Russian build rates are so low you practically have to express them on a per decade basis.

144 or 160/annum is back to what we were seeing in the '80s. It's not the 240+/annum of the F-16's production peak, but it is comparable with many of the other combat aircraft in production at that time.
That's... Literally what I was saying...

BTW would argue a bit about Russia. Building rates themselves are not infuriatingly low, they are just spread across numerous airframes. If all T-10 will be combined, it won't be anywhere near F-35 but will overblow european birds with ease.
 

Trident

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The Russian build rates are so low you practically have to express them on a per decade basis.

I would not say that - they just move in fits and starts. Post-1990, domestic orders were virtually nil for two decades, though a number of large export contracts to India and China were executed. Despite often lengthy gaps between them, each of these batches was built and delivered in very short order, at least equaling European rates while they ran. Come 2010 and GPV2020 rolled round, finally bringing substantial domestic business, with the result of almost 400 4.5 generation airframes delivered in only 10 years (NOT counting exports, although these had tapered off markedly)! That's the equivalent of the combined UK and French output of 20 years.
 
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aonestudio

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The Air Force will ask Congress to retire 421 legacy aircraft through 2026, replacing them with just 304 new fighters, according to fiscal 2022 budget talking points obtained by Air Force Magazine. The savings derived from operating a smaller fleet will be put toward acquiring new systems such as the Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter later this decade, and a new Multi-Role fighter, called MR-X, in the 2030s.

Beyond the FYDP, and potentially into the 2030s, the Air Force expects about 600 “post block” F-16s—C/D models from Block 40 on—to remain in the force with with some upgrades, useful in both permissive and some competitive environments. The transition to the MR-X is expected “in the mid-30s.” This new airplane will be a “clean sheet” design, created by digital methods, and the “decision point” to launch the program is now expected to be “six to eight years away,” according to the document. The MR-X “must be able to affordably perform missions short of high-end warfare.” The F-35 could potentially fill this role, but only if its operating costs could be “brought significantly lower.”

 

jsport

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The Air Force will ask Congress to retire 421 legacy aircraft through 2026, replacing them with just 304 new fighters, according to fiscal 2022 budget talking points obtained by Air Force Magazine. The savings derived from operating a smaller fleet will be put toward acquiring new systems such as the Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter later this decade, and a new Multi-Role fighter, called MR-X, in the 2030s.

Beyond the FYDP, and potentially into the 2030s, the Air Force expects about 600 “post block” F-16s—C/D models from Block 40 on—to remain in the force with with some upgrades, useful in both permissive and some competitive environments. The transition to the MR-X is expected “in the mid-30s.” This new airplane will be a “clean sheet” design, created by digital methods, and the “decision point” to launch the program is now expected to be “six to eight years away,” according to the document. The MR-X “must be able to affordably perform missions short of high-end warfare.” The F-35 could potentially fill this role, but only if its operating costs could be “brought significantly lower.”

F-25 was created for high end warfare, though seemingly overpriced the cost is likely to be too high for MR-X even if properly controlled.
One would hope the MR-X will be optionally manned w/ HiMAT like dynamic maneuver options.
 

TomS

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I'm terrified that we'll have a press conference in 2035 where they announce that the new fighter will be designated the MR-1A.
 

Maro.Kyo

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Let's say MR-X goes through. Where would they be able to cut corners? What immediately comes into mind are to ditch stuff like ALIS or DAS. That would be a lot of hassle prevented already, thus they would also be able to greatly reduce the number and complexity of the avionics suite. That is also way less stuff to integrate and process with fusion engine as well. Maybe go with a more simpler and traditional MAWS design just like what the current 4.5th gens are using. Since it's "5- gen", they could potentially also reduce the amount of RAM or RAS applied, big part of 5th gen maintenance. Maybe no IWB as well? Non-conformal antennas and sensors might be the case as well since conformal antennas are pain in the ass EMI and EMC-wise, thus harder to make it work than just letting them stick out, meaning less money and time to design.

Engine choice would also be an interesting topic. Since the F135 would probly get its upgrade in few years, it would be an easy choice to go around it as well. Other choice might be twin F414 design or a single F100/F110 variant. I've heard somewhere that the tradeoff for extremely high TIT of F135 was shorter than usual engine life so opting for a F-16 or F-18 like lay-out might as well be cheaper than using the F135 (or something like the new GE ACE F135 competitor) in terms of maintenance.

The thing though, is that imo it would be post 2031~32 at the earliest when this fighter gets introduced, even when they utilize the digital engineering to design this aircraft. For a mainstay aircraft which is to be procured in a number greater than 300 airframes replacing more than 400 aircrafts, it would be pretty hard to cut a lot of corners performance-wise without sacrificing some of its abilities to operate in highly contested airspace. So in terms of how these aircrafts would be utilized, I could think of few, starting from homeland defense (We would probably not see this aircraft in Kadena or Osan I feel. Especially considering fighter jets to operate in this theater require longer range and MR-X would probably not be that kind of fighter), fast CAS, and also a sub-in role in international peace keeping operations in Middle East and Africa.

The real question would be though, in such case, why not just buy Super Hornets for the AF? It's got some RO design, decent radar, and is cheaper than F-15EX (Block III costs $30~37 million less per airframe flyaway than the F-15EX) but in the same time more capable than the F-16Vs. It could also incorporate MAWS and IRST according to the Internation Hornet designs.

What kind of advantage could a clean sheet MR-X provide over SH Block III (or a potential Block IV which is closer to International Hornet, funded by USAF with its MR-X development budget)? I can't really think of any apart from few minor stuff. From the maintenance and life-cycle cost stand point, I think its impossible for a clean sheet MR-X beat SH as well, considering that the USN is upgrading almost all its SHs into the Block III standards, is procuring new airframes, current operators of SH would probably follow the USN and there could potentially be more overseas sales just like in Germany. I think its a no-brainer
 
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Archibald

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Especially since the next in sequence would be fraught with implications to francophone people...

This doesn't seem to have bothered
- Audi and its e-tron (an etron being a poo in french)
- Jaws sequel title in French: "les dents de la mer 2" (no kidding: "Jaws" would have translated as "machoires" but it was felt that sounded very ackward: so instead it was translated by something like "teeths in the sea" - which sounds equally ackward when translated in eglish, c'est la vie)
Problem was the sequel: Jaws 2 become "les dents de la mer 2" which exactly sounds like "a poo with teeth" and surely enough it was a shitty movie (baduuuum-tsssss !)

Then again, the sixth episode in the Saw series of horror movie was called "saw six" which exactly sounds like "saucisse" - you guess: sausage. Although that's quite appropriate since the killer turn people into minced meat or meat pulp (pick your choice)
Saw 7 was hardly better, sounding like "chaussette" - socks - or "sucette" (lollipop ROTFL)

The real question would be though, in such case, why not just buy Super Hornets for the AF? It's got some RO design, decent radar, and is cheaper than F-15EX (Block III costs $30~37 million less per airframe flyaway than the F-15EX) but in the same time more capable than the F-16Vs. It could also incorporate MAWS and IRST according to the Internation Hornet designs.

What kind of advantage could a clean sheet MR-X provide over SH Block III (or a potential Block IV which is closer to International Hornet, funded by USAF with its MR-X development budget)? I can't really think of any apart from few minor stuff. From the maintenance and life-cycle cost stand point, I think its impossible for a clean sheet MR-X beat SH as well, considering that the USN is upgrading almost all its SHs into the Block III standards, is procuring new airframes, current operators of SH would probably follow the USN and there could potentially be more overseas sales just like in Germany. I think its a no-brainer

What you say make tons of sense, alas it doesn't make any sense to USAF because
"ARE YOU FREAKKIN' KIDDING ME THAT THING IS A FREAKKIN' NAVY AIRCRAFT "
 

Josh_TN

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I doubt SuperBugs will be in production in the timeframe the USAF is envisioning. There are probably a lot economic benefits to a clean sheet design in terms of reliability, enigine efficiency, and maintenance, so long as the requirements can use off the shelf tech and the program management insists on no gold plating. The B-21 is coming along nicely despite having a much more ambitious set of requirements.
 

Dragon029

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Let's say MR-X goes through. Where would they be able to cut corners? What immediately comes into mind are to ditch stuff like ALIS or DAS.
ALIS (or rather some kind of prognostic maintenance system) is something you'll want to keep, you just need to have it executed better, ideally by it being a repeatedly competed system that the government owns the rights to.

As for DAS; while there'd be room for cost and schedule savings by not having the F-35 DAS's fancier software features, I don't think you'd save much money by making the sensors themselves less capable, particularly with how IIR sensors are trending lower in cost and reduced cooling requirements. It'd also be nice to have the fancier DAS functions available as a software-only growth option.
Since it's "5- gen", they could potentially also reduce the amount of RAM
I definitely agree there, as well as with the antennas (not sure what you're referring with IWB though - are you talking about the wing being integral to the fuselage?). I'd probably aim for something like a Super Hornet's level of low observability.
Other choice might be twin F414 design or a single F100/F110 variant. I've heard somewhere that the tradeoff for extremely high TIT of F135 was shorter than usual engine life
The F414 might not have much life left by the time an MR-X is procured; Navy NGAD will be starting to replaces Super Hornets and I really wouldn't be surprised if they use an adaptive cycle engine as well in order to meet range requirements. F110s will be around for a while with the F-15EX fleet and might be a good choice. As for the F135 and TIT, each engine is designed to last the full service life of the airframe with overhauls every 2000 hours. The TIT may be high, but they have the materials to back it, and the engine is down-rated to provide sufficient durability (it's produced >50,000lbf on a test stand).
The real question would be though, in such case, why not just buy Super Hornets for the AF?
It's not cheap enough; I'm also not sure it offers the same level of open architecture avionics as the USAF is interested in pursuing (though you could always retrofit such a capability). When the USAF talks about the MR-X being cheap, they're talking about how in 2018, Mattis set an 'affordability constraint' on the USAF that apparently requires the USAF F-35A fleet in 2036 (it's a kind of baseline year for this affordability analysis) to cost $4.1 million per tail, per year (https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-505t).

I'm not sure why they set that figure as the requirement, but if we use the 250 flight hours per year that the Pentagon uses in their sustainment cost estimates, that works out to a required CPFH of $16,400. I don't have CPFH figures for the Super Hornet (there are reimbursable CPFH figures, but they're not comparable in this context), but if an F-16C/D costs ~25k/hr and Boeing was advertising the F-15EX's low sustainment costs at $28k/hr, I don't think a Super Hornet is going to reach the $16.4k/hr constraint, let alone be far enough below that to offset the F-35A's CPFH.

I'm expecting that this 'affordability constraint' will be removed, or that it's been mischaracterised by the GAO incorrectly and doesn't actually mean a CAPE-style total ownership CPTPY of $4.1m, but if it does, then frankly perhaps MR-X will need to be a very low cost platform like an MQ-9 successor (if said successor aims to keep similar sustainment costs to the Reaper).
 

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