USAF/US NAVY 6G Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA, ASFS news

And all of that happened inside the last year? Since the RFP was released last summer. What are the odds of that? More likely that they simply don't have the funds and a rescoping at the 11th hour will lead to lawsuits and a huge set of other problems which make setting this aside and starting on a new program (like NGB?) the only viable next step unless they have funding and walk all this talk back.
A while ago a very large company in the USA (I can't say which one) commissioned me to design a sixth generation fighter, to use it in a report that would be shown to investors from what I understood.
The leader of this project was an aerospace engineer who worked at both Boeing and Lockheed, because, although he did not know what the proposals of both companies were like, he did have some knowledge of the general aspects of both.
One of the things they emphasized the most is that the model had to be large, about 22 meters, have side air intakes and above all that it had to look very similar to a modern YF-23 (which they emphasized the most).
And what caught my attention the most was that they wanted him to have foldable tails. They told me that this was so that it would be as stealthy as possible on long flights and that when the plane reached its destination or the pilot needed it, the tails that in "stealth mode" would make it look like a plane without a tail (like those seen in most representations), folded upwards, reaching an angle similar to that of a YF-23, so that the plane would enter "combat mode."
I asked if this was an assumption or if it was real information, to which I had no answer... and I just continued with the work (which I cannot show due to confidentiality issues).
But if, as I believe, the information they gave me is based on some type of knowledge, what can be assumed is that as we say in Argentina, if it barks, has four legs and wags its tail, it is a dog; here perhaps it happens that the plane must meet too many requirements which makes it extremely expensive (perhaps much more than 300 million per plane in reality).
These requirements would be to fly very far while being very stealthy and carry a lot of weapons, so it would have to be quite large; and also have good maneuverability and the ability to self-defense in the "traditional way" (dog combat) in case of encountering an enemy.
That's why when I read that perhaps the possibility of adapting the B-21 as a sixth-generation fighter was being evaluated, I wasn't very surprised. Because here the requirements would clearly be being simplified: the ability to maneuver is completely nullified.
I would love to know if the information they gave me to design is real and also to know if the folding tails are one of the characteristics of any of the participants. If so, and this thing about folding tails is from Lockheed's proposal, and they were the ones who presented something "more traditional", I would much more like to know what Boeing presented.
I don't know if all this is true or not. I just wanted to share it...
Best regards!
 
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When they say downsize the engine they're talking the physical size, which means the physical weight. Weight directly correlates with cost. If the engine they decide to go for is 80% the weight of the demonstrator engines than it should be roughly 80% of the cost. Also, they probably can make the airframe smaller because the original design didn't have CCA's in mind. Which means it was carrying six to eight missiles internally. They can probably pare that down to four missiles internally and put the rest on CCAs. That will give them a smaller lower weight aircraft with smaller engines, lowering the cost of the aircraft. However, with the added capability of the CCAs, it would be just as effective or possibly more effective than the original configuration size they were originally looking at. Makes complete sense to me.
But now they're hobbled by CCA's speed and range (or lack of both). Can't leave the CCA's behind and, from the looks of it, those are going to be strictly subsonic.
 
A while ago a very large company in the USA (I can't say which one) commissioned me to design a sixth generation fighter, to use it in a report that would be shown to investors from what I understood.
The leader of this project was an aerospace engineer who worked at both Boeing and Lockheed, because, although he did not know what the proposals of both companies were like, he did have some knowledge of the general aspects of both.
One of the things they emphasized the most is that the model had to be large, about 22 meters, have side air intakes and above all that it had to look very similar to a modern YF-23 (which they emphasized the most).
And what caught my attention the most was that they wanted him to have foldable tails. They told me that this was so that it would be as stealthy as possible on long flights and that when the plane reached its destination or the pilot needed it, the tails that in "stealth mode" would make it look like a plane without a tail (like those seen in most representations), folded upwards, reaching an angle similar to that of a YF-23, so that the plane would enter "combat mode."
I asked if this was an assumption or if it was real information, to which I had no answer... and I just continued with the work (which I cannot show due to confidentiality issues).
But if, as I believe, the information they gave me is based on some type of knowledge, what can be assumed is that as we say in Argentina, if it barks, has four legs and wags its tail, it is a dog; here perhaps it happens that the plane must meet too many requirements which makes it extremely expensive (perhaps much more than 300 million per plane in reality).
These requirements would be to fly very far while being very stealthy and carry a lot of weapons, so it would have to be quite large; and also have good maneuverability and the ability to self-defense in the "traditional way" (dog combat) in case of encountering an enemy.
That's why when I read that perhaps the possibility of adapting the B-21 as a sixth-generation fighter was being evaluated, I wasn't very surprised. Because here the requirements would clearly be being simplified: the ability to maneuver is completely nullified.
I would love to know if the information they gave me to design is real and also to know if the folding tails are one of the characteristics of any of the participants. If so, and this thing about folding tails is from Lockheed's proposal, and they were the ones who presented something "more traditional", I would much more like to know what Boeing presented.
I don't know if all this is true or not. I just wanted to share it...
Best regards!
Purely wild, I love it.
 
Another surreally political post.

I am not bound by any US Laws, yet there is no point in talking too much.

There exists a possibility of a change through the US Elections.

Which might lead to further fraught court battles between political sides, next wave of charges revolving around ignoring some form of a greatest threat. As an example, the possible criminal charges against Boeing to take advantage of claims of failure taking hold of the US economy.

Which then centers once again on the Naval Fighter of 2017. Purely speculative, considering the wide range of US legal issues the forum might be falling afoul of today. With the numbers I am making up just for the purposes of this discussion. 50% capability at 75% the cost. Making it fight inside the 1000 miles circle, with Northrop-Grumman directly rejecting to allow the use of the Hellcat II name. Bringing the carriers inside the 1000 miles circle. It is at most a baseline to measure the real contestants. Built on Russian mobilization concepts, it will be falling apart in a few years. It is cheap because it avoids production bottlenecks where-ever possible.

None of the qualifications above need apply if a political change happens. It looks cheap and there could have been a hundred in service this year and three hundred next year. Which will be starting point of the political spin.

This is why the narrative suddenly seeks "smaller". The studies will no doubt once again justify the cost of larger offers.

We have no problem with this. But yes, a quick decision would increase the thrust/weight ratios in one different country, too.
 
But now they're hobbled by CCA's speed and range (or lack of both). Can't leave the CCA's behind and, from the looks of it, those are going to be strictly subsonic.

The first batch of CCAs seem to intentionally be matched to F-35 performance. One USAF official said it must be able to cruise at F-35 cruise speeds and accelerate to a reasonably faster speed (than F-35 cruise) at max thrust.

Other increments likely will have different requirements. Long term, I suspect someone will produce an after burning version of the small commercial engines the CCA sized aircraft typically use, or else adopt larger power plants and airframes for NGAD CCAs.
 
But now they're hobbled by CCA's speed and range (or lack of both). Can't leave the CCA's behind and, from the looks of it, those are going to be strictly subsonic.
And all of that happened inside the last year? Since the RFP was released last summer. What are the odds of that? More likely that they simply don't have the funds and a rescoping at the 11th hour will lead to lawsuits and a huge set of other problems which make setting this aside and starting on a new program (like NGB?) the only viable next step unless they have funding and walk all this talk back.
I love when other's articulate my thoughts better than I can...

sferrin: CCAs are not NGAD 'wingman' UAVs unless they're supersonic capable and long-legged. Prepositioning long-dwell CCAs is a silly notion in most scenarios.

bring_it_on: I can't see any other explanation at this late date. For me, this mess lies at the feet of Frank Kendall. He has been charging ahead for the last 2 years, basically unchecked, and now he's trying to fit 5 lbs into a 2-lb bag -- the timing suggests that the NGAD/PCA program hit the wall as it was undergoing OSD review for USD-AT&L approval to proceed into EMD (i.e., Milestone B). SECAF Kendall (formerly USD-AT&L 2012-2017) and his staff knew, or should have known, this fiscal day-of-reckoning was coming. Either they failed to put an adequate budget wedge in the 2025 submittal; or they failed to keep the OSD staff (read CAPE) in-the-loop for the last 2 years and now they're facing sticker shock; or a combination of both. If the Sentinel ICBM, B-21 Raider, LRSO, and other big ticket programs have significant overruns and now the Air Force needs to find a 'bill payer' program for the 2026 POM build, that points to Kendall's management of the DAF portfolio.
 
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A couple of thoughts on scaling designs up and down.

a) I currently have British Secret Projects 3 open on my desk, lots of projects there with two variants scaled differently for either Merlin or Griffon/Sabre. It's not unprecedented to scale airframes up or down. But pretty unusual at this stage of the game. Though U-2R and F/A-18E/F spring to mind.

b) The problem for scaling current generation aircraft vs previous generation aircraft is avionics don't scale. If you scale the airframe down, then either the geometry has to change to retain avionics volume, or the avionics volume has to eat into something else, probably the fuel fraction, or you have to sacrifice some avionics capability.
 
A while ago a very large company in the USA (I can't say which one) commissioned me to design a sixth generation fighter, to use it in a report that would be shown to investors from what I understood.

Thanks for sharing!

Well, knowing that Boeing inherited YF-23 DNA after the merge with McDonnell Douglas, maybe in the end we will have a F-23ish in service one day!

As for the foldable tails, that reminds me of this J-20 derivative patent that was shared somewhere else in this forum.
 

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Could be as simple as the new engines are going to cause 5 year delay, what can we do with F119/F135s to get this plane into service sooner at say 90% capability? Basically pulling a F-14A.
 
Thanks for sharing!

Well, knowing that Boeing inherited YF-23 DNA after the merge with McDonnell Douglas, maybe in the end we will have a F-23ish in service one day!

As for the foldable tails, that reminds me of this J-20 derivative patent that was shared somewhere else in this forum.
Since I had involvement with the YF-23 way back and based on our design, it was a gen 5.5 aircraft, again, look at the various new NGAD 6th gen concepts from us and other nations. Hell, we (Northrop) educated Boeing on advanced composites back in the early B-2 days and yes, McAir/Boeing gained YF-23 DNA from Northrop. Folding/retractable tails adds to actuation complexity and must be redundant, you do not want any failure mode in an asymmetric condition which could compromise aero performance or LO.
From Rodrigo's previous post, a B-21 or any flying wing-type vehicle would not make a good fighter, great for stand-off but would be a sitting duck in close air combat. Any B-2 or B-21 caught visually by an enemy fighter, better pull the handles.
 
Since I had involvement with the YF-23 way back and based on our design, it was a gen 5.5 aircraft, again, look at the various new NGAD 6th gen concepts from us and other nations. Hell, we (Northrop) educated Boeing on advanced composites back in the early B-2 days and yes, McAir/Boeing gained YF-23 DNA from Northrop. Folding/retractable tails adds to actuation complexity and must be redundant, you do not want any failure mode in an asymmetric condition which could compromise aero performance or LO.
From Rodrigo's previous post, a B-21 or any flying wing-type vehicle would not make a good fighter, great for stand-off but would be a sitting duck in close air combat. Any B-2 or B-21 caught visually by an enemy fighter, better pull the handles.
Hello!
In the design they requested, the plane had to have split ailerons like the X36 for yaw control when the tails were down.
Even I used some concepts published by Boeing a few years ago showing a sixth-generation fighter with folding tails to get my bearings a bit.
I don't know if this will actually be something we'll see if both NGAD concepts are ever shown, but it was something I wanted to share in case it actually happens.
Best regards!
 
Hello!
In the design they requested, the plane had to have split ailerons like the X36 for yaw control when the tails were down.
Even I used some concepts published by Boeing a few years ago showing a sixth-generation fighter with folding tails to get my bearings a bit.
I don't know if this will actually be something we'll see if both NGAD concepts are ever shown, but it was something I wanted to share in case it actually happens.
Best regards!
Show us
 
Hello!
In the design they requested, the plane had to have split ailerons like the X36 for yaw control when the tails were down.
Even I used some concepts published by Boeing a few years ago showing a sixth-generation fighter with folding tails to get my bearings a bit.
I don't know if this will actually be something we'll see if both NGAD concepts are ever shown, but it was something I wanted to share in case it actually happens.
Best regards!
Thanks Rodrigo, understood. Best regards.
 
Grant speculates that the AF's confidence with CCAs has reached a point where they are giving second thoughts to an exquisite manned fighter. Could the AF be thinking that it can create "Hellscape" in the Taiwan Strait without a manned penetrating counter air platform by just using CCAs and decoys, enabled by network gateways via space and other unmanned systems?

If that is true the AF is taking a huge risk to forgo the development of the next generation of manned fighters. even as a hedge against CCAs. Relaxing NGAD's specs would also come with risks. It would delay the needed recapitalization of the fighter fleet as it gets older and smaller. Would a different fighter still have the range, performance, stealth, and sensors to survive in the Taiwan Strait?

The requirements and the justification for them are classified, but with the AF signaling a pivot to something else this late in the game, its difficult to have confidence in what they are doing. Congress will surely be thinking the same thing.

Do CCAs need a manned component? The original concept was that the AF needed a exquisite manned fighter with enough speed, range, broad spectrum stealth, and sensors to be able to penetrate and operate inside against air and air defense targets in China's A2/AD bubble with the B -21. These platforms would be supplemented by relatively inexpensive and at one time attritable CCAs. These aircraft would not need to have the same performance and sensors of the manned platform and would be less expensive and enable the Air Force to acquire affordable mass. They would act as force multipliers which would extend the reach and payload of the NGAD platform.

Depending on the size and planform, it was anticipated that NGAD's combat radius would be greater than current manned fighters. Adaptive engines would increase its range, but to get beyond a combat radius of 1,000 nm NGAD would likely be larger and have a planform that is different than a traditional fighter. An combat radius of 1,000 nm would allow NGAD to operate from a greater number of bases in the Philippines and still be able to cover the Taiwan Strait without air to air refueling, increasing its survivability and availability. It would complicate air base targeting for the PLA. To operate unrefueled from the Second Island Chain - primarily Guam, its nearby islands, and Micronesia, it would need a combat radius of around 1,500 nm. The greater the unrefueled range requirement, the greater the cost of the aircraft.

NGAD allows the Air force to design CCAs with less range and sensors. The unmanned element could join the NGAD platform closer to its operating area. If NGAD is cancelled wouldn't you need to design CCAs with greater performance and more advanced mission systems, increasing their costs?
 
There's also the propaganda value of having the baddest, most technologically sophisticated fighter ever. The F-22, for all its alleged badassery, hasn't really engaged in an air-to-air battle during its service life, yet still the public perception of it is that its still the top dog even today. With a bit of luck, we won't actually see a direct confrontation between superpowers during our lifetimes, and the question of which nations 6th gen fighter takes the cake will be confined to theory-crafters on forums such as these.
The US needs to retain the perception that it has a technological edge.
 
We do not know enough about the program requirements to have an informed opinion. I think speculation is welcome, but the “sky is falling” tone seems unhelpful and, quite honestly, a little demeaning to this board.

I, and others, have given many reasons why the program may need to be rescoped. Posts that explicitly imply it will be cancelled, or otherwise imply the whole thing will fall to F-35 tech, seem unlikely and unhelpful, in my view.
 
The leader of this project was an aerospace engineer who worked at both Boeing and Lockheed, because, although he did not know what the proposals of both companies were like, he did have some knowledge of the general aspects of both.
One of the things they emphasized the most is that the model had to be large, about 22 meters, have side air intakes and above all that it had to look very similar to a modern YF-23 (which they emphasized the most).
And what caught my attention the most was that they wanted him to have foldable tails. They told me that this was so that it would be as stealthy as possible on long flights and that when the plane reached its destination or the pilot needed it, the tails that in "stealth mode" would make it look like a plane without a tail (like those seen in most representations), folded upwards, reaching an angle similar to that of a YF-23, so that the plane would enter "combat mode."
Boeing displayed this concept around 2012.
 

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Boeing displayed this concept around 2012.
what is the benefit of intakes being placed on the top of the airframe? I’d assume it means signature would be greatly reduced when the plane is viewed by ground based radar, but would it not decrease performance in
maneuvers where the pilot pulls back on his stick?
 
what is the benefit of intakes being placed on the top of the airframe? I’d assume it means signature would be greatly reduced when the plane is viewed by ground based radar, but would it not decrease performance in
maneuvers where the pilot pulls back on his stick?
I think they're using the vortices rolling off the fuselage chines to feed the inlets.
 
Grant speculates that the AF's confidence with CCAs has reached a point where they are giving second thoughts to an exquisite manned fighter. Could the AF be thinking that it can create "Hellscape" in the Taiwan Strait without a manned penetrating counter air platform by just using CCAs and decoys, enabled by network gateways via space and other unmanned systems?
What happens when/if jamming upsets communication with the CCAs?
 
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What happens when/if jamming upsets communication with the CCAs?
CCA is a drone companion not a drone controlled by remote human operator. Also we are at a point of technology dependency that if an aircraft' sensor suite is jammed, the only difference between a manned aircraft and drone is a dead pilot.

That is not to disregard the heightened concern of jamming/interference with an unmanned platform, though it's not as much of a difference as one would think.

PS. the concern I think, is mostly how creative and out of the box human beings can come up with ways to fool AI, as demonstrated by a group of foot soldiers against an unmanned land drone in one of US military's tests. The soldiers were able to come up with multiple ways to fool the AI all but 1 instance if I remember correctly.
 
What happens when/if jamming upsets communication with the CCAs?

That's where AI comes in.


https://www.nytimes.com/2024/07/02/technology/ukraine-war-ai-weapons.html

Autonomous drones are “already in high demand,” he said. The machines have been especially helpful against jamming that can break communications links between drone and pilot. With the drone flying itself, a pilot can simply lock onto a target and let the device do the rest.

Briefing:

 
What happens when/if jamming upsets communication with the CCAs?

What happens to NGAD in the same situations? Both will have to fall back to on board processing in one form or another. Both will have their effectiveness drastically reduced.
 
What happens when/if jamming upsets communication with the CCAs?

According to Bill Sweetman, CCAs should act fully autonomously when communication is jammed.

" We routinely launch missiles against things we can’t see, and don’t require them to check in before impact, one argument went – what is so different about a CCA? And when the balance of forces otherwise seemed unfavorable, or Red’s comms jamming was working too well, letting the robots off the leash was an effective option. "

 
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Remember UAVs data hacked in Iraq, around 2009.
And the RQ-170 reportedly hacked and detained by Iran in 2011.
There is always a weakness, somewhere.

"The practice was uncovered in July 2009, when the US military found files of intercepted drone video feeds on the laptop of a captured militant"

US fixed drones hacked by Iraqi insurgents: Pentagon https://phys.org/news/2009-12-drones-hacked-iraqi-insurgents-pentagon.html

 
But now they're hobbled by CCA's speed and range (or lack of both). Can't leave the CCA's behind and, from the looks of it, those are going to be strictly subsonic.
We know how to time flights so they arrive in the required combat area at the same time. Our military does this all of the time. The CCA's will probably saturate the area just as the NGAD arrives in the required combat zone. Also, I don't know that NGAD will be flying faster in the combat area in order to minimize it's signature. There isn't a single person here who knows how the mission profile of NGAD looks. So we can speculate all we like, but that doesn't make it so.
 
We know how to time flights so they arrive in the required combat area at the same time. Our military does this all of the time. The CCA's will probably saturate the area just as the NGAD arrives in the required combat zone. Also, I don't know that NGAD will be flying faster in the combat area in order to minimize it's signature. There isn't a single person here who knows how the mission profile of NGAD looks. So we can speculate all we like, but that doesn't make it so.
I mean, either you cruise subsonic or you design the plane to be most efficient when cruising at some supersonic speed, like the Blackbird or XB70. Not likely to be Mach 3, that's too hot. But I wouldn't be surprised if the NGAD can cruise at ~Mach 2 for the entire mission.

VLO on radar, and Mach 2 at ~30km altitude for low air temps and pressures, to reduce skin friction for a lower IR sig.
 
We know how to time flights so they arrive in the required combat area at the same time. Our military does this all of the time. The CCA's will probably saturate the area just as the NGAD arrives in the required combat zone. Also, I don't know that NGAD will be flying faster in the combat area in order to minimize it's signature. There isn't a single person here who knows how the mission profile of NGAD looks. So we can speculate all we like, but that doesn't make it so.
If you're trying to respond to a developing attack 500 miles away you're going to need a teleporter to get the CCA's there at the same time as NGAD. Defense doesn't always give one the luxury of planning every detail that offense does.
 
We know how to time flights so they arrive in the required combat area at the same time. Our military does this all of the time. The CCA's will probably saturate the area just as the NGAD arrives in the required combat zone. Also, I don't know that NGAD will be flying faster in the combat area in order to minimize it's signature. There isn't a single person here who knows how the mission profile of NGAD looks. So we can speculate all we like, but that doesn't make it so.
You mean the mission profile isn't going to be over an Asian city at night conducting a high dive missile strike on discrete targets in a sky scraper while the AI drone watches?
 

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