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USAF/US NAVY 6th Generation Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA

harrier

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Digital design tools may allow a diverse fleet of aircraft to share enough similarities that the sustainment cost is roughly comparable with that for a common fleet
Oh really? Just ask ALIS!
 

red admiral

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Whilst i can certainly applaud the USAF's aims, I'm not sure whether it's met reality yet.

I don't really see realistic ideas on how to compress the 2-3 year detailed design and 2-5 year development test/qualification/certification phases without doing small changes to a common base airframe. Other parts of the design cycle yes, but not those bits

Its taken Airbus and Boeing about 5 years and a billion $ each to put a new engine on a wing.... Aerospace is expensive
 

Sundog

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GTX said:
One issue with this would potentially be the logistics support costs of having a multitude of new platforms in service.
If the airframes are being manufactured using low cost manufacturing, that shouldn't be too much of an issue and as long as they are all using the same systems, or subsets of components from those systems, I don't think that should be that big of a problem. That's another reason why I said they would recommend a family of powerplants with various bypass ratios, etc, but the cores would essentially be the same. For instance, just look at the F404 and F414 and all of the different variants developed from those. So, similar to what SFerrin said, you could have a basic core F414 type, a basic core F135 type, and something off the shelf/commercial for the high bypass turbofans. In a sense, the USAF/DOD become the contractors for the systems and let the airframers have a catalog of approved systems to choose from; which I think could also help to lower costs, in the way the rapid prototypes office does, because, IMHO, the systems should already be proven.

This allows long development cycle systems to be in continuous development, separate from actual aircraft programs, in the same manner that physical PC's are separate from the OS development cycle. Also, as much of it should be "plug and play," which I know they've been working towards, as possible. I mean right now, look at all of the modifications that have to be done to airframes to upgrade radar systems. It would be nice to have a standard attachment/connection/power system, so they could be rapidly changed out based on new developments. It seems to me, this is what they are working towards.
 

marauder2048

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SWAP-C considerations for modern avionics, jammers, DEWs, engines (particularly third-stream) and the ensuing requirement
for tight coupling really preclude the above from being a reality.

No one is brave enough to use a 3d printed part extensively in load bearing structures on a fighter.
And no one is going to dive into a new alloy (e.g. al 7085 on F-35) without a very long soak on a fighter (vs. the A380 for al 7085).

Roper has no control over DOT&E and LFT&E which the MDA largely gets around and the century series didn't have.

And the commercial aerospace example is instructive: even the universal pylon on the 787 isn't.
 

martinbayer

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Actually, an alternative interpretation is Size, Weight, Power and Cost, see https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/SWAP-C (although neither really explains the superfluous "A" in the wrong location).
 

TomS

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They used to just talk about "space, weight, and power" (SWaP).
 

DrRansom

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Ok, thanks for the description.

The challenge I see is that if you don’t design fighters frequently enough than you don’t learn how to design fighters. A new fighter every 15 years means your are practically learning from scratch how to design and build them. A faster design cycle leads to an actual learning curve that makes future fighters easier.

Based on the Breaking Defense story about the US losing salvo competition war games, a small elite fighter force is not competitive for the precision strike future.
 

jsport

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A 1000mile gun for SEAD is needed.

AWST apr 22 may 5 2019
USAF Fleet is structured for the wrong war

"Not only are they too small, by one-third, to fight a near-simultaneous war with Russia and China in 2030, the U.S. Air Force’s four newest frontline combat aircraft today—the B-2, F-35A, F-22 and KC-46—will be limited to stand-off distance from future highly contested airspace.
In 2030, a new crop of Russian and Chinese very-long-range air-to-air missiles will keep Boeing’s newly delivered KC-46 tankers at least 500-1,000 nm away from defended airspace, flanked by a protective shield of aging F-16s. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin F-35As will still slip through an enemy’s long-range fighter screens but will now stay safely outside an enemy’s borders, lobbing Stand-in Attack Weapons (SiAW)—the Air Force’s future version of the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER)—at targets from hundreds of miles away.
The long-range penetration mission—a mainstay of U.S. offensive strategy since World War II—will now rely on a new family of frontline aircraft designed to avoid detection by low-frequency tracking radars. Led by Northrop Grumman B-21s, a still undefined next-generation fighter and a mysterious new penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (P-ISR) aircraft, this sixth-generation strike package penetrates deep inside enemy airspace from multiple directions and lingers there as long as possible.
As the successors of the Northrop Grumman B-2 and Lockheed Martin’s F-22 and F-35A, these aircraft find the most elusive or dangerous targets then nullify them using electronic or kinetic effects or by sending the target information to distant F-35s with SiAWs or Boeing B-52s loaded with long-range weapons, including hypersonic missiles.
That sobering scenario, presented in an April 11 report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), describes not a distant vision of aerial warfare but a near-term wake-up call for the airpower community and Congress, according to the authors. The National Defense Strategy (NDS) released by the Pentagon in 2018 calls for the military to be prepared to win a war with China and Russia within a decade, but today’s Air Force is woefully short of the aircraft and capabilities needed for the task, the CSBA concludes in the congressionally mandated report.
“We have a force that is not well-suited to these kinds of conflicts because we haven’t invested in the force in the last 25 years the way we should have,” CSBA Senior Fellow and report co-author Mark Gunzinger tells Aviation Week. “Now we’re playing catch-up. We really, really are.”
Indeed, the CSBA report echoes the eight-month-old, unclassified summary of the Air Force’s own analysis, “The Air Force We Need.” In late 2017, Congress commissioned the reports by the CSBA and the Air Force—along with another unreleased, classified analysis by Mitre Corp. The objective was to gather insight for shaping resource decisions in the absence of a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The latter was replaced in 2018 by the Defense Department’s less detailed NDS.
Of the three assessments, the CSBA offers the only independent and unclassified analysis of a force structure for the Air Force and one that is unconstrained by the Trump administration’s budget and policy agenda.
“What the QDRs gave [Congress] was, ‘Here is our strategy, and here is the force that we can afford to best support the strategy.’ But that is not what Congress wanted. They said, ‘We come up with what the nation can afford. We want to know what’s needed,'” says Gunzinger, one of the report’s five co-authors and a contributor to five QDRs.
According to both reports, the Air Force needs more and different aircraft. The service’s “Air Force We Need” analysis concluded that the requirements laid out by the NDS, which include fighting rogue states and lightly armed insurgents, call for a total of 386 squadrons, including units devoted to nonaviation missions such as cyberwarfare and space. The CSBA analyzed requirements only for aviation units and came up with similar overall results. Today, the Air Force operates a total of 169 squadrons flying bombers, fighters, tankers, command-and-control (C2) and ISR missions. Whereas the Air Force calls for adding 50 squadrons to raise that to 219, the CSBA analysis proposes raising the inventory by 54 squadrons.
The two reports agree roughly on the size of the force but disagree on the fleet mix. The CSBA report calls for 24 bomber squadrons in 2030, a 71% increase over the 14 squadrons recommended by the Air Force. But the Air Force report proposes 89 squadrons made up of ISR and C2 aircraft, versus 76 called for by the CSBA. The numbers of fighters and tankers are roughly equal between both reports, with the CSBA suggesting three more fighter units and four more tanker units than the Air Force’s vision for 2030.
The classification of the Air Force’s report makes the mix of aircraft types within those top-line fleet numbers unknown. But that is also what makes the CSBA version of the report so interesting. Unconstrained by the obstacle of secrecy, the CSBA project was free to speculate on the specific types of aircraft the Air Force will need after 2030. Moreover, two of the report’s authors—Gunzinger and Carl Rehberg—performed such analyses within the Pentagon until retiring from government employment within the last decade.
As an aircraft that entered the development stage 3.5 years ago, the B-21 presents a special case. Though nearly all schedule and performance details are classified, the authors make intriguing projections about the bomber’s current and potential production capacity over the next decade. Based on limited information provided by the Defense Department’s selected acquisition reports, the CSBA report estimates that Northrop Grumman will deliver 38 B-21s by 2030. But even that pace is not fast enough. The CSBA authors recommend accelerating the production ramp-up to complete 55 B-21 deliveries by 2030, starting with the first in 2024.
The Air Force needs B-21s because they form the heart of the CSBA’s projected stand-in strike package. The next-generation fighter and existing F-35As and F-22s are useful, but alone they lack the range and payload for the task.
“What if your tanker has to stand off 500 mi.? What if close-in air bases are under threat?” Gunzinger asks. “You don’t want to do that with something that requires a lot of refueling and carrying that [smaller] payload.”
Although larger than a fighter, the B-21 is considered survivable against the next generation of airborne and ground-based threats, in CSBA’s analysis. The Air Force has not released the size of the B-21, but Rehberg—a former B-1B pilot—considers it smaller than a B-52 or B-2, which helps its stealth signature.
“It’s also the outer mold line, and it’s the material you use that’s determinate,” Gunzinger says. “You design something with a couple tails that stick up, and your exhaust is hanging out in the breeze—OK, that’s going to be pretty easy to find.”
The same analysis also consigned the F-35A to a standoff role in the CSBA’s 2030 study. “I think you need a new outer mold line for a highly contested environment,” Gunzinger says. “You need something that’s all-aspect, broadband [and stealthy].”
But the F-35A still has much to offer for a next-generation fighter, which the CSBA identifies as a dual-mission Penetrating Counter Air/Penetrating Electronic Attack (PCA/P-EA) aircraft. The report calls on the Air Force to accelerate the first delivery to 2026, even though the Next-Generation Air Dominance acquisition program has not yet opened for bids. The faster time line would require the Air Force to leverage mature technology as much as possible, Gunzinger says. One possibility is to combine the F-35’s existing avionics and mission system with a new airframe optimized for broadband stealth. That suggests a tailless, supersonic aircraft.
“That would drive you to a different kind of [outer mold line] and a different kind of concept for operating that,” Gunzinger says. “You’ll not necessarily be pulling high-Gs and so forth. It’d be more of a [beyond-visual-range] type platform.”
The authors provide less detail on the projected requirement for a P-ISR aircraft, due to the sensitivity of the mission area and their backgrounds in recent government service.
“It could be manned or unmanned, and there’s probably nothing more I can say about it, and neither can Carl because we were in that world not too long ago,” Gunzinger says. “Everything that penetrates ought to be able to contribute to operations in the [electromagnetic spectrum] to include communications, sensing, jamming and creating other effects.”"
 

Colonial-Marine

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What technologies do they think we be introduced that will limit the F-35 and F-22 to utilizing stand-off weapons? From the references to broadband stealth it sounds like they are thinking about VHF radars but those have huge limitations when it comes to any task beyond getting a rough idea of where an object is.
 

sublight is back

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aircraft designed to avoid detection by low-frequency tracking radars. Led by Northrop Grumman B-21s
I dont think this is correct, unless B-21 looks completely different than the notional representation we have been shown.
 

Flyaway

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Judging by this article I’d say there was a case for splitting this thread up for USN & USAF going their separate ways.

Future US Navy fighter will not be joint effort with USAF

The USN’s next-generation fighter won’t be jointly developed with the USAF. That’s because the USN does not plan to use its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) aircraft on penetration missions in highly-contested air space as the USAF aims to do with its next-generation fighter, says Angie Knappenberger, USN deputy director of air warfare, at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
 

sferrin

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Sounds like they're looking for an NATF with a bit more range.
 

jsport

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The carrier mafia should watch out as they may just talk themselves out a mission/job. If one can't assist SEAD from day one and can't play till after day 20 or more, what value do you (carrier aircraft) provide? The USN better have 1000mile guns on ships or no SEAD and no game.

Here’s how improving enemy anti-aircraft threats put pilots and crews at risk


 
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Sundog

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Based on the nose gear in those pics, and what appears to be a wing fold section, it appears to be a design for the Navy. It's also interesting in that the nose is similar to the original YF-23 design. Now they need to release good drawings with cross sections so I can model this in flight simulator. ;)

Also, based on the statement that the Navy isn't looking for the same kind of plane the USAF is, I'm betting the Navy is planning to go unmanned and/or something with more persistence than range; i.e., something that cruises at subsonic speeds, versus supercruise.
 
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Colonial-Marine

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Also, based on the statement that the Navy isn't looking for the same kind of plane the USAF is, I'm betting the Navy is planning to go unmanned and/or something with more persistence than range; i.e., something that cruises at subsonic speeds, versus supercruise.
They could have gone ahead with UCLASS if they wanted that. Even with such an aircraft they should have something with high performance for the defense of the carrier battle group, air-to-air combat, interception, etc.
 

sferrin

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Based on the nose gear in those pics, and what appears to be a wing fold section, it appears to be a design for the Navy. It's also interesting in that the nose is similar to the original YF-23 design. Now they need to release good drawings with cross sections so I can model this in flight simulator. ;)

Also, based on the statement that the Navy isn't looking for the same kind of plane the USAF is, I'm betting the Navy is planning to go unmanned and/or something with more persistence than range; i.e., something that cruises at subsonic speeds, versus supercruise.
Yuk. If Boeing, I'd rather this one:

613734
 

Flyaway

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Based on the nose gear in those pics, and what appears to be a wing fold section, it appears to be a design for the Navy. It's also interesting in that the nose is similar to the original YF-23 design. Now they need to release good drawings with cross sections so I can model this in flight simulator. ;)

Also, based on the statement that the Navy isn't looking for the same kind of plane the USAF is, I'm betting the Navy is planning to go unmanned and/or something with more persistence than range; i.e., something that cruises at subsonic speeds, versus supercruise.
I’ve got the impression in recent times, especially from the MQ-25 program, that the USN is more resistant to unmanned than the USAF.
 

Grey Havoc

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Justifiably so. The USAF and US Army UAV programs overall haven't yet come anywhere near producing the return on (extensive) investment that was promised.
 

marauder2048

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The carrier mafia should watch out as they may just talk themselves out a mission/job. If one can't assist SEAD from day one and can't play till after day 20 or more, what value do you (carrier aircraft) provide?
Remarkably little value which, incredibly, they do acknowledge.

“A penetrating fighter, the Navy doesn’t have to do that. So some of that inherent design of the aircraft it does drive costs and if you don’t need that for our mission area then you don’t necessarily want to pay for it,” she says, noting the shape of a highly stealthy penetrating fighter, presumably without a vertical stabliser, would be more expensive to develop.
Instead, the USN would conduct penetrating airstrikes against an advanced adversary with long-range standoff missiles or the mission would be deferred to the USAF, says Knappenberger.
My emphasis.
 

jsport

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The carrier mafia should watch out as they may just talk themselves out a mission/job. If one can't assist SEAD from day one and can't play till after day 20 or more, what value do you (carrier aircraft) provide?
Remarkably little value which, incredibly, they do acknowledge.

“A penetrating fighter, the Navy doesn’t have to do that. So some of that inherent design of the aircraft it does drive costs and if you don’t need that for our mission area then you don’t necessarily want to pay for it,” she says, noting the shape of a highly stealthy penetrating fighter, presumably without a vertical stabliser, would be more expensive to develop.
Instead, the USN would conduct penetrating airstrikes against an advanced adversary with long-range standoff missiles or the mission would be deferred to the USAF, says Knappenberger.
My emphasis.
Depending on expensive long range standoff missiles from ships w/ limited magazines to accomplis SEAD is pretty questionalble bet IMHO. IADS are mobile and will themselves be protected w/ terminal intercept defenses. USN will need to be using their magazines to protect themselves, little room left JSEAD. Better a capable carrier aircraft in common w/ the USAF. Carring drones, maybe a big gun, a deep mag DEW etc. Something the DOD gets economy of scale in large sophisticated and expensive craft. No more lacking capability fighters please.
 

bobbymike

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FighterJock

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I wonder if it will come true though, because back in the 1950's and 1960's the US had many more military aviation companies than they do now since amalgamation or being forced out of business.
 

TomcatViP

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Fantastic time to be an entrepreneur. Or should I say Marvelious ?
 

SpudmanWP

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Planes are too complex and we are too risk averse to try and do a new plane every 5 years. Then there is the increased cost associated with such low economy of scale builds.

Now, if he is only talking drones, nothing is keeping them from doing that now, except it's really expensive. On the drone front, it's really hard to justify to the board that you spent a bunch developing a drone that nobody wants to buy.. chicken & egg thing and all that.
 

MihoshiK

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I'm quite sure that the defense establishment won't say "no" if the DoD gives them a couple of billions each year with no questions asked other than to play around with new designs.
 

sferrin

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I'm quite sure that the defense establishment won't say "no" if the DoD gives them a couple of billions each year with no questions asked other than to play around with new designs.
Until somebody points out the whole thing could turn upside down if the White House changes parties.
 

Mark S.

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Multiple programs as a whole are less risky than a single large effort. The economy of scale argument works only if we produce the quantities originally specified but which program does that? Both the B-2 and F-22 were truncated well before any economy of scale in their production was realized. The few programs on their way to achieve a quantity of scale benefit are the F-35 and F/A-18E/F. The KC-46 appears to be a case unto itself and a rather poor example of a program. The Skunk Works has been successful in producing leading edge aircraft with a high degree of complexity for their times in small quantities. It's a matter of how you learn to mitigate risk and manufacture in relatively small quantities. What are the breakpoints in aircraft production where economy of scale becomes beneficial? Is it between 100 and 250, 200 and 600 or 250 and 1000 aircraft? What it entails is close attention to designing something that is easy to build, utilizes tooling efficiently and uses common parts such as engines and avionics. If they can do that then it will work. As for the politics they would have to bill it as a "jobs program". Both parties like to see those. Don't know if Will Roper will be successful but his approach in my opinion has merit.
 

Grey Havoc

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Though the F-35 program isn't really a good example either...
 

SpudmanWP

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The goals of having a "joint" in JSF were three fold:
1. Spread the cost of dev across multiple programs
2. Increased Economy of Scale in production and support costs
3. Ensure that the small program benefited from the larger's need.

#3 is an important one. Do you think that the F-35B/C would have happened (in their entirety) if it were not for the largest customer, the F-35A, being part of the deal?
 

sferrin

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3. Ensure that the small program benefited from the larger's need.

#3 is an important one. Do you think that the F-35B/C would have happened (in their entirety) if it were not for the largest customer, the F-35A, being part of the deal?
Not a friggin' chance. Despite the hysteria to the contrary this was the best way to do it.
 

SpudmanWP

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One of the main reasons Congress mandated a "joint" program was to ensure the survival of the B and C.

Do you think ASTOVL had a better chance of survival on it's own?

All you had to do was to look at the history of failed prior programs like NATF, A-12, etc to see that without some serious economic pressure, smaller programs fall to the budget ax way too easily.
 

Colonial-Marine

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I don't know if either NATF or the A-12 could be considered small programs. It seems to me like the Navy really didn't fight that hard for NATF and with the A-12 they dug themselves into a deep hole.

I do wonder if the goals of JSF could have been achieved with different aircraft but all using common engines, avionics, and other subsystems. Perhaps it was necessary to have a CTOL and STOVL aircraft as variants of the same design but the CATOBAR requirement may have been a step too far.
 

SpudmanWP

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NATF & A-12v2 were "small" in that they were single-service, single-use airframes both destined for a service where all must bow to the Gods of the Flattops.

Without the C then the A would have only had a 1k bomb bay instead of 2k, the B would not have had SWAT, and both the A & B would have ended up heavier than they did.

In a "common avionics & engine" scenario, the C would still be limited to the performance of the F135 so I am not sure of what benefit separate programs would have been. In either case, costs would have only gone up as most development would have to be duplicated and parts economy of scale goes out the window for anything not avionics or engine related.
 
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