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

Josh_TN

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I suspect it will be a number of different aircraft and demonstrators, but in terms of manned platforms I would guess only one production airframe.

I also think the USN is going to have a hard time funding an independent program. I think it would have to borrow heavily from what ever the USAF produces.
 

Zoomer

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Exactly. 1 plane, 2 versions like the F35A/C. Besides, the Navy doesn't have the money anyway.

As for the plane itself, different demonstrators will be developed. They will integrate different technologies and test what works and what doesn't, until they reach the "final product" of the century series and mass production will begin. They don't want the platform to become obsolete once it reaches mass production, especially when everyone is developing 5th/6th gen aircraft these days. The development process will be similar to the Super Hornet (people hate this plane, but the program and the implementation was great) in order to reduce costs. It will also include Loyal Wingmen for interdiction missions so it's not gonna be a "single" airframe.

That's my guess.
 
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bring_it_on

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.
 

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I suppose it would have V-shaped vertical fins, like the F23 for example. Best of both worlds imo. Super stealthy and manoeuvrable at the same time.

We were given to see some design that had collapsible canted verticals deploying as V-tails or verticals only where horizontals were already present.

Moreover the industry is weighting heavily on effectors that will certainly take part of the roles of ailerons and elevators with distributed propulsion used for yaw and roll.

A whole new world is right in front of us while still so hard to guess! :)
 

trose213

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?
 

bring_it_on

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?

Yes that is what I said. If you use some of that capability to field clean sheet 4th gen, or 3rd gen fighters then you are not going to have money to fund the same technology to field the higher end NGAD system. As the CSAF described (if what he said is also reflected in actual budgets), older systems will have to make room to pay for the future NGAD. If you aren't divesting fleet X to pay for NGAD-X but instead are using that money to build a cheaper or better F-16 then you clearly aren't putting the NGAD into production unless more funding is made available. In the end someone (something) has to pay the bill.
 

In_A_Dream

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It's interesting to look at it from the Chinese point of view. One of their stratagems is to fool their opponent into over-spending on military hardware to the point of bankruptcy. If their J-20s are truly paper tigers and China's disinformation campaign is strong enough to prompt the DOD to go into over-drive with next gen a/c tech to dominate China (in response), given where the US economic position is right now, it seems it may become an effective strategy. So does our legislature & loyal think-tanks factor that into their plan, as to not over-spend? To field 4.5 gen tech via the digital approach, in an attempt to efficiently over-match China, may be a cost-effective option.
 

bring_it_on

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It may also be interesting to look at what the US plans on spending on NGAD through its FYDP. It may be large as an absolute number but in the overall scheme of things it is a mere rounding error. They aren't launching straight into a 6th gen fighter EMD program anytime soon. The small F-22 fleet pretty much guaranteed that they would have tried to get something new into that portfolio sometime in the 2030's regardless.
 

Josh_TN

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I don't see how any new program of record would bring down costs as oppose to buying additional aircraft from existing lines. Even if you are using old tech, you're still integrated a brand new platform and going through the motions of a new aircraft, including weapons integration, training, parts streams, etc.

Buy F-35 and buy more F-15/18 for legacy aircraft if they are easier to support. When NGAD produces anything a of value, a decision about how many should be bought can be made then.
 

bring_it_on

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I don't see how any new program of record would bring down costs as oppose to buying additional aircraft from existing lines. Even if you are using old tech, you're still integrated a brand new platform and going through the motions of a new aircraft, including weapons integration, training, parts streams, etc.

Buy F-35 and buy more F-15/18 for legacy aircraft if they are easier to support. When NGAD produces anything a of value, a decision about how many should be bought can be made then.

Yeah exactly. Eventually the AF and the DOD will come down from the digital sugar rush and realize that you aren't going to get a cheaper completely new 4+ gen F-16 replacement of equal or better performance relative to buying a new F-16V from the newly established production line in South Carolina. You want it significantly cheaper (to the F-16), you're going to have take a performance penalty (like going with a T-7 offspring). And Vice versa. The digital tools and processes are going to no doubt play a very important role in delivering Skyborg, T-7, NGAD, GBSD, and other programs vital to AF modernization. Spending half a decade to a decade to use these processes and tools to develop an 4th gen. F16 replacement is going to be a huge distraction and probably isn't going to cost any less.

I wonder if their calculation or at least public statements would have been different had Lockheed not been the prime on the F-16 and now that they can't use the Industrial Base argument.
 
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Zoomer

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A new 4.5 gen plane is a solution looking for a problem. The F35 IS a 4.5 gen plane when it carries weapons externally. For middle east, just use UCAVs or UAVs dictating targets for artillery. Much cheaper than using fighters.

Nobody is going to invade China. You cannot win that way. The objective is to defend the islands and blockade China. Use the F35 for CAS over the islands and send the NGAD and the B21 over China to do their thing.
 

trose213

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?

Yes that is what I said. If you use some of that capability to field clean sheet 4th gen, or 3rd gen fighters then you are not going to have money to fund the same technology to field the higher end NGAD system. As the CSAF described (if what he said is also reflected in actual budgets), older systems will have to make room to pay for the future NGAD. If you aren't divesting fleet X to pay for NGAD-X but instead are using that money to build a cheaper or better F-16 then you clearly aren't putting the NGAD into production unless more funding is made available. In the end someone (something) has to pay the bill.
Unless, part of the F-35 buy is cancelled and becomes 4+++ NGAD.
 

bring_it_on

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?

Yes that is what I said. If you use some of that capability to field clean sheet 4th gen, or 3rd gen fighters then you are not going to have money to fund the same technology to field the higher end NGAD system. As the CSAF described (if what he said is also reflected in actual budgets), older systems will have to make room to pay for the future NGAD. If you aren't divesting fleet X to pay for NGAD-X but instead are using that money to build a cheaper or better F-16 then you clearly aren't putting the NGAD into production unless more funding is made available. In the end someone (something) has to pay the bill.
Unless, part of the F-35 buy is cancelled and becomes 4+++ NGAD.

Problem with that is you'd be stopping buying aircraft, while you spend money to develop something that will take time to be R&D'd, tested, and then produced. More likely scenario would be that they pull R&D money from one program to fund another. There is no clean sheet 4+++ or 5--- program that is ready to enter production where it could begin to compete with the F-35 for acquisition in the near to mid term. The longer you prolong this the less that program makes sense. Again, as @Josh_TN has written, if you want a 4+ gen then you have three, in production aircraft to chose from in the F-15 EX, the F-16 V, and the F/A-18E. These are capable aircraft, in production and in service with extensive testing. Why in the world do you need yet another similar class of aircraft unless you go for something much much simpler and cheaper (and less capable)?

I am also highly skeptical to the claims that somehow buying newer variants of platforms designed 5 decades back makes the design and industrial base healthy. If that was the main driver, then it is wiser to take that money and go all in on Skyborg, MQ-Next, and NGAD..things that are cutting edge and likely to bring in new concepts, technologies and push maturity down the design and industrial base. F-15EX and F-16V could be looked at as a means to rapidly boost capacity in the short term in addition to buying the F-35A or to introduce competition to keep the F-35 program and its suppliers honest. But beyond this, they should be pumping R&D money into the future systems. From cheap attritable systems to the higher end NGAD. The CSAF statements ahead of and during vAWS just comes across as a total SNAFU.
 
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trose213

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?

Yes that is what I said. If you use some of that capability to field clean sheet 4th gen, or 3rd gen fighters then you are not going to have money to fund the same technology to field the higher end NGAD system. As the CSAF described (if what he said is also reflected in actual budgets), older systems will have to make room to pay for the future NGAD. If you aren't divesting fleet X to pay for NGAD-X but instead are using that money to build a cheaper or better F-16 then you clearly aren't putting the NGAD into production unless more funding is made available. In the end someone (something) has to pay the bill.
Unless, part of the F-35 buy is cancelled and becomes 4+++ NGAD.

Problem with that is you'd be stopping buying aircraft, while you spend money to develop something that will take time to be R&D'd, tested, and then produced. More likely scenario would be that they pull R&D money from one program to fund another. There is no clean sheet 4+++ or 5--- program that is ready to enter production where it could begin to compete with the F-35 for acquisition in the near to mid term. The longer you prolong this the less that program makes sense. Again, as @Josh_TN has written, if you want a 4+ gen then you have three, in production aircraft to chose from in the F-15 EX, the F-16 V, and the F/A-18E. These are capable aircraft, in production and in service with extensive testing. Why in the world do you need yet another similar class of aircraft unless you go for something much much simpler and cheaper (and less capable)?

I am also highly skeptical to the claims that somehow buying newer variants of platforms designed 5 decades back makes the design and industrial base healthy. If that was the main driver, then it is wiser to take that money and go all in on Skyborg, MQ-Next, and NGAD..things that are cutting edge and likely to bring in new concepts, technologies and push maturity down the design and industrial base. F-15EX and F-16V could be looked at as a means to rapidly boost capacity in the short term in addition to buying the F-35A or to introduce competition to keep the F-35 program and its suppliers honest. But beyond this, they should be pumping R&D money into the future systems. From cheap attritable systems to the higher end NGAD. The CSAF statements ahead of and during vAWS just comes across as a total SNAFU.

That's the whole point of the Century Series, building the tools to get to the point where its trivial in cost to design and certify a new fighter. Now, it's only a matter of if a new fighter can be built and operated on the cheap.
 

bring_it_on

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If you had a finite set of dollars headed your way which problems would you use these new, yet to be proven tools/processes, tools on? Skyborg, NGAD, MQ-Next, Gremlins, ABMS etc etc or take risks on these programs and go out and try to create a better F-16? I think they may need to revaluate their priorities a bit. If they are hell bent on buying older aircraft then the world isn't going to end if they get the F-15EX and F-16V instead of a notional clean sheet 4+ gen fighter designed using new tools. But if they get Skyborg, NGAD, MQ-Next etc wrong or run out of money to get where they want to be then they are going to in a pretty bad position as far as not having systems to meet future needs.

Which COCOM commander wants to hear this a decade from now?

"Too bad we couldn't fully develop our concept for NGAD, but hey at least we made the F-16 25% better in 2030".
 

rooster

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Honestly, I do not see the AF and the Navy developing their own plane. They have to work together. I can't see how they are gonna find the money for 2 different planes. Congress won't allow it. Same plane, two versions, like the F35A/C is the best solution imo. What do you guys think?
How many aircraft do you think the USAF is going to produce under the Digital Century Series?

Depends on whether Congress wants these to remain in the digital space or appear in the physical space. If we spend a lot of time and money on building 4th gen aircraft, and cutting 5th gen aircraft then I see us fielding a pretty robust NGAD capability in the digital sphere only. If you take CSAF at his word, that the service will not look to take funding from its current 5th gen modernization portfolio and move that to NGAD then you really have 2 options to fund NGAD. One will be to retire older aircraft, free up resources and use that to finish work on NGAD and buy it. Or you hope that the AF budgets grow. If we don't see either, I feel that we'll continue to have digital designs that don't make a physical appearance until much later, perhaps a lot after things like Skyborg etc have been fielded. So you could have a situation where you have lots of digital designs with multiple teams doing some design work but you can't really shape all that into a fieldable acquisition program because your funding keeps getting trimmed moving schedules to the right. The original idea seemed to have been to have multiple digital designs being developed and fielded in smallish numbers each so I'm basing this on the AF wanting to continue down that path.

What about using the digital capabilities to field "4th gen" fighters?

Yes that is what I said. If you use some of that capability to field clean sheet 4th gen, or 3rd gen fighters then you are not going to have money to fund the same technology to field the higher end NGAD system. As the CSAF described (if what he said is also reflected in actual budgets), older systems will have to make room to pay for the future NGAD. If you aren't divesting fleet X to pay for NGAD-X but instead are using that money to build a cheaper or better F-16 then you clearly aren't putting the NGAD into production unless more funding is made available. In the end someone (something) has to pay the bill.
Unless, part of the F-35 buy is cancelled and becomes 4+++ NGAD.

Problem with that is you'd be stopping buying aircraft, while you spend money to develop something that will take time to be R&D'd, tested, and then produced. More likely scenario would be that they pull R&D money from one program to fund another. There is no clean sheet 4+++ or 5--- program that is ready to enter production where it could begin to compete with the F-35 for acquisition in the near to mid term. The longer you prolong this the less that program makes sense. Again, as @Josh_TN has written, if you want a 4+ gen then you have three, in production aircraft to chose from in the F-15 EX, the F-16 V, and the F/A-18E. These are capable aircraft, in production and in service with extensive testing. Why in the world do you need yet another similar class of aircraft unless you go for something much much simpler and cheaper (and less capable)?

I am also highly skeptical to the claims that somehow buying newer variants of platforms designed 5 decades back makes the design and industrial base healthy. If that was the main driver, then it is wiser to take that money and go all in on Skyborg, MQ-Next, and NGAD..things that are cutting edge and likely to bring in new concepts, technologies and push maturity down the design and industrial base. F-15EX and F-16V could be looked at as a means to rapidly boost capacity in the short term in addition to buying the F-35A or to introduce competition to keep the F-35 program and its suppliers honest. But beyond this, they should be pumping R&D money into the future systems. From cheap attritable systems to the higher end NGAD. The CSAF statements ahead of and during vAWS just comes across as a total SNAFU.

That's the whole point of the Century Series, building the tools to get to the point where its trivial in cost to design and certify a new fighter. Now, it's only a matter of if a new fighter can be built and operated on the cheap.
Sure. Right. The problem with it taking 20 years to field a new fighter is not.... absolutely is not that the engineers are working with pencils and handheld calculators. The sole problem is the beurocracy and changing requirements and endless congressional oversight and interference.

We've been designing aircraft in CAD for decades and decades. Its the height of ignorance to say it just takes engineers too long to do their work. When people get out of the way and let engineers work, things happen very fast..... Look how long it took to the U2 and the sr71 when engineers did design those planes with pencils and slide rules.

I've lived long enough to know bullshit when I see it and I see a ton of bullshit being spouted and spread around.

I got news for you: that demonstrator fighter they built in record time wasnt done in record time because they finally discovered computer aided engineering. It was built and flown so fast because Washington DC wasnt involved.... If they had been involved we would be talking about a first flight in the 2023.

Here's their plan: end production of the f35 has been bought and paid for and is in production in lieu of "hey we finally know what we need so lets kill the 35 and start a brand new fighter program because we finally got it figured out."

This is same tired worn out movie i saw before with the f22.

Only in Washington and the American defense industry do people pat themselves on the back for repeating the same mistake over and over.

At this rate we will be flying 16s and 15s as our primary fighters well into 2060 as long as they can be held together with tape and glue. The rest of the world would sacrifice every first born child for the f35..... We in America will gladly throw it away because we finally figured out what we need after 30 years of planning the f35.
 

TomcatViP

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I don't see the F-35 being compromised. I see more an exasperation to have to rely on 1980's airframes when a modern platform could cut their acquisition and sustainement cost by half (less part, less weight, modern avionics, offloaded acquisitions and targeting...). I think the target here are more F-16s or even A-10s...
Imagine a new competition similar to what led to the T-7, what do they have to lose?
 

bring_it_on

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Those competitors exist in the form of variants of existing fighters that the USAF or the DOD already operates. The F-16V is available right now. The F-15EX is being acquired. The US Navy has an F-18E/F Blk III program. So they have three older programs to pick from, all that have variants that have very recently been developed or fielded. They all have modern avionics to the best of their abilities to absorb them. Are they cheaper to buy? No in the case of the F-15EX, and perhaps a yes in the case of the F-16V. As of now they both will be cheaper than the F-35A to sustain but if the F-35A program begins meeting its targets then it should have a lower CPFH than the F-15EX before the latter fleet is fully fielded.

I ask again. As an example, if the ask is to go out and buy say 200 new 4+ gen fighters (over and above the announced F-15EX #) then having the F-16V, a known fighter, fully developed and in production and having a sustainment infrastructure already bedded down in the USAF and its components is a major advantage. Sure you can burn some cash and create a completely new clean sheet single engine 4+ gen aircraft that could hypothetically be cheaper to sustain on account of you having more freedom to add these things in a new design as opposed to a new variant. But looking at the bigger picture, let's say that the new variant is 30% more efficient to operate. Do you really want to spend billions upfront in R&D, then spend billions more to set up production, acquire a fleet, and revamp your training and sustainment infra around this new platform? Will the advantage gained outweigh the costs? If they do, will this make or break the USAF if those advantages aren't realized? Should you divert funding to it instead of a whole heap of next-gen high risk programs you also want to develop, some of which will be highly critical to your future needs? If it is about priorities then that should be reflected in the budget. Does PACOM want new F-16's, a better F-16, or does it want F-35's and NGAD and other next gen systems? If your budgets are expected to be flat, where do you focus your investments, and where do you want the industry to focus its?

In my mind it is absurd to embark on a new clean sheet 4+ gen program when you have 4 fighter programs that have active production lines and continue to be upgraded as per user defined need. That money is better spent on fielding the next generation of UCAV's and other aero projects that will be vital to accomplishing future missions.
 
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TomcatViP

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See the long term global context: will the US gonna distribute F-35 like small round breads all over the planet or let Russians and Chinese settle themselves comfortably in the empty slots?
What could an F-16 brings in 20 years versus a modern design like a lightweight fighter from Russia or China?
It's logical that the USAF starts looking at this problem and comes around with a new design that could integrate with the force. Otherwise you'll probably see dilemna like Turkey everywhere around with nations fielding Chinese hardware or Russians.
 
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Josh_TN

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Turkey as an odd example; they are desperate for the F-35 and being refused. Recep "Just The Tayyip" Erdogan went out of his way to piss off the US and buy the S400 for political reasons and got himself voted off the island for it. The Greeks in comparison are ready to buy used early lot USAF examples (including, ironically, the ones slated for Turkey).
 

kaiserd

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See the long term global context: will the US gonna distribute F-35 like small round breads all over the planet or let Russians and Chinese settle themselves comfortably in the empty slots?
What could an F-16 brings in 20 years versus a modern design like a lightweight fighter from Russia or China?
It's logical that the USAF starts looking at this problem and comes around with a new design that could integrate with the force. Otherwise you'll probably see dilemna like Turkey everywhere around with nations fielding Chinese hardware or Russians.
As of right now there is no such Russian light weight fighter; the closest are developments of the MIG-29 (MIG-35 etc).
And their not exactly fighting people off to order it.
China has 2 (JF-17, J-10), 3 if you count the J-31. Similarly no deluge of eager export customers beating down their door.
Operators of MIG-21s, MIG-23s, even MIG-29s, F-5s (and F-4s) etc have largely already made their minds up and already bought replacements (including developing jointly or solely their own new light fighters).
A lot of these countries went for heavier later marks of the US teen series or the Mirage 2000 family, their now going for the F-35 (if allowed - if not later F-15 marks) and the European canards, with Flanker family cleaning up the cheaper and/or “not invited” end of the list.
In reality the US hasn’t had a cheap light weight fighter to export since the F-5E went out of production, and the likes of the Gripen have done respectively but far from amazing numbers in that period.
The F-16 re-shaped the fighter market.
The F-35 is the next F-16 in this regard, maybe the likes of armed versions of the new Boeing trainer could compete with the Gripen E but they will be doing so for a relatively small niche market.
And the USAF shouldn’t develop and buy such an aircraft unsuited to their own requirements just to enable their industry to compete that bit more effectively in that small niche market.
If there is a valid need and requirement for a cheaper compliment to the F-35 (say Air National Guard air defense, were MAYBE stealth not required - such an approach is debatable) then new F-16Vs could be had in very short order with little additional hassle or cost. And then you have saved you valuable limited budget (and time and focus etc.) for the NGAD/ F-22 replacement and enhancing the F-35 program, while also developing the Super Hornet replacement, while producing and fielding the B-21, while paying for the renewal of the Triad, etc etc.
 

shin_getter

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Given that the F-35 airframe isn't even all that expensive:

Perhaps what ought to be done is a F-35M aka monkey model. Where the expensive bits of the airplane is replaced with cheap options. Perhaps one could work in "reverse" of the KF-X and have the F-35M with recessed external stores with the internal volume filled with even more fuel.
 

Josh_TN

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I think the F-16 design should be put out to pasture by the USAF. The F-15 is clearly going to be in service for a while since new examples are being purchased; if necessary buy more of those so that savings can be realized by retiring an entire class of aircraft.
 

TomcatViP

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The F-15 is too expensive to sustain for most airforces. If they can go single engine, they will.
 

Jeb

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Given that the F-35 airframe isn't even all that expensive:

Perhaps what ought to be done is a F-35M aka monkey model. Where the expensive bits of the airplane is replaced with cheap options. Perhaps one could work in "reverse" of the KF-X and have the F-35M with recessed external stores with the internal volume filled with even more fuel.
That's the F-16/79 (and F-20) all over again.

"Here's a cheaper version of what these nations fly...it's practically the same, just without <key features> but you don't really need those, they're too fancy for you."

That program tanked after everyone who was targeted to purchase the F-16/79 said "screw you, we want the good ones." Not a single monkey model was ever sold.
 

TomcatViP

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@Jeb : True. But today there is a cost wall. Just like yesterday when not all nations requested their fair share of Phantoms.
 

bring_it_on

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Looking at the 4th and 4+ generation landscape (we have 3 programs in production in the US itself, another 3 in Europe) I'm sure everyone is just looking at the picture and wondering what would happen if there was just one additional offering. Cheap 4th gen aircraft? Stripped down F-16's, SAAB Gripen C's and F/A-50's should be flying off their production line. Yet, users around the world seem to want more capable aircraft that can/have kept up with technology and the threat. The F-35's, Rafales and the more advanced 4+ gen (also the more expensive) ones are what is selling.
 

Bhurki

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Not sure what all the ruckus is about.

There is no desire to ditch the F35 on behalf of Usaf. They just want it to be de-linked from missions which do not use all of its capabilities, to keep it reserved only for missions whose success critically depends on what only F35 can offer.

I see it as a good thing. Rather than thinking they can spare F35s to missions in less demanding theaters like ME, they want to dedicate all of the F35 to peer competitor theaters.

Think of it like this, if you have to conduct missions in any other theater except China and Russia, whats the bare minimum capability would you want in an aircraft. The only reason F16 doesn't sense to them anymore is due to its rigid software/subsystem architecture which takes too long to integrate any new capability. This could prevent them from using these to quarterback the F35 in the 'main' theaters if need be.

Gist of it is that when things go hot, Usaf F35s will exclusively serve in East Europe and West pacific, and whatever fulfills the roles required in any other areas also needs to be compatible to the forces in these 2 core theaters.
 

uk 75

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The Swiss Air Force is a good example of a user that decided to trade quantity for quality when it replaced F5 with F18.
The famous NATO sale of the Century (Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway) in the 70s went for the F16 as then cutting edge technology.
The US is probably unique in having the luxury of National Guard and Reserve Units. By the end of the Cold War these were trading F4s for F15/16.
I assume the USAF will continue the same approach.
 

eagle

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The Swiss Air Force is a good example of a user that decided to trade quantity for quality when it replaced F5 with F18.
The famous NATO sale of the Century (Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway) in the 70s went for the F16 as then cutting edge technology.

The Swiss AF did not replace the F-5 with the F-18. The Hornet replaced the Mirage IIIS at an almost 1:1 ratio. The Swiss F-5 force was pretty much the equivalent of the US ANG/reserve units. Now gone without replacement.
EPAF F-16s replaced the F-104s, which were pretty cutting edge themselves when new. The F-16A on the other hand was actually pretty bare bone.
 

uk 75

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My bad on the F5s. They replaced Hunters in Swiss Af.
The F16 was pretty much a new F104 when it won the Sale of the Century. It had two wingtip Sidewinders and a single engine.
But the 5 countries did not want/need F4s or MRCAs much less F15s.
The F35 has ended up being both the F16 and F15.
Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with.
 

Bhurki

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Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with
Um.. Whatever just flew a few months ago and called NGAD?
 

Bhurki

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Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with
Um.. Whatever just flew a few months ago and called NGAD?
I suppose NGAD is going to be but not holding my breath
As opposed to any other proposed 6th gen aircraft out there, NGAD/PCA is the only one that has demonstrated progress, with its supposed engines(AETP) well underway in RDT&E process and has even passed the first flight milestone.

The complement programs in the stealth fight domain too are showing considerable progress i.e RQ-180 and B-21.

These 3 programs together make up the force what USAF sees as a necessity to fight in a near peer environment - PCA(Ngad), P-ISR(Rq-180), P-Strike(B-21). (P for penetrating)
 

In_A_Dream

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My bad on the F5s. They replaced Hunters in Swiss Af.
The F16 was pretty much a new F104 when it won the Sale of the Century. It had two wingtip Sidewinders and a single engine.
But the 5 countries did not want/need F4s or MRCAs much less F15s.
The F35 has ended up being both the F16 and F15.
Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with.
China's waiting for the US to publish its figures on the PCA before committing to a 6th gen fighter, openly stating as much. US is keeping a shroud over PCA/NGAD to slow them down.
 

bring_it_on

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Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with.

Clearly that is within the funding profile under the NGAD program (It's an Air Dominance focused program so be the complement/replacement for the F-22A), with propulsion work being addressed (technology development) via the various adaptive engine programs (hardware in production with testing of engine demonstrators to begin this year).

Unlike other Next-Gen programs around the globe, NGAD and the Adaptive engine efforts are by far the best funded and have accomplished the most (full scale airframe demonstrator having taken flight, digital tools being developed and verified via actual programs, engine demonstrators being built by two competitors, and other sub-systems being R&D'd) . Not to mention the fact that there is likely to be significant technology sharing going on between the programs mentioned by @Bhurki above since they are part of a family of systems to defeat the next gen. threats.

They are spending about a billion dollars a year and plan on increasing it by 50% over the next couple of years and doubling annual spend within 4 years. This is all pre EMD funding so is fairly substantial. And this is all direct program spending. There are parallel tech. development efforts that will likely be considered for NGAD down the road (like a HEL application) but aren't being funded through the program so the overall portfolio of potential NGAD related technologies is going to be significantly larger than what is bucketed into these two programs.
 

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Josh_TN

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My bad on the F5s. They replaced Hunters in Swiss Af.
The F16 was pretty much a new F104 when it won the Sale of the Century. It had two wingtip Sidewinders and a single engine.
But the 5 countries did not want/need F4s or MRCAs much less F15s.
The F35 has ended up being both the F16 and F15.
Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with.
China's waiting for the US to publish its figures on the PCA before committing to a 6th gen fighter, openly stating as much. US is keeping a shroud over PCA/NGAD to slow them down.
It's not just NGAD that the US is holding close to the chest; most USAF programs aren't revealing many details. They've been vague about the B-21, AIM-260, ARRW, etc. Post cold war you could generally get specs of almost anything; with the new great power competition things are getting secretive again.
 

Zoomer

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I already said that PCA/NGAD is not supposed to replace only the F22. It has to replace the F15E too. So the whole "not a pound for air to ground" is probably BS. Something has to do interdiction. Or maybe the AF merged strategic bombing and interdiction with the B21. What do think?
 

In_A_Dream

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My bad on the F5s. They replaced Hunters in Swiss Af.
The F16 was pretty much a new F104 when it won the Sale of the Century. It had two wingtip Sidewinders and a single engine.
But the 5 countries did not want/need F4s or MRCAs much less F15s.
The F35 has ended up being both the F16 and F15.
Perhaps a better question is what the USAF is going to develop to replace the F22 as its air suoeriority fighter to counter whatever its opponents come up with.
China's waiting for the US to publish its figures on the PCA before committing to a 6th gen fighter, openly stating as much. US is keeping a shroud over PCA/NGAD to slow them down.
It's not just NGAD that the US is holding close to the chest; most USAF programs aren't revealing many details. They've been vague about the B-21, AIM-260, ARRW, etc. Post cold war you could generally get specs of almost anything; with the new great power competition things are getting secretive again.
That is correct.
 

bring_it_on

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I already said that PCA/NGAD is not supposed to replace only the F22. It has to replace the F15E too. So the whole "not a pound for air to ground" is probably BS. Something has to do interdiction. Or maybe the AF merged strategic bombing and interdiction with the B21. What do think?

In theory, what the Digital Century Series (which is now the "e" series) promises is to, within a fairly rapid time (like 4-5 years), iterate and field mature variants of an aircraft design and being able to adapt it for other missions and needs. We'll see if this becomes true or not but I think the way they are thinking is probably on these lines of fielding not one but a couple of designs and then using these new tools to quickly iterate and modify these designs to meet different needs.

IMHO, one of the differences between the ATF/JSF approach and the NGAD approach may be that they are not going to be winner takes all efforts. They are likely to continue to employ multiple design teams for longer, and look to produce designs and solutions as they mature. I think what Will Roper and others have said about this approach is that it will be more expensive upfront (having to sustain multiple design teams) but more effective and potentially cost saving down the road though as I said earlier, a lot of this needs to prove itself out so the current "e" series programs will likely give them the confidence to see if they want to continue down this path.
 
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