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Where will fighter aircraft be in the next 10-25 years?

Grey Havoc

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Well, it depends for one thing on what sort of stealth you are talking about, as well as to what degree, as well as how much you are willing to spend to achieve it while avoiding or mitigating compromises. Design/capability compromises are often down to available budget rather than available technology.
 

Dilandu

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Stealth would probably became less... absolute requirement, due to more and more advanced sensor systems being developed. I think, the RCS reduction requirements would finally settle not on "invisible" but on "unidentifable" - i.e. to reduce combat aircraft RCS enough so it would be harder to discriminate among cheap decoy drones.

Active defenses - like lasers, counter-missiles - would also get into play.

My suspicion is, that we would eventually have moderatedly-stealthy aircrafts with massively increased AAM payload to reliably achieve hits on enemy.
 

Grey Havoc

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My suspicion is, that we would eventually have moderatedly-stealthy aircrafts with massively increased AAM payload to reliably achieve hits on enemy.
A case of life imitating art?
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(The 'E' model would be along the lines of what you are thinking of.)
 

kaiserd

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Strange.
Virtually every new fighter aircraft (designs and wheeled out new airframes) at least as “stealth” focused as what immediately came before (F-22 vs Tempest, etc.).
The small variation from that (new S.Korean aircraft, Su-57, etc.) are more based to lack of ability to reach those same levels without a prohibitive cost/ benefit trade-off for those specific countries/ aviation industries right now (with the likes of S.Korea intending to head more in the main steam direction with later blocks of their aircraft, presumably so does Russia).
Yet there is a group of contributors that appear to need to believe otherwise.
Far more likely are trade-offs in terms of manoeuvrability for internal missile loads etc. As example the Typhoon may well be more agile than its replacement (Tempest or what ever emerges).
 
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tequilashooter

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While many people may speculate about a design focus on stealth, will we sacrifice other features for this?

Probably, there are some countries proposing near hypersonic or hypersonic speeds for aircrafts so I would expect designs to change but there might be a likelihood that they will just stick with variable cycle engines which I already which countries look more promising and some dont. It would also give higher altitudes depending how high they are the, "Anakin I have the high ground" might be important because depending how low you are your air to air missiles will burn more fuel having to climb up.

Than of course who can forget all the news wanking(mostly if not all done by me) on photonic radars hitting frequencies a little high which might propose a challenge to stealth. 100ghz airborne radar reports, wideband frequency reports of yakhroma which also surprisingly uses the millimeter band 30-300ghz, plans of upgrading ground radars to use Thz, RTI planning to introduce a radar in 2025 for sub-millimeter detection(above 300ghz) to detect and track miniature drones. There have also been recent news reports on Raytheon and DARPA to start funding in PIC related technologies. 2027 Russia(particularly RTI) proposes a new tracking method to track stealth called radar shadowing.

Metamaterial got alot of recent news reports from China and Russia, like China stating our aircrafts will be 1000 times smaller and Russia saying stealth by transparency works better by absorption and reflection. A field that has better yet to be explored further.
 
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riggerrob

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Maneuverability becomes less and less important as missiles learn to turn at 20 Gs or 40 Gs.
 

zen

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I think a highly predictable reflection from the external fusilage is not just important to passive LO. But potentially allows active cancellation of returns and other clever trickery.
 

Grey Havoc

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Active defenses - like lasers, counter-missiles - would also get into play.

My suspicion is, that we would eventually have moderatedly-stealthy aircrafts with massively increased AAM payload to reliably achieve hits on enemy.
A case of life imitating art?
Thinking further on the matter, it could additionally be also a case of 'Back to the Future' in that a number of the 'original' ATF design proposals from the late 1970s and early 1980s, pre-Stealth mania as it were, were based around such concepts.
 

Foo Fighter

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I wonder if the P.125 may have some relevance, no canopy and less in the way of single point sensors, more like distributed items, probably a hybrid power source. I still see need for human involvement but perhaps not as much as now with a high probabilityb of directed energy weapons with MUCH more connectivity via secure microwave coms and weapons that can not only loiter but are smarter than the average space toilet.
 

riggerrob

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Directed energy weapons don't need to be powerful enough to melt parts off of an airframe.
DEW only need to be powerful enough to "tumble" software. How many of you want to fly a fly-by-wire airplane while the confused auto-pilot is trying to answer the question: "Now where was I?"
Hah!
Hah!
 
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kaiserbill

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Shouldn't this topic be in General: Aviation & Space?

Indeed, as it's not about a specific aircraft. Thanks for the clue !
 
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kaiserbill

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I wonder about pilotless fighters.
I am old enough to recall various studies into this. (HIMAT for example, part of which explored remote piloting...now about 40 years ago). I recall it was predicted in many quarters that it was just over the horizon, approaching fast.

And yet, here we are, still with piloted fighter jets.
I'm idly wondering how effective "loyal wingmen" types will be, beyond the sacrificial, or air-to-ground.
 

Foo Fighter

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No reason why a properly sorted loyal wingman could not prove to be an asset air to air or to mud moving. If the typical 'flight of four" becomes one piloted and three loyal wingmen, more could be made of a dwindling asset, human beings.
 

Maro.Kyo

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Probably not in 10 years but in 20 years or more maybe some of the fighter jet fleets of the USAF are going to be replaced with a new kind of aircraft, namely specialized hunter and killer aircrafts.

This "hunter" aircraft would have a substantially larger fuselage compared to current fighters, maybe in the region of F-111. That hunter would have larger, more capable sensors with huge apertures. Large fuel tanks as well, coupled with engines with generators that are capable of generating electricity which could power these sensors and DEWs.

Now this hunter would not operate within the enemy airspace but would stay a step behind and control various kind of UAVs, of which some would act as the killer. These UAVs would sort of act like an external "module" of the hunters that are more simple and expandable than current UCAVs. For example the combat would be done by Longshot alike but supersonic UCAVs that have minimal sensors and equipped with intra-flight data link that connects it with other UAVs and most importantly the hunter aircraft. This hypothetical UCAV would be more effective than enlarging and extending the missiles themselves.

When the adversary tries to engage the hunter, either with PL-15-like long range missiles or missile launched from their own penetrating aircraft, it would be able to hard-kill it with its DEW. Maybe even employ some anti-AAM missile akin to CUDA. So it's kind of expanding from current form of MUM-T to a more specialized aircrafts that are, say, more alike the naval warfare than the traditional aerial combat.

I've thought of such aircraft due to recent reports on wargame outcomes that took place on the SCS or the far-east within the Chinese A2/AD. According to such reports, legacy fighter jets, even the F-35, were not able to provide deep-strike capabilities, not because of the lack of stealth or its avionics capabilities but rather down to the fact that the A2/AD which employs PL-15 like long range BVRAAM or SAM deterred most of the support aircrafts like the tankers to enter the airspace close enough. Fancy sensors and software are all moot if you can't physically reach your target. On the other hand those UAVs I've talked about could have more fuel capacity instead of the cockpit and other human-related systems.

Now that I've talked about it, this hunter aircraft sounds more like the traditional AEW&C aircraft, specifically the E-2D with NIFC-CA capabilities. It might be easier to understand this hunter aircraft as E-2D but one that is powered by turbofans and equipped with much smaller radar(still larger than that of traditional fighter jets) EO-DAS, EW capabilities, VLO design, DEW and can go supersonic. It also sounds like the B-1R but one that doesn't shoot the missiles itself but rather through UCAVs.

On the other hand, I think this hypothetical hunter aircraft is not all that different compared to what is currently envisioned as 6th generation fighter jets and to a certain extent even how the USAF is considering to operate 4th and 5th generation fighter jets together. The main difference would be that these 6th generation fighter jets still seem to focus on agility and has the capability to engage in combat themselves if necessary. My hypothetical hunter aircraft sacrifices the agility for more fuel, larger sensors and more provisions for DEWs. Also instead of combat capable fighter jets act as hunter and killer, what I'm thinking about is strictly hunter and strictly killer aircrafts. Reason behind this, apart from larger sensors is that the missiles are seemingly becoming more agile across wider flight envelop. Ramjet powered missiles already have considerably larger NEZ. Simplest solution to a larger NEZ is to stay out of it and shoot it down if they still come across.

Now I think there are some obvious issues with this concept, that it is rather specialized in high-intensity warfare that takes place in A2/AD airspace with considerable depth. More conventional fighter jet design would be suitable to situations where the theater of operation is way shallower and physically closer to the adversary, like that of central-eastern Europe, Israel, Taiwan and Korea. Also during peace time, it would probably be less suitable for missions like air patrolling and interception. That's why if anyone uses such kind of aircraft, I think it would be USAF. Maybe JASDF as well.
 
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uk 75

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This is a fascinating thread for me as it recreates the excitement of the 70s and 80s when glossy books and magazines began illustrating the possible successors of the F14 and F15.
Reality proved a whole lot less glamorous than the models and artwork. First we got the powerful but ugly (compared with an F15) F22 and then eventually the even uglier F35.
Of course Taiwan is the one place where US and Soviet designed fighters clashed.. F104s versus Migs?
 

helmutkohl

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probably not too different in 10 years?

Korean's KF-21 begins to enter service. KAI still waiting for payments from Indonesia
Japan makes a demo of their F-3, ends up being a very conservative design
China finally accepts the J-31 and puts it in production
India finally agrees what Tejas Mk2 should be. Mk1 finally becomes fully operational
F-35 operation costs go down
Dassault and Airbus agree to disagree
UK Tempest still not flown, probably another major design change
Iran makes new F-5 variant with 3 tails
we probably see armed drones take down a fighter aircraft by now
 

kaiserbill

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I wonder when we will start seeing adaptive wings, covered in a flexible outer material.
Sort of like what the Mission Adaptive Wing was looking at, but far greater in scope. One might also think that it might not only be limited to the main wing, and perhaps be used on other parts of the aerostructure eventually.
I doubt this will be in the near future, but it might start getting looked at in a limited fashion in the 25 year term which is the premises of this thread.
Just an idle pondering, having not personally kept abreast of current developments as much as I used to for the last few years...
 

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