Air Forces are currently developing their most advanced 5th generation fighter jets, with manufacturers around the world shaping the future of combat aircraft.
The emergence of global powers and increased territorial disputes are pushing defence forces to reconsider strategies where aerial dominance becomes a priority for victory. Manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Mikoyan, Dassault, Airbus, BAE Systems and China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation are actively planning the future of the fighter jet.
The next-generation F-22 Raptor
The US Air Force required a new fighter jet to replace the F-16 Eagle and F-22 Raptor. Thus, emerged the Next Generation Air Dominance Program (NGAD), with the aim of developing a fighter jet with capabilities to operate in airspace and cyberspace domains, the Air Force refining its vision for the penetrating counterair platform.
This new jet fighter would require a long-range flight to reach domains without fixed bases, such as the Pacific. Supersonic speed and stealth would be mandatory with anti-access/area denial systems in place.
These strategic needs will be fulfilled by taking inspiration from the Century Series Fighters that developed six aircraft in less than six years, The North American F-100 Super Sabre, The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart, The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, The Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
The development would see aircraft introduced every five to six years utilizing the most advanced technology. Each aircraft would provide unique capabilities, such as directed-energy weaponry and electronic warfare. Together the fleet works as a network to counter any type of threat.
Manufacturers Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have announced experimental research in anticipation of US Air Force tenders to develop new fighter jets.
21st Century MiG, The MiG-41
Russia is looking at Mikoyan-Gourevitch (MiG) for development of its sixth-generation fighter. So far, the country has been relying on Sukhoi for its last platform, the Su-57.
Mikoyan-Gourevitch (MiG) has not developed a new fighter jet since the MiG-31 of 1981. The manufacturer announced that a development project has been launched a while ago, and intense work is being carried out under the supervision of the United Aeronautical Consortium (UAC), with the results being presented to the public shortly.
The new aircraft fighter jet, named MiG-41 is likely to be an interceptor with extraordinary performance having the ability to reach the troposphere at an altitude of 30,000 to 55,000 feet (9,000 to 17,000 meters) above sea level. Its top speed of 2,300 mph (3,675 km/h) enables interception of hypersonic missiles. The MiG-41 is slated to enter service in 2030.
Future Combat Air System, next-generation Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon
During the Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) Berlin, 2018, Dassault Aviation and Airbus announced an agreement to collaborate on Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, to replace the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon. Germany, France and Spain announced their participation in February 2019 with the inclusion of Indra Sistemas.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program aims to develop next-generation aircraft fighter jets, including the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) for air assets in the future operational defence environment. Included in this program are remote carrier vehicles (swarming drones) to form an Air Combat Cloud (ACC). Airbus and MBDA are both developing concepts for such drones in this program.
Europe’s Tempest fighter jet
The United Kingdom followed up with The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, unveiling the sixth-generation fighter jet codenamed Tempest at the Farnborough Air Show, July 2018. The Royal Air Force plans to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon by 2030. This program was joined by Italy in September 2019. Included in this project are Rolls Royce, Leonardo UK, BAE Systems, MBDA UK and Italy, Leonardo Italy, Elettronica Group and Avia Aero.
The Tempest should be supported by an array of drones, sharing its data with other defence assets in what is known as a Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).
Sweden has approved a Memorandum of Understanding for Saab AB to explore combat air development and acquisition program for the development of new defence capabilities to meet both nations armed forces future requirements.
China’s most advanced sixth-generation fighter jet
The advanced fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jet officially entered service in February 2018. However, performance against US Air Force F-22 and F-35 are being debated.
Prototypes for a sixth-generation fighter jet were developed a year after the Chengdu J-20 entered active service, with plans to induct the stealth fighter jet by 2035 as reported by Chengdu Aircraft Research and Design Institute.
Detailed specifics about China’s sixth-generation fighter jet have not been revealed, however, speculators say the aircraft will have the capability to command drones and use artificial intelligence for aerial superiority.