Friday, February 24, 2017

USAF wants to speed up 6th gen fighter program...

via National Defense.
The Air Force needs to more aggressively pursue a next-generation platform capable of penetrating deep into hostile airspace, the head of Air Combat Command said Feb. 24.

The primary focus now is on ramping up production of the F-35A joint strike fighter, a fifth-generation aircraft with stealth features and cutting-edge sensors. But the Air Force is already thinking about acquiring a sixth-generation “penetrating counter-air” capability, or PCA, that would have longer range and greater ability to outmatch the most sophisticated enemy air defense systems.

Service leaders aim to have this new technology in the fleet in the 2030s. “We should try to accelerate that left if at all possible,” Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said at a breakfast with defense reporters in Washington, D.C.

The Air Force should procure more joint strike fighters than planned over the next five years and then pivot to a new system, he said.

“What I believe will happen is if we can increase the buy rate and continue to recapitalize our force with F-35s in the near term … then we can in the ‘20s look at that PCA,” he added. “We’ll be able to make a decision at that point where we’ll transition from [buying] more F-35s to a PCA, or we’ll transition to a different instantiation of the F-35” that is more advanced than the latest version.

The Air Force also needs a “penetrating electronic attack capability” that could potentially accompany the counter-air platform into enemy airspace, he said.

A sixth-generation system or family of systems might be unmanned and could be equipped with autonomous capabilities, he noted.

“There are things you can do with a penetrating platform that can probably use some unmanned [technology] … and would be either autonomous or semi-autonomous,” Carlisle said. “We’re looking at different ways to do that. But I do believe that there is some kind of platform that’s going to have to get an electronic [warfare] capability into the battlespace.”

The Air Force also needs to more rapidly acquire next-generation weapons for its newest aircraft, he said.

“We’re still flying with fourth-generation weapons on a fifth-generation platform,” he said. For F-22s, F-35s and a future penetrating counter-air system “we need weapons that are fifth- and sixth-gen that go with that.”

U.S. warplanes are not the only assets that are at risk from enemy air defenses, he noted. The weapons that they launch could also be destroyed.

“Not only does the airplane have to get into the theater to get to a range to deliver a weapon, but the weapon has to get to its target,” Carlisle said. “When you’re using fourth-generation weapons, the ability of the adversary to counter those weapons through a variety of means” is enhanced, he added. “You have to get something that can actually reach the target.”
There is alot going on in this story.  First he's basically admitting that the F-35 is not good enough.  The USAF is pushing for the new car smell and not seeking new capabilities.

Next he put that caveat on this whole thing by talking about a "new iteration" of the F-35.  We all know that's a lie.  The F-35 is constrained to a point that even getting current tech into the plane will be difficult.  Additionally its slow, doesn't go as far as desired and doesn't fly high enough to be the "penetrating counter air system" that the USAF is looking for.

Last the USAF is finally globbing onto the payload question.  Leadership knows it made a mistake.  They're gonna waste money on the F-35 while they try and get it right with the next plane.

Who should be worried?  Our allies that bought it.  The USAF will be able to course correct.  Our allies in A models not so much. 

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