Sixth-generation fighter


sixth-generation fighter is a conceptualized class of aircraft designed more advanced than the fifth-generation jet fighter currently in service and development. Several countries have announced the development of a sixth-generation aircraft program, including the United StatesJapanRussia, the United KingdomFrance, and China.  The first sixth-generation fighters are expected to enter service in the 2030s.

 

National programs

 

Japan

 

Main article: Mitsubishi F-X

 

In 2010, the Japanese government revealed the concept sixth-generation jet fighter, the i3 FIGHTER. i3 is short for informed, intelligent, and instantaneous. On March 22, 2016, Japan conducted the first flight of the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin testbed aircraft for this project. On April 1, 2020, the F-X program was announced.

 

United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy

 

Main articles: Future Combat Air System (UK) and BAE Systems Tempest

 

In July 2014, Jane's Information Group reported that a House of Commons Defence Select Committee had published a report about the UK's "post-2030 combat aviation force structure". The report highlighted the possibility of the UK committing to a next-generation fighter program to potentially replace the Eurofighter Typhoon post-2030; the Eurofighter Typhoon has since had its intended service life extended to around 2040.

In July 2018, then British Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson unveiled the UK's Combat Air Strategy and announced the development of a sixth-generation fighter concept named the Tempest for the Royal Air Force at Farnborough Airshow 2018.

In 2019, Sweden and Italy joined the project.

In 2019, India and Japan were also invited to join the project.

 

France, Germany, Spain

 

Main article: Future Combat Air System

 

Interactive 3D model of the NGF mockup

France, Germany, and Spain are also jointly working on a sixth-generation system. A test flight of a demonstrator is expected around 2027 and entry into service around 2040.

 

Russia

 

Main article: Mikoyan PAK DP

 

On 26 August 2013, Russia revealed it would proceed with the development of a sixth-generation jet fighter. They say the aircraft will most likely be pilotless. However, they would not skip completing the development of fifth-generation fighter projects, like the Sukhoi Su-57.

Mikoyan PAK DP is a Russian program to develop a next generation interceptor aircraft to replace Mikoyan MiG-31. According to the Russian defense analyst Vasily Kashin, the aircraft would be considered as a 5++ or 6th generation fighter project. In January 2021, Rostec Corporation, the owner of Mikoyan, announced that the PAK DP had now entered the development phase, saying "Development of the next generation of interceptor fighters has already begun."

 

India

 

In an interview on 8 October 2020 to celebrate the 88th anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria was asked about plans for sixth-generation technologies and he responded that they have a clear roadmap for sixth-generation combat systems like directed energy weapons, smart wingman concept, optionally manned combat platforms, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons, and other equipment.

 

India has been working to develop its fifth generation AMCA with development completing in 2028 and production commencing in 2029. It is also looking to add some sixth-generation technologies in later variants such as optionally manned, directed energy weapons (possibility as anti-missile system), capable of controlling UCAVs and swarm drones but Indian officials did not claim that this will be a 6th generation fighter.

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari on 22 October 2021 confirmed in an interview that IAF is committed to the development of AMCA aiming at sixth-generation niche technologies.

 

China

 

After successfully developing its 5th generation fighter J-20, China is now working on the development of a next-generation aircraft. Dr. Wang Haifeng, chief designer of the Chengdu Aerospace Corporation announced that China had begun pre-research on sixth-generation aircraft in January 2019, predicting that the program would come to fruition by 2035.

 

United States

 

Main articles: F/A-XX program and Next Generation Air Dominance

 

The United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN) are anticipated to field their first sixth-generation fighters in the 2030 timeframe. The USAF is pursuing the development and acquisition of a sixth-generation fighter through the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program to replace its existing air superiority fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15 platforms and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. The USN is pursuing a similar program using the same name with the fighter component called the F/A-XX, likewise intended to complement the smaller Lockheed Martin F-35C and replace its existing aircraft such as the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

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