Home » Air » The Navy Kicks off the Search for Its Next Fighter

The Navy Kicks off the Search for Its Next Fighter

by John Reed on April 16, 2012

Speaking of F/A-XX, the Navy’s planned 6th generation fighter that will replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, below you’ll find the Navy’s brand new Request for Information on the aircraft. By Brand new, I mean it just dropped on Friday.

Whatever jet is selected will hopefully replace the Super Hornets around 2030, said Rear Adm. Donald Gaddis this afternoon at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in National Harbor, Md. Before the Navy can settle on the final capabilities such a plane will have, it needs to know what types of technology the defense  industry can bring to the table for a brand new fighter that will be fielded in less than two decades, said Gaddis. The new jet must be able to survive in anti-access environment, have next-gen sensors and maybe even the ability to ‘buddy’ refuel other fighters and perform airborne early warning (AEW) duties, according to Gaddis.

Here’s what the actual RfI says the service wants in the new jet:

The intent of this research is to solicit Industry inputs on candidate solutions for CVN based aircraft to provide multi-role capability in an A2AD operational environment. Primary missions include, but are not limited to, air warfare (AW), strike warfare (STW), surface warfare (SUW), and close air support (CAS). Also consider the ability of your concept to provide other capabilities currently provided by strike fighter aircraft, such as organic air-to-air refueling (AAR), Tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA), and airborne electronic attack (AEA). The trade space refinement activity will characterize a broad tradespace, to include unmanned, optionally manned and manned aircraft. System attributes and system capabilities will be considered in the context of cost and affordability. Concepts that are derived from legacy aircraft, “clean sheet” new design aircraft, as well as innovative technology concepts specifically tailored for the operational context are all relevant. Please provide a separate white paper for each technology concept or family of related and complementary technology concepts; multiple white papers may be provided.

In any case, the Navy’s going to be studying the available technologies to build the Super Hornet replacement — that may well still be manned — for years since it will have such a big impact on the makeup of the 21st Century carrier air wing, according to Gaddis.

Click through the jump for the RfI.

Navy FA-XX_RFI[1]

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Black Owl April 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm

They should cancel the F-35C before doing this! It makes no sense! We haven't even replaced our Legacy Hornets with an acceptable 5th generation aircraft!

This is despiyte the fact that the Super Hornet is an acceptable replacement for our Legacy Hornets: http://www.scribd.com/doc/88946660/Why-the-USN-an

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Andy April 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Cancel the F35, bring back the BLACK BIRD and make it smaller, update to the latest tech. and bam we have a fastest fighter plane.

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michael April 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm

ummm…NO the black bird had a turn circle the size of texas, so it could not stand it's own in a dogfight. its concept was to outrun missles, but missles have tripled their speed and range so thet wouldnt work. not to mention landing speeds were too fast for carriers and maintenance would be a problem. it was never designed to carry any payload aka missles, bombs, and electronic countermeasures. it was designed to fly fast and high in a straight line. it had no armor. it was not stealthy (in fact, it was the opposite cause it was huge)====NOT A FIGHTER

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matt April 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

This is the absolute dumbest RFI of all time. Could they possibly be more ambigious? Manned, Unmanned, optionally manned, clean sheet, legacy derivative, tanker, bomber, fighter, AE, EA…..sounds like the navy wants a mix of an f-18, b1, kc135, c130, harrier, and ekronoplane…no wonder why every government program takes so long. What a waste of resources spending time on this goose chase.

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Ben April 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

They leave it very ambiguous to see how creative defense companies can get with their designs. Carrier aircraft inherently need to be very flexible, so trying to incorporate as many roles as possible into the design is likely a good thing. If you have a highly specialized aircraft, that's great, but you'll need to design other aircraft to fill the roles that your specialized one doesn't. That costs much more money.

The problem with procurement is that it's not a true competition anymore. The government funds the development and is inevitably put at the mercy of the defense company (F-35 Program).

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Chaostician April 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm

most creative = most risky and expensive. more ambiguity = less competetion = bad result for US taxpayer & warfighter. how is this "likely a good thing?"

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cool_hand77 April 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm

They should modernize the F14 concept. By the time they scrapped the Tomcats, they were multi-role, not only operating as fleet intercept, but also filling in as strike aircraft due to their ability to get in fast, slow down and operate like and A6 before dropping ordnance, and then zip back out [the so called "Bombcat"]. They could also pull recon, observation, and with a little creative thinking might have been able to pull CAS [low speed, back seater doing the aiming with either laser guided munitions or even some kind of gun pod while pilot focuses on keeping it in the air and any potential threats to the aircraft].
Just my two cents…Bring back the Cats!

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JWL April 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm

All Right – Who forgot the Dipping Sonar?

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cool_hand77 April 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

SHHHHH, Don't give them any ideas!

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tiger April 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

The idea of multi mission ability is nice on paper. In practice, leads to a plane like the F/A-18. A jack of all trades but sadly master of none. The mixed air group worked fine for most of the last 100 years. I would rather have a good tanker, EW or attack plane. Than one that does of a little of everything, but not well.

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Nadnerbus April 17, 2012 at 5:47 am

Yeah. Supposedly having the common and widespread use of a single or hand full of airframes is cheaper over the long term due to parts commonality and everything else that comes with economies of scale. The way our military spends it's money, I'm not sure. On an inflation adjusted basis, is the modern air wing really cheaper to run than a Vietnam era mix of f-4s, a-4s, a-6s and so on? And even if it is, are the savings worth lost capability? We still don't have the strike range that the Intruder had before we retired her, or the Bombcat after the Tomcat's retirement.

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tiger April 17, 2012 at 6:59 am

Ditto..

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Beaver April 17, 2012 at 8:19 am

You do realize the super hornet does all of that except the optionally manned right.

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Beaver April 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

Dittp x2

Bring back a leaner meaner version of the cat with thrust vect stealth coatings the Phoenix and the legendary bombing capability of the cat. Plus some supper cruise.

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Mastro April 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

Stealth coatings on an F14 would be like a thong on Rosanne Barr.

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Thomas L. Nielsen April 18, 2012 at 9:16 am

Well thank you for THAT mental image!

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Jeff April 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

A quantity of jack of all trades units gurantees you have some degree of a capability where and when you need it, even it isn't the best posible capability.

A sufficiently advanced jack of all trades can still outperform specialists. Let us take students as an example… who's the best student who has a perfect A+ or the student with an A-? Well valedictorian is rarely decided by a single subject and having A- in all areas (a jack of all trades) is better than an A+ in one and B's and C's in the others (a master of one).

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blight_ April 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I think the question is whether or not a JSF is really an A- or not (YMMV). And there is no modern fielded specialized carrier aviation force that can be fairly compared.

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TMB April 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Jeff, how about using that analogy to compare physical attributes rather than mental ones (since aircraft do things rather than think). The best sprinter is not going to be the best marathon runner who is not going to be the best football player who is not going to be the best martial artist. Someone can build their bodies to be okay at all of those, but what happens if you really need a lineman or someone to win a marathon? Aircraft are the same way. Make a fighter that carries bombs, electronic warfare gear and is tied to two siblings with their own R&D issues, and it becomes bloated, heavy, expensive, and takes longer to field. Instead of "great/soon," we keep getting "jack of all trades/eventually."

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Nick T. April 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

AHHH NO NOT AGAIN!!!…Wait were's stealth on that list? Nowhere? Well, this might just be feasible. First bit of good news about Acquisition I've heard all week. As lone as that 6th generation junk I heard was just concept.

Seriously, is it that hard to make a Aircraft that is relatively easy to maintain/produce AND has more brains than the laptop I'm typing on? And does it have to be stealth? Okay, masking IR sigs is important (and feasible?), but can't we just focus on jamming scrambling, and other electronic warfare? Is stealth really that important, when most perspective flashpoint countries operate 3rd-4th gen fighters. When defense grids could be taken down and national secrets stolen by a room full of computer ner… erm, "specialists", we still sunk 1 tril+ into a blatantly over-budget program. And it's starting to nibble in our hindquarters.

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Tyler Totten April 17, 2012 at 9:57 am

I think the survive in an anti-access environment indicates the need for stealth. Unless someone comes up with a kill all laser defense system compact enough for fighters, stealth is going to be used.

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STemplar April 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hey I've got an idea, lets combine this with a plane to replace the USAF's F22 and we can have some trusted international allies buy in as well. The increased buy, and multi-service use will keep down sustainment costs and lower the per unit price….HAHAHAHAAHAHA. Couldn't help myself……

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Chops April 16, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Whatever they do, don't let Lockheed Martin win the contract or it won't be in service till 2045 and it will cost $1 billion per plane.

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passingby April 17, 2012 at 4:59 am

good idea … but LMT owns a big chunk of most fat (_|_)s on Capitol Hill. So LMT has a big voice / noise when those fat (_|_)s open their rear end. That's how American politics works.

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Lance April 17, 2012 at 12:05 am

Plus I dont see any new program outside of DDG-1000 happening due to BIG cuts coming yet the idiots in the DoD kept spending money like they think it grows on trees. We dont even have a 5th gen fighter in Navy service or not many in Air Force service and now they want to skip that and goto a 6th gen fighter. After cuts hit and sequestration hits how do they expect to pay for this???? They cant understand that outside of one major program per service there wont be money for anything else, they said this last month now it like nothing ever happened. Time to slap sense into the government all over get the 5th gen fighter online fist and then get the budget fixed then ten years from now look into a new plane.

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Nadnerbus April 17, 2012 at 5:53 am

Aside from your usual grammar, I actually agree with you Lance.

InformationDissemination.com has a graphic up showing projected defense acquisition costs for their top programs out over the next X years (forgot already). The JSF is already set to break the bank, there is just not going to be money for another gold plated super plane with all the trimmings absent a miraculous and insanely strong economic recovery.

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dddd April 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

I rarely make cynical comments…but this is ridiculous. Again. They are going to try to make a plane that does absolutely everything. With how many lines of code? We need more dedicated aircraft, IMHO. Military cuts? No doubt. But around 100 A-10s? Can anyone see an F-22 or F-35 performing the down and dirty work of a Warthog? Please.

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Jeff April 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

No I don't believe either can excel to the same degree. But between the F-22 and F-35 its about having something adequet to perform in the absence of a Warthog and in a moment perform some other function. Hypothetically an A-10 is doing its down and dirty, but you need over the same location electronic warfare capabilities… well the A-10 can't do that… and now it runs the risk of its communications or IFF being disrupted and it potentially shoots at the wrong target.

In a more ideal world the F-22s and F-35s would simply be to supplement the abilities of specialized aircraft, or mitigate the need for as many specialized aircraft. Completely replacing those specialized aircraft, makes the least sense.

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LKitty April 17, 2012 at 1:25 am

I say we just go straight for 7th gen. 6 gen is for pussies!

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FtD April 17, 2012 at 3:19 am

why not just build a stealth AWAC and let the stealth drones carry the bombs/missiles so the AWAC can have constant supply of firepower and can loiter around battlefield much longer, higher and further away from danger?

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passingby April 17, 2012 at 5:08 am

a stealth AWAC??? LOL!!!!!!!!!! it'd be a tough job even you had a 100 trillion budget plus Jesus Christ as the chief engineer and Einstein as the chief physicist. That's assuming you want a real one.

if you are OK with a less expensive fake one, I think LMT and / or Boeing can accommodate your desire for a 500 billion retainer. Be prepared to wait 50-60 years though.

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FtD April 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

but from what the navy's asking for, it's not far off with the capability they're looking for from a single airframe

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passingby April 18, 2012 at 4:15 am

Well, it's true to a certain extent. The F-35 has been a laughing stock for smart, knowledgeable fighter jet engineers and air combat experts.

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Riceball April 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

A stealth AWAC is not only physically impossible but also something of an oxymoron. Part of stealth involves emissions control and the biggest part of that is not using radar since an active radar is pretty much a beacon that screams out, "Here I am!". An AWAC has a giant radome on the top of its fuselage which not only likely negate stealth through shaping but even if it could be made in a stealthy shape the minute you turned it on, which you need to in order to properly function as an AWAC, you've just lost any stealth that you may have had.

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Kevin April 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I got one word for you. Terminator. lol

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Strange April 17, 2012 at 5:11 am

this is super crazy…. keep this up and other might overtake

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Sgt_Buffy April 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

Sigh….. They're just asking for some ideas, they aren't flat-out buying a paper (blueprint only) plane yet. They're kicking around the idea because our fleet is aging, albeit slowly as we upgrade and refurbish everything. Hell, it's 2012, it's the year 2000, let's do something fun!

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Dfens April 17, 2012 at 8:49 am

The Navy's stupidity knows no bounds. They want something that will loiter well and handle big loads, and will be a great fighter? Yeah, no problem. There's plenty of overlap on mission capability there. One's a fast mover with a razor thin wing and the other is a slow mover with a thick subsonic wing. Oh sure, one airplane can do all of that poorly or not at all.

Hell, if they'd have gone for the Common Support Aircraft (CSA) proposal Lockheed made in the 1990s, and even then Lockheed had a hard time coming up with a better plane for carrier based anti-submarine warfare, STW, AAR, RSTA, and AEA than the C-2 Greyhound. The original version of the C-2, the E-2 already handles the airbone early warning mission. I always thought if Lockheed's proposal had been a reduced signature or stealthy vehicle for CSA, they'd have gotten a lot farther. At least that would have brought something new to the carrier. As it was, their lies about how a turbofan airplane was going to out loiter a turboprop sounded pretty good until they got caught by someone who knew something about aircraft.

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JSFMIKE April 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Reminds me how Boeing pushed a similar line when the P-3 replacement proposal came out. Boeing said it was more cost effective to use a 737 derivative airplane that could fly out really fast to the area, loiter for 4 hours, and wait to be replaced on station by another 737. That RFP was years ago. Lockheed pushed the P-7 while Boeing called their's the P-8. Millions of dollars later, we are finally getting the forst P-8's. At 200 feet altitude, the turboprop always wins. But at least the Navy will be training pilots for the civilian world when they leave to go fly 737's for Delta, etc.

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WRG01 April 17, 2012 at 9:15 am

Our largest prospective threat militarily has been killing us off with lead, mercury, asbestos, low-grade radiation and choking hazards 25 cents at a time from gumball machines for the last 30 years. Doubt a 6th Gen aircraft will be able to defeat that.

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Citizen of the world April 17, 2012 at 10:12 am

Now that’s really asking for a platform that can do everything. Should it protect against heart disease and malaria too?

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Thomas L. Nielsen April 17, 2012 at 10:17 am

Don't forget heating pizzas, making coffee and welding under water….

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

And in reply to WRG01: A lot of people seem to be complaining about how China (you were referring to China, right? Or is it France?) is selling s**t to the US and getting away with it. Well, there's an easy solution: Stop buying stuff made in China, and accept that the price of everything at least doubles.

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Poor_Patriot April 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

Not enough Americans want to pay higher taxes, we're just a bunch of whining snobs. I'd be ok with it, but then, at a $16,500/year income, I wouldn't be paying much more than I do now. And those 60k/year people complain about money? It's a sad state of affairs when a .5% increase is seen as Doomsday.

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Gunner April 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

More money down the hole when we haven't even ironed out the F35 problems.

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Mastro April 18, 2012 at 9:12 am

Its the right time to start planning replacing the F18EF's-

By 2030 even the newest ones (are they done production of the F18?) will be ready for the boneyard.

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Kole April 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

Where is the money coming from to fund these Mr.Navy and Air Force?

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tiger April 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Uh………….. you.

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Kole April 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

Uhhh……. no it's not. I know for a fact tax dollars sre not paying for these costly programs at all.

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Kole April 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

*are sorry :)

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BobSacamano April 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Folks, [nothing happens] until the economy is turned around and hopefully it will with the next election!!!

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Erich April 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Unfortunately by then I will have lost my home to a short sale and move to a small apartment at 68 years old. I lost my job to the entitled younger generation and no living on Social Security. I hope that doesn't go away.

I designed many hospital replacements for the military and that is the thanks I got and some other experienced people.

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Jim April 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm

just curious, what do you mean by hospital replacement design?

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StrumPanzer April 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm

They should put in there the ability to transform into a robot, and must have a kitchen sink.

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tiger April 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Make toast, juice And have folding wings.

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Thomas L. Nielsen April 18, 2012 at 2:04 am

Don't forget heating pizzas and welding under water :-)

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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JSFMIKE April 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

The Navy has spent more money publishing RFP and RFI than actually buying aircraft. There's the NATF and A-12 that readily come to mind. Millions of dollars later – no hardware. Guess what – STOP guilding the lily and find a cheap, capable airframe for each type of jet needed. Instead we have the F-18 on the deck and the F-35 waiting to come aboard. Each of these were supposed to be fighters, interceptors, and bombers – all in one package. Which means they don't excell in any one phase of warfare but they do put an airframe over target. The outcome is another matter that mostly counts on the pilot training to win the battle.

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DanS April 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

It sounds like they are requesting an F-35 (as its supposed to work anyway). The 35 is supposed to be a super networked aircraft, meaning a baby AWACs. Its stealthy-ish and I think it can buddy fuel. The 35 is supposed to be what is in this RFI. So why are we asking again? Is confidence low in the 35? I wonder why.

But really it would be much cheaper to saturate the air with jamming and use sensible LO characteristics that don't turn the plane into a hanger queen. While they are at it, bringing back the Vikings (or a modernized version) for basic sea control, tanking and patrol work would go a long way to preserving the lifespan of the pointy noses too.

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Jim April 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Gee, and here I was believing that the F-35 was being built for this very issue. We haven't even got that dog up and running, and the Navy wants another new toy? HOW exactly are you Navy types going to fund this dream?

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Erich April 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

We seem to have concept sketches generated with today's outlook of what the future will require. With that in mind then China and Russia will be copying what they see and having to counter by 2030 and wind up with equal to equal equipment by then. I hope we have something a bit more advanced than what we are showing. Maybe with something like a flying saucer propelled on electromagnetic waves and pilotless so the craft can turn or move up and down without killing the pilot; therefore pilotless. Maybe even invisible.

To give an example, my brother has a garden hose nozzle that is placed in a specific part of a garden that is locatable by GPS and can sense when that hose should turn on and sends a signal to activte the valve and shuts it off depending on the moisture content of the soil at the nozzle end. So by 2030 I would rest assured that GPS will by then be accurate enough to launch an aircraft and do everything it will be capable of doing; even dogfighting if need be without a pilot by then.

Ya thank!

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William April 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I guess I'm just old fashioned. So flog me if I'm incorrect. A "Jack of all Trades" is a very complicated piece of equipment. I'm a Viet Vet and a former menber of the A-6 community, so I have some experience in these affairs. We are told it is too expensive to field a specific airframe for each discipline. Then spend billions attempting to produce a compromise that will be semi-capable in all of the required areas. By the way…, where are we with the f-35 ???

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Dfens April 18, 2012 at 12:33 am

The A-6 was a great airplane. There's no way the F-18 or F-35 hold a candle to it. That said, the Navy could do some consolidation. A good fighter airplane like the F-14 could also be used in a fast attack role. A subsonic bomber/attack plane can double as a tanker pretty effectively as the A-6 did. A COD airplane like the C-2 can pick up several other missions like AEW, command and control, ASW, even a mini-gunship; anything that needs a bunch of equipment and several operators to be airborne. Pretending that a fighter can also be your attack plane is just plain stupid, and that's where the Navy is stuck today.

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tiger April 19, 2012 at 12:40 am

I miss the Intruder/ Prowler. S-3 's as well

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stephen russell April 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm

New names for plane: Bearcat 2, Panther 2, Hellcat 2, Puma, Buckaneer?, Cutlass,

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tiger April 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

Well Grumman are the cat lovers. Lockheed traditionally used Astronomic names ( orion, vega, constellation). Boeing having bought everybody has lot of name history to use. Vought would like to forget the F7U Cutlass. The AgustaWestland is again into cats with the Puma & lynx choppers. The Blackburn Buccaneer was a neat jet. Too bad Thunder City is no longer in business.

Names? Based on the above concept? Boeing Skyray II. In honor of the F4D Skyray.

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Aaron April 19, 2012 at 12:53 am

Why develop a plane when there is one on its way already. It kind of defeats the purpose of the F/35

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tiger April 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

WE are thinking 30-40 years in the future. You have to start thinking now. Most of todays planes were developed in the 1970's & early 1980's.

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Leroy April 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

From what I can see , whats takes so long is that they spec these things and then hang around waiting for the tech to mature to the point that they can implement them, and with BAE and Lockheed waiting to extract every pork barrel cent they can out of you guys thats a recipe for disaster. Just build an updated version of say the F-15, with better materials and Avionics but a lot cheaper than the F-22. What you can't outfly, you will out number to the point that any slight superioty is negated.

Its what the USN with the Wildcat and then the Bearcat in WW2.

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Richard April 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I read an article written on here that the only plane better at air-ground than the F-22 was the F-35, and the only plane better at air-air than the F-35 was the F-22. I think the Navy doesn't like having a true Air-Air fighter like they use to with the F-14. So they will get the 6th Generation fighter that will be used for mainly an Air-Air role with extensive air-ground capabilities, but designed as an air-air first just like the F-22.

Remember that China and Russia both have 5th generation fighters coming very soon, and depending on how they perform, the US needs to be a step ahead of those 2 militaries.

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Anymouse April 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm

IOC of 2030, really ?? That's about when F-35C will reach IOC at the rate they are going. Speaking of F-35C, they need to terminate that turkey before it destroys Naval Aviation. F-35C is going to continue to escalate in price leaving no money for a 6th Gen aircraft yet it lacks the range and payload needed to go up against China. It is also not as survivable as F-22 or what the 6th Gen aircraft will be leaving it vulnerable to high loses as it tries to use its short range internal carriage weapons againsts its targets (although highly compromised weapons like JSM or JSOW-ER may eventually be there). It also lacks the air dominance capability of the F-22 ( signature, aero performance, firepower etc.) . We need a 6th Gen fighter in the Navy, do we need F-35C?

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movers Leesburg VA April 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm
dddd April 17, 2012 at 12:23 am

Agreed. A major war in the next two decades is very hard to imagine. But around that time? Who knows?

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