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New fighter will complement the F-35

The F-35 program is still ongoing and infamously over budget, yet the U.S. Navy is kicking off the early steps in the search for a sixth generation fighter to replace the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This first step in searching for new fighter aircraft is a Request for Information from companies interested in participating with the program.
The document reads, "To support OPNAV N98’s request, this is a Pre-Material Development Decision (MDD) market survey for the purpose of determining market interest, feasibility, and capability of potential sources and does NOT constitute a Request for Proposals. NO SOLICITATION DOCUMENTS EXIST AT THIS TIME."
You may be wondering if this means that the F-35 as far as the Navy's concerned could be dead. Well, this new program has no bearing on the F-35 - the Navy document states the new sixth generation fighter will complement the F-35 and a planned unmanned aircraft. 
"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). "
Interestingly, the Navy is accepting pitches for unmanned, optionally manned, and manned aircraft. The fighters proposed could be brand-new, clean-sheet designs or concepts derived from current aircraft. Of all the missions the aircraft should perform, one the most interesting is the ability to refuel other fighters in the air. That means that the proposed aircraft should be able to shunt its own fuel to another aircraft.
The document also stipulates that any aircraft presented in this Request for Information should be able to operate off current CVN 68 and CVN 78 class aircraft carriers with a minimum impact on the configuration of the ship and the operation of the ships Carrier Air Wing.
The Navy wants any company responding to the request to factor in as many costs as possible including cost estimates for development, flyaway cost, procurement costs, acquisition costs, and operating costs. The Navy also wants technology used in aircraft to be Technology Readiness Level 6 by 2020 with proposed Initial Operational Capability by 2030. 

Source: Defense Tech

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Are they adressing the needs?
By euler007 on 4/17/2012 11:35:45 AM , Rating: 3
How is that 6th gen fighter improve wars against people driving toyota tacomas and horses?

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By Reclaimer77 on 4/17/2012 11:58:06 AM , Rating: 2
Hey man don't knock the Toyota Tacoma!

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By Jeffk464 on 4/17/2012 7:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
I think he was referring to the fact that for most of the world the tacoma acts as the jeep. Kind of a testament to it really.

By djkrypplephite on 4/19/2012 12:51:52 AM , Rating: 3
I think we've all seen that nothing can destroy a Hilux, so there's really no point in developing all new aircraft that won't make a difference either.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By nafhan on 4/17/2012 11:57:08 AM , Rating: 3
I'd imagine that the point would rather be to (hopefully) keep us out of wars with people that have fifth generation fighters.

I'm sure you already knew that, though...

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By soloburrito on 4/17/2012 12:59:01 PM , Rating: 1
There's no point. No country in the world has the means to even consider a conventional attack on America. Spending billions on conventional weapons is a waste especially when you have hackers with the capability to steal our best laid plans with the stroke of a keyboard.

By MrBungle123 on 4/17/2012 1:11:57 PM , Rating: 2
No country in the world has the means to even consider a conventional attack on America.

yes... and keeping it that way is the whole point, superpowers keep the peace, its why there was no WWIII.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By amanojaku on 4/17/2012 1:23:10 PM , Rating: 3
Military vehicles take decades to design and produce. The fact that no one can match us today doesn't mean it won't happen 10-20 years from now. Look at Russia, which is the closest, and China, which has the money. Technology theft is something we all have to deal with, so that's not an excuse.

Better security, including offline, geographically centered development, is the answer. If you're building a military plane you should be willing to live in a high-security compound until it's done. When you take vacations or leave you get cavity searched, and are escorted out with pre-screened supplies (clothes, car, phone, etc...) given to you by the facility.

By theapparition on 4/19/2012 12:18:22 PM , Rating: 2
And just how can they strip search your mind?

That's what security clearances are for. And the system actually works pretty good. Most breaches are from people who inadvertently leak info, not from targeted espionage. The other sources are hacking (largely increasing) and recovery (look no further than Iranian's in possession of a nice US drone). Targeted espionage actually has a very low success rate.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By marraco on 4/21/2012 12:37:45 PM , Rating: 2
You get cavity search for free each time you take a plane

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By nafhan on 4/17/2012 3:40:02 PM , Rating: 3
"Hackers" (kind of hate that term) are actually a lot like aircraft or artillery in that they can be thought of as force multipliers. They're not going to win a war or prevent one by themselves, though. They are also not going to take the place of research.

Also, this statement:
hackers with the capability to steal our best laid plans with the stroke of a keyboard
isn't really true. It has an element of truth, but the conclusion that should be drawn from that element of truth is that we need to do a better job securing our stuff - not "Hackers have rendered war and/or research obsolete."

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By Jeffk464 on 4/17/2012 7:42:02 PM , Rating: 2
Its not a waste of money if you are a defense contractor with tons of influence.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By TSS on 4/17/2012 8:55:23 PM , Rating: 3
There's no point in buying but there's certainly a point in developing one.

You can use that keyboard however you like, it's not going to give much protection against a sidewinder missile.

Remember, the only reason nobody can take you on is because nobody can afford to spend as much as the US does. Trick is though, neither can the US. It's better to still have some plans in a vault somewhere by the time americans also realise it.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By jabber on 4/20/2012 8:52:36 PM , Rating: 2
Why spend billions to attack America when you can change it and its policy forever with a few dollars worth of bolt cutters and knives on a plane?

Far more effective and you don't have to cross the sea/ocean to do it.

Conventional warfare is largely over for the foreseeable future.

RE: Are they adressing the needs?
By rika13 on 4/17/2012 7:37:10 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the Tacoma, but the Hilux they use, the little truck (think s10 or ranger, not c/k or f150)

By Exelius on 4/17/2012 1:12:03 PM , Rating: 5
Why would you develop a fighter with a human in the cockpit in this day and age?

There are a number of reasons this doesn't make sense:

* Human-carrying planes have to carry life-support and safety equipment (oxygen, ejection seats, etc.) This adds complexity and weight to the system.
* Human carrying planes have to have multiple redundancy and complicated control systems, both of which add weight.
* Modern airfames can perform at levels beyond what the human body can handle -- if I recall, the F-22 has software limiters to prevent pilots from turning too quickly.
* By reducing the weight necessary for carrying a human, you can either reduce the size of the engine or increase the number of munitions the plane can carry.

Basically, you can develop the same capability at a fraction of the cost, or far superior capability at the same cost.

RE: Why?
By SunLord on 4/17/2012 3:23:41 PM , Rating: 2
I think the idea is to have the lead fighter being manned with the rest of the flight operated in an UVA mode so if all the fighters are generally the same they can in theory work in sync with the lead fighter till they need to break off an engage while giving the human pilot direct over watch control of the UAVs just in case

RE: Why?
By amanojaku on 4/17/2012 3:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Why?
By theaerokid on 4/17/2012 3:40:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's a good idea in theory, and there's a good amount of research on unmanned "swarms" and cooperative leader/follower actions, but there's always an element of involvement and coordination from the pilot, and adding to the workload of a fighter pilot is not an attractive proposition to the decision makers.

RE: Why?
By theaerokid on 4/17/2012 3:20:07 PM , Rating: 3
Because they're looking for a fighter, not a tactical attack aircraft. I have no problem delegating bombing and ISR to drones; in fact I'm quite partial to them, since I designed, built and tested them. But the fighter role needs the situational awareness of a human in the cockpit. At this point, I wouldn't trust the satellite links to give a remote pilot the response needed for such a mission.

It could be argued that now that China and Russia are close to matching our stealth capabilities, detection ranges are going to get smaller and there may very well be a need to actually engage in up close and personal air-to-air combat again.

RE: Why?
By nafhan on 4/17/2012 5:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
My feeling is that before we can truly replace humans in the "cockpit" (including remote operation), we will have to let autonomous aircraft make their own decisions on when to fire, and I don't think we are technically or culturally prepared for that. However, if we aren't the first to do this, we'll almost have to do it once someone else does (and someone will, out of desperation if nothing else).

RE: Why?
By Jeffk464 on 4/17/2012 7:44:06 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't have a human in the cockpit, you can pull more g's and turn inside the opposition plane.

RE: Why?
By jRaskell on 4/18/2012 8:27:21 AM , Rating: 2
I think you either don't understand or are intentionally trivializing the complexities and downsides of remote controlled or autonomously controlled aircraft. The one concrete benefit an unmanned aircraft will have is a high performance envelope. All the rest are either nonexistent, or trivially different.

instead of a 6th generation fighter
By clhathat on 4/17/2012 12:15:33 PM , Rating: 5
How about they look for a 2nd generation method of managing the cost overruns of new aircraft??

By Shadowself on 4/17/2012 1:58:09 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, the military IS on its second generation system. It's called EVMS. The prior system was called CSCS.

What they need is a sixth generation cost control system keep tight control on the sixth generation aircraft!

By Shadowself on 4/17/2012 2:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the military IS on its second generation system. It's called EVMS. The prior system was called CSCS. (There was a wild assortment of systems before that, many growing out of the Rockwell International fiasco over the mix and match of costing on various DoD & Civil programs including the Shuttle.)

What they need is a sixth generation cost control system keep tight control on the sixth generation aircraft!

By bh192012 on 4/17/2012 1:41:21 PM , Rating: 4
Personally I believe the main role of a 6th gen fighter, would be to perform the roles that 5th gen fighters were supposed to do, w/o bankrupting and scuttling our military. We can't maintain this level of defense spending. We're pulling a USSR.

Of more interest is the approach
By Amiga500 on 4/17/2012 12:25:00 PM , Rating: 2
To countering high energy Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs).

An additional concern for surface/ground attack is the development of rail guns.

Where is the Grumman Iron Works
By rcc on 4/17/2012 4:10:16 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad they aren't really around anymore to build one.

And yes, I know they were merged into Northrop Grumman, but....

By FITCamaro on 4/17/12, Rating: -1
RE: What?
By kattanna on 4/17/2012 11:20:38 AM , Rating: 1
This is a pretty silly capability for a fighter to have.

they will have to make a trade off with other cargo to give it any refueling ability worth even bothering about. I'm guessing though they could try a fully unmanned version though it will be a jack of all trades, master of none fighter, but those can be useful as well.

but yeah, that one role just sounds out of place.

RE: What?
By amanojaku on 4/17/12, Rating: 0
RE: What?
By Drizzt321 on 4/17/2012 1:21:14 PM , Rating: 5
It's not necessarily silly. If, for minimal (relatively speaking) additional design & cost they can put an add on capability to an aircraft (with external hardpoint fuel takes say) to refuel other aircraft, it could be a major plus for carrier operations.

Right now the KC-135 is only land based. If you're fairly near a good sized land base, great, that works, but if you're in the middle of the ocean or too far away from friendly airfields, if you have the capability to launch a good enough air refueler that can help keep your aircraft aloft as they ingress or egress or while waiting to land, that's invaluable.

Think about it, a strike craft ends up using up a bit too much fuel evading hostile fire. On their way back they radio they won't have enough fuel. The carrier launches one of these with the refueler add-on attached, it transfers enough fuel to safely land the other aircraft. That's huge!

RE: What?
By Solandri on 4/17/2012 2:01:59 PM , Rating: 3
The Navy had been using the S-3 for carrier-based refueling when outside of USAF refueling range. But browsing the wiki article I see they retired them from carrier service in 2009. So yeah it makes sense that they're looking a carrier-based plane capable of acting as fuel tanker. Anyone know what they're using now, or if they're just doing without?

The point of the smaller Navy tanker isn't to fill up a plane which has empty fuel tanks (although it could be used in emergencies as you state). It's to top off the tank after a plane launches and climbs to altitude. Those two stages of flight are the most fuel-intensive. Topping off the tanks after those stages can probably expand a carrier's sphere of influence by a hundred miles or more.

RE: What?
By Bad-Karma on 4/17/2012 2:24:16 PM , Rating: 3
Anyone know what they're using now, or if they're just doing without?

Right now they're sending up A-6s & F18s with pylon mounted "Buddy Tanks". It's not a whole lot of fuel per buddy tank so it takes quite a few aircraft in order to sustain air operations, especially when you consider what a single KC-135 or KC-10 can transfer.

A lot of time a strike package will sacrifice fuel in favor of getting extra ordinance aloft. Then top off their tanks just after a cat shot. You have to remember that they have to run on full burner for the shot and then the climb out, so they eats up a good chunk of their fuel just getting airborne. Plus, it's not very combat efficient as you're using up a good chunk of your available air assets as dedicated tankers.

Cool bit of trivia: A single B-52 can completely drain every available pound of fuel from a KC-135 and still need more.

RE: What?
By Bad-Karma on 4/17/2012 2:28:31 PM , Rating: 2
Scratch that, the A-6s have already been retired.

I must need more sleep.

RE: What?
By Natch on 4/17/12, Rating: 0
RE: What?
By Bad-Karma on 4/18/2012 1:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
You don't try to refuel a fighter jet from a prop driven re-fueler.

The refueler would be at max throttle and in a shallow dive for any extra speed just to go fast enough. While the fighter is having trouble maintaining control at just above their stall speeds.

RE: What?
By Chernobyl68 on 4/18/2012 1:25:34 PM , Rating: 2
The C-2 Greyhound, while capable of landing on a carrier, is not carrier based. Its a big airframe to store on deck. It is an interesting idea though.

RE: What?
By Natch on 4/23/2012 3:07:33 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize that prop driven aircraft can fly at 300 knots, as can jet driven aircraft?

We're not talking Piper Cubs here. **sigh**

RE: What?
By Bad-Karma on 4/24/2012 7:10:52 PM , Rating: 2
The C-2 Greyhound has but a mere 10,000lbs of payload capacity. That and it cruises at about 250 knots. It could only get above 300knots when it is slicked down, no cargo and with near empty tanks. It couldn't get enough fuel aloft to make the trip worth while.

Jet aircraft typically refuel at or above 280 knots.

It is a simple matter of aerodynamics and physics, of which you seem to know very little. **sigh**

RE: What?
By amanojaku on 4/17/2012 11:38:56 PM , Rating: 2
Gonna try and explain this one last time: the 6th generation fighter is the replacement for the F-22 (Air Force). The F-22 is an air superiority fighter. When they were introduced, so were the F-14 (Navy), F-15 (Air Force), and F-16(Air Force). THERE HAS NEVER BEEN AN AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER THAT HAS REFUELED OTHER PLANES. Doing so would require a design that would compromise speed, maneuverability and stealth.

YOU DO NOT PUT EXTERNAL TANKS ON PLANES THAT REQUIRE STEALTH, SPEED, OR MANEUVERABILITY. The F-22 is the best plane in the world partly because of its huge internal loading bays. And there's still a compromise: an F-22 with external weapons holds less armaments than a fully loaded F-35, because it has to prioritize stealth, speed, and maneuverability over anything else.

Multirole and support craft are capable of refueling other planes because they are not required to be as fast, maneuverable or stealthy as air-to-air fighters. The F-18 (the Super Hornet is not an air superiority fighter; it would get creamed by an F-14), the S-3, and the A-6 are perfect for refueling. The F-35, being a multirole craft, could potentially be used for refueling. BUT NOT THE F-22 OR ITS 6TH GENERATION REPLACEMENT.

RE: What?
By Chernobyl68 on 4/18/2012 1:18:34 PM , Rating: 2
Tanker aircraft don't need stealth. They typically stay "feet wet."
Carriers need an on-deck tanking capability in order to provide a margin of safety for landings. Accidents on deck can disrupt flight ops, and could endanger aircraft orbiting the carrier that are low on fuel. Currently they rely on the F-18 E/F fighters for this since the KA-6 tankers have been been retired.
Retiring the A-6 may have been needed at the time, but no aircraft in the Naval Inventory had the unrefueled range of the A-6. The F-18 has notoriously short "legs" and supporting operations in Afghanistan needed tanking 2 or 3 times to get to and from the operations area. If they're smart that's something they should be looking at with a new aircraft.

RE: What?
By fic2 on 4/17/2012 11:26:08 AM , Rating: 3
Kind of like using a AAA using an F-1 car to deliver gas to a stranded motorist who ran out of gas.

RE: What?
By Ish718 on 4/17/2012 9:39:18 PM , Rating: 2
At least the AAA will get there faster, especially important for time critical missions or trips to your home.

RE: What?
By bug77 on 4/17/2012 11:36:07 AM , Rating: 2
It's not that silly. Each plane will have a couple of stealth canisters attached. When needed, they can eject them and the other plane will catch them with its stealth hooks. Problem solved for a minimal cost :-D

RE: What?
By kingmotley on 4/17/2012 12:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
I propose tying a couple of sharks with laser beams onto each plane. They could use those lasers to cut those canisters from another plane, then use giant magnets to catch them. Much more efficient, and the cool factor will put fear into the enemy.

RE: What?
By Treckin on 4/17/2012 11:42:23 AM , Rating: 2
Seeing as one plane might have the payload you require for the mission, however it is out of fuel and no tankers are present, this ability could be critical for interoperability of air assets.

Certainly mid air fuel transfer is easier then mid air ordnance transfer...

RE: What?
By Deaks2 on 4/17/2012 11:49:12 AM , Rating: 3
This is not a "silly capability."

The former A-6 Prowler had this capability as does the CURRENT F/A-18 Super Hornet/Growler.

It is very useful considering the USN no longer has dedictaed air to air refuelers.

RE: What?
By vx15i on 4/17/2012 11:59:04 AM , Rating: 2
The F-18 can do it. The F-35 probably has the capability, although I don't know specifically.

RE: What?
By Motoman on 4/17/2012 12:03:59 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe, maybe not.

Say you're in operation over an active theater. Fighter 1 has expended all it's ordnance, and can't do anything but head back to the barn for more. Fighter 2 is advised of a time-sensitive target and has the ordnance to take care of it, but doesn't have enough fuel left for the trip.

Fighter 1 can donate it's excess fuel to Fighter 2, then head back to the barn while Fighter 2 executes on the distant target.

RE: What?
By trisct on 4/17/2012 12:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
Not if the concept is to be able to refuel smaller drones. The fighter craft would be able to shuttle enough fuel to keep a small squadron supplied, without the radar signature of a tanker to tip everyone off.

The drones might also be slaved to the fighter as wingmen.

RE: What?
By Amiga500 on 4/17/2012 12:21:51 PM , Rating: 2
You taking the piss fit?!?

Buddy packs are pretty damn useful.

Of course, it would be limited to buddy pack refuelling - basically one (or both) of the wet pylons should be capable of taking fuel (from other fuel tanks) as well as imparting it to the other fuel tanks.

The fighter would not carry all the equipment that enables it to buddy refuel by default - it would be a mission specific loadout.

RE: What?
By Mystickal on 4/17/2012 1:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
This is not a silly capability for a Naval plane, rather it is vital. This is a current capability of the Navy.

The request does not say the aircraft should be able to shunt its own fuel to another aircraft. That is an assumption by the staff writer. Current procedure is to attach a tank (or two or three) to the external stores of the fighter. The other aircraft receive that fuel.


On a carrier, you don't have room for a KC-135 or whatever ends up replacing it. There isn't enough runway for it to take off and land even if there was space for it.

A carrier may be far away from any land based refueling assets. Sure, the tankers can fly to wherever they need to, but that takes time, particularly if there are countries that won't let us use their airspace and we have to go around. In time sensitive situations, there may not be time to put land based refueling assets into place.

It'd be even sillier to develop a specialized tanker aircraft for the carriers. Again, space on a ship is at a premium - parking two tankers on a carrier takes up the space of two combat aircraft, not a good trade off for a capability that may or may not be needed.

With a fighter that has the capability to refuel other fighters, you have an aircraft that can be armed during refueling operations, so in the event of any enemy interdiction the tanker aircraft can drop its external tanks and prosecute if necessary. Contrast that with a KC135 that is just a huge target.

This is an existing capability that adds flexibility without many downsides.

RE: What?
By amanojaku on 4/17/2012 3:22:17 PM , Rating: 2
I think we're the only ones who realize that this is a SIXTH GENERATION AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER. It's going to replace the F-22 in 2025. Everyone keeps bringing up the S-3 and A-6, as if they're in the same league! They didn't even fulfill the same role when they were in service. The F-4 Phantom was the dominant fighter, and the F-8 Crusader before it.

Fighter jets have a much narrower operating range than multi-role support craft. Adding refueling capabilities means more material, weight, design, and maintenance. And money. But less proficiency as a fighter.

RE: What?
By 91TTZ on 4/20/2012 3:06:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think we're the only ones who realize that this is a SIXTH GENERATION AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER. It's going to replace the F-22 in 2025.

Why would the Navy be developing a fighter that's meant to replace the Air Force's F-22? They're two completely different roles.

RE: What?
By Skywalker123 on 4/18/2012 12:53:35 AM , Rating: 3
you want us to borrow more money from China to fund our bloated war machine?

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