Monday, August 29, 2016

Air Force Prepares to Hash Out Future Fighter Requirements

After undergoing a yearlong effort that explored the tactics and technologies needed to control the skies in the future, the Air Force is taking its first steps toward making its next fighter jet a reality.

The service has already begun preliminary work ahead of a 2017 analysis of alternatives that will shape the requirements and acquisition strategy for the F-35 follow on, which the Air Force been termed Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) or Penetrating Counter Air (PCA).

But Brig. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, who led the Air Superiority 2030 enterprise capability collaboration team (ECCT), emphasized that there are two major differences between the NGAD effort and its that of legacy fighter jets. The first is the relatively rapid method of acquiring it.

“We need to have something by the late 2020s,” he said in an interview with Defense News. “I think a realistic timeline is somewhere around 2028 with key investments in some key technology areas, you’d be able to have some initial operational capability of a penetrating counter air capability.”

The second difference relates to the recently concluded Air Superiority 2030 study, which made the case that the Air Force’s future dominance will rest not on a single platform, such as a sixth generation fighter jet, but on an integrated, networked family of systems. That combination of penetrating and stand-off capabilities includes a fighter plane, but also a number of space, cyber and electronic warfare assets.

What that means is that the fighter jet of the future might look more like a sensor node than the dogfighters of the past, Grynkewich said.  more