US Navy to Develop New and Far Deadlier Air Superiority Stealth Fighter Replacing F-35

By | Feb 12, 2017 07:21 AM EST

The USS Zumwalt and a Navy F-35. (Photo : US Navy)

The U.S. Navy will conduct research studies aimed at developing a true air superiority stealth fighter to succeed the Northrop Grumman F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It also wants to develop a long-range unmanned strike fighter.

While the F-35 has the measure of both China's Chengdu J-20 low observable fighter now in low rate production, and Russia's Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fighter still under development, the navy has indicated the need to boost this superiority with a fighter designed from the get go to shoot down masses of enemy stealth fighters.

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The F-35 is an all-in-one fighter designed primarily for attack missions with a secondary air superiority role. But thanks to the F-35's superior stealth design and electronics, this fighter has morphed into the premier air superiority fighter for the Navy, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marines.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a U.S. think tank specializing in U.S. defense policy and force planning, recommended the need for a new air superiority fighter in its latest naval future fleet architecture study.

"In contrast to today's multimission strike-fighters, such as the F-35C, the design of these aircraft (the new U.S. fighter) would need to focus mostly on the fighter mission rather than strike, so that they would have the speed, endurance, maneuverability, and air-to-air sensor capability needed for counter-air operations," recommended the report.

Apart from destroying Chinese and Russian fighters, the new U.S. fighter will have to intercept Russian and Chinese strategic bombers before they can launch their anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) at U.S. Navy carrier strike groups.

"With the ranges of air-launched ASCMs increasing to 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km), (U.S.) ships may not be able to use long-range surface-to-air interceptors such as SM-6s to engage enemy bombers before they can launch their ASCMs," said the report.

"CVW (Carrier air wing) aircraft will need to conduct this counter-air mission. Long range ASCMs also enable an adversary's bombers to launch attacks on the incoming Maneuver Force while the bombers are still protected by shore-based air defenses: defenses that can reach out to about 500 nautical miles (930 km), depending on the target's altitude."

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