US Navy to Begin Work on Developing Hypersonic 6th Generation Fighter with Advanced Stealth

By | Apr 29, 2017 09:39 PM EDT

Northrop Grumman's version of a 6th generation fighter for the U.S. Navy. (Photo : Northrop Grumman)

The U.S. Navy's vision for its future sixth-generation fighter to replace the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter is one that can enter combat with or without a pilot and that can fire hypersonic missiles, among others.

The navy has begun the conceptual development process that will lead to the initial specifications for the new carrier-borne fighter, one of whose main qualities will be hypersonic speed. Hypersonic speed is widely seen as the "new stealth" in both the navy and the U.S. Air Force.

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The navy expects to see prototypes of its sixth-generation fighter, which will likely be a tail-less flying wing, by the 2020s and production of the selected design by the 2030s.

The navy's sixth gen fighter will replace its existing inventory of Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, which will be retired starting 2035. The Super Hornets will also be replaced by the F-35C, the naval version of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Carrier Air Wings (CVWs) in the 2040s will feature F-35Cs; upgraded versions of the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft and the new sixth generation fighter.

The sixth generation fighter will be capable of both manned and unmanned missions. It will possess advanced coatings; artificial intelligence; superior maneuverability; superiority in sensing the battlespace; communications and data links.

The new fighter might also be able to fire hypersonic missiles that can tear through the air at speeds ranging from over Mach 5 to Mach 10 (6,200 to 12,300 km/h).

The air force anticipates having hypersonic missiles by the 2020s. Hypersonic drones are expected to come about by the 2030s while recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft should fly by the 2040s.

And, of course, this new stealth fighter will feature futuristic stealth to evade more sophisticated air defenses of the Russians and Chinese, especially the new digital radars that are more difficult to combat.

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