America’s Sixth Generation Fighter Will Emphasise Electronic Warfare Prowess Over Stealth or Speed – Reports


Speculation regarding the capabilities of America’s upcoming sixth generation fighter jets have been widespread for over a decade, and have grown considerably in light of the announcement in September that the Air Force had already test flown an early prototype of such an aircraft. At least two sixth generation jet are currently under development, one for the Navy to replace its F-18E Super Hornets, and the other for the Air Force to succeed the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor in frontline service in the 2030s. The fifth generation Raptor has served in the Air Force since December 2005, but is expected to see an early retirement. Where the primary technological breakthroughs of the fifth generation of fighter aircraft included active electronically scanned array radars and radar cross section reducing stealth airfrxs, the first sixth generation fighters could have a very different emphasis. Improvements in sensor technologies are increasingly threatening to undermine the viability of stealth and outpace the rate at which stealth technologies can provide countermeasures to being detected and locked onto. As a result, America’s next generation fighter could well be much less stealthy than expected, and instead place a much greater emphasis on electronic warfare to remain survivable.


Attesting to the growing limitations of stealth technology, referring to the only Western stealth fighter in serial production today the F-35, Israel’s former Defence Minster Moshe Arens stated: “anti-stealth technology is being developed and may yet neutralise what is being advertised as the aircraft's major advantage before delivery or within its operational lifetime.” Arens had instead advocated that Israel focus on developing its indigenous Lavi lightweight attack jet, which not only came at a much lower cost than the F-35 but also placed an extremely heavy emphasis on electronic warfare and had no stealth capabilities whatsoever. Speaking specifically regarding America’s sixth generation fighter program, the Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert stated that the jet would need to focus on suppressing enemy air defences rather than outrunning them or hiding from them with a high speed or stealth airfrx. “You know that stealth maybe overrated. I don’t want to necessarily say that it’s over but let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air and disrupts molecules in the air and puts out heat – I don’t care how cool the engine can be – it’s going to be detectable…. It has to have an ability to carry a payload such that it can deploy a spectrum of weapons. It has to be able to acquire access probably by suppressing enemy air defences.”

隐身技术的局限性正逐渐得到证实,特别是现在正在唯一批量生产的西方隐形战斗机F-35。以色列前国防部长阿伦斯表示:“反隐身技术正在发展中,隐身战斗机在交付前或服役期间内主要优势就会消失。”相反,阿伦斯倡导以色列应集中精力发展其本土的LAVI轻型攻击机,该机不仅成本比F-35低得多,而且非常重视电子战,并且没有任何隐身能力。海军作战司令乔纳森·格林特(Jonathan Greenert)特别谈到美国的第六代战斗机计划时说,这种战斗机将更加需要专注于压制敌方防空系统,而不是用高速或隐身的机身躲避它们。 “您知道隐身性可能被高估了。我不想说它结束了,但让我们面对现实吧,如果物体在空气中快速穿过并破坏空气中的分子并制造出热量–我不关心发动机如何散热–这是可探测的…。 它必须具有运载有效载荷的能力,以便可以携带各种武器。 它必须拥有通过敌人的防空系统的能力。”

Greenert notably also dismissed the possibility of using faster aircraft to evade enemy defences, something the Soviet unx fielded successfully in the final two decades of the Cold War with the highly survivable MiG-25 Foxbat interceptors - later variants of which also relied heavily on electronic attack capabilities to operate in highly contested airspace. “I don’t think it’s going to be super-duper fast, because you can’t outrun missiles,” the official said regarding the new aircraft. China has notably demonstrated a capability to intercept hypersonic targets using its Russian-supplied S-400 air defence system, a platform which has been in service since 2007, and the upcoming S-500 system and its Chinese analogues will be able to lock onto and destroy even faster targets at longer ranges still. The U.S. Air Force is nevertheless separately investing in hypersonic aircraft for both bombing and reconnaissance missions, while Russia is developing a hypersonic sixth generation interceptor capable of operating in space under the MiG-41 program. Although the MiG-41 may well prove viable, due to its purely defensive mission and dedication to space warfare, conventional sixth generation fighter jets are unlikely to prioritise either stealth or speed if they seek to operate offensively in highly contested airspace.

格林纳特还特别否认了使用速度更快的飞机规避敌方防御的可能性。在冷战的最后二十年中,苏联使用了高生存力的MiG-25 火狐拦截机,成功地实现这种能力。之后的改进型在高强度竞争中也高度依赖其电子攻击能力。这位官员谈到新式飞机时说:“我认为速度快有用,因为你超不过导弹。”中国已展示了自2007年起投入使用,利用其俄罗斯提供的S-400防空系统拦截高超声速目标的能力。——而即将服役的S-500系统及其中国类似武器将能够在更远的距离内锁定消灭更快的目标。尽管如此,美国空军仍分别投资用于轰炸和侦察任务的高超音速飞机,而俄罗斯正在开发能在太空中运转的第六代MiG-41高音速拦截机。 尽管MiG-41单纯的防御性功能和在太空作战的能力被证明是可行的,但常规的第六代战斗机如果试图在竞争激烈的空域中寻求进攻性能,则不太可能优先考虑隐身性或飞行速度。