The US Navy is eyeing a sixth-generation fighter that could even be better than its F-35 stealth, considered the most advanced aircraft on the planet.
The Pentagon currently holds a lead in the race of developing the most competent fighter jets like the stealthy pair of F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptors along with the F-16s and F-15 Eagles.
The US Air Force is already working on its ‘highly-secret’ sixth-generation fighter jet under the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which will be a step above the fifth-generation F-35s with futuristic technologies.
The prototype was even flown in September and is said to have “broken records”.
Not many details of the fighter are known at the moment. There is, however, speculation that it will possess improved stealth capability and incredible speeds.
Following the developments, the US Navy did not waste any time and started looking for a similar next-generation fighter that had the ability to operate from their aircraft carriers.
Reports suggest the US military is looking to replace its current fleet of McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets, to build a superior next-generation warplane that will complement the current serving Lockheed Martin F-35s.
The Navy has started the process of analyzing airframes, targeting systems, artificial-intelligence-enabled sensors, new weapons, and engine technologies. Military analysts believe that the Navy’s next-generation fighter could be similar to the US Air Force’s NGAD aircraft.
The fighters could be equipped with laser weapons, enhanced stealth technology, and work hand-in-hand with subsonic drones which would enable the pilot to send the UAV to potentially dangerous areas.
In addition, the US Navy would prefer a six-generation manned fighter jet as opposed to an advanced unmanned aerial vehicle. It also wants up to a 50 percent greater range for the new fighter as compared to the older fighter jets.
The longer-range will enable it to fight farther from the aircraft carrier, which will, in turn, keep the warship out of enemy sights who could launch anti-ship ballistic missiles.
The new aircraft could be a two engine, multi-role stealth fighter, capable of tackling air-to-air and air-to-ground roles under the same mission. Incorporating the latest radar-signature-reducing technology, the fighter would evade most enemy radars and sneak up on enemies.
Moreover, as per sources, the Navy’s need is a large aircraft that can accommodate a larger fuel tank as well as a larger internal weapons bay.
Talking about the sixth-generation fighter, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday said, “What the aviation combatant of the future looks like? I don’t know yet. I think there’s going to be a requirement to continue to deliver a seaborne launched vehicle through the air that’ll deliver an effect downrange
“I do think that will likely be a mix of manned and unmanned. The platform which they launch from? I’m not sure what that’s going to look like.”