Because of new Russian and Chinese Fifth Generation Fighters, which will compete with the F-22 Raptor in the Air and the F-35 Lightning II on market place, the US Air Force is searching for technologies for an aircraft with enhanced capabilities in areas such as reach, persistence, survivability, net-centricity, situational awareness, human-system integration and weapons effects.
Currently Boeing is working on concepts and studies for the F/A-XX fighter program, to develop a successor to the F/A-18E/F Hornet carrier-based aircraft.
There are also several critical opinions on 6th Gen fighters, such as a rising cost, resulting of the new technologies employed, especially their stealthines, which is considered a critical factor in combat, raises the cost due to a higher amount of effort required to develop and maintain these airframes. However, when the 6th Generation fighter will be made, the maintenance cost for its stealthiness could also be lower, due to better experience with it, the same development can be seen when comparing the F-22 and the F-35, the F-22, as an "older" aircraft has higher maintenance cost, while on the F-35 the cost of maintaining its stealthiness is lower, due to newer and more efficient methods, even though the F-35's cost is still rising.
Proposed differences to 5th Generation FightersEdit
The greatest advantage to 5th Generation fighters is supposed be stealth, the appearance of newer detection systems and more advanced radars will require a new super stealthy aircraft shape to counter counter stealth; a much smaller Radar cross section than on current stealth aircraft like the F-22 Raptor, B-2 Spirit, and unsuccessful designs like the YF-23 Black Widow II will be also needed. A new generation of engines allowning ultra high altitude flight and supercruise speed of over Mach 2.2 as well as a new generation of armament like directed energy weapons to attack enemies with the speed of light, are planned to be included.
Their avionics will feature next generation electronic attack, passive detection, integrated self-protection and cyber attack capabilities.
In summing up sixth gen fighters are expected to outperform current 5th Gen fighters in terms of speed, range, stealth, self-healing structures and to provide the same "technological leap" against modern 5th Gen fighters, as employed by the F-22 Raptor against Soviet 4th Gen fighters like the Su-27 or MiG-29 in the 1990's.