6th Generation Fighter Aircraft - Replacing the F-22 Raptor
Here is a post I made in the SecretProjects.co.uk forum, that I am kind of proud of and it has a lot of solid logic and a lot to look forward to in the Future. Enjoy!
Seeing how things are changing in the world of technology I do not expect anything conventional to replace the F-22 Raptor. The 6th gen would not be about the same things just more and better. It would need a new paradigm. Think about it, every generation of fighter aircraft had added something fundamentally new, while ever so slightly improving the legacy features.
So what would be the rosseta stone of the 6th gen fighter? Here is my proposal, just conjured out of thin air.
F-35 sized, tailless, 1 engine (F136 based), high-performance unmanned fighter. It will have 6-8 dual range air to everywhere missile and a 1 MW optical laser as weapons. It will have supersonic performance to rival the YF-23 but be able to withstand much higher G-forces.
Pilots can be located either on the ground or on a VLO flying command post hundreds of miles away awaiting in conform for any action. Communication can be done via lasers guaranteeing high bandwidth and extremely low probability of intercept. The fighter will be brought to the battle zone completely automatically via on board intelligence. When fuel is low, it will automatically refuel and return to station. It may be possible to even rearm in mid-air, if the weapons payload is made truly modular and flexible. Laser, needs only electricity so they just need more fuel to the engines which generate it.
If a situation arrises the pilots, can just pick up the closest fighter available to respond to the battle needs and take tactical control. They will only tell the fighter what targets to engage as if in a computer game and the AI of the craft would pick the the best situation and launch parameters for the weapons, with the pilots issuing the final shoot order. If and when WVR combat is required the pilots can take full control but be able to chose viewing as if it was a flight sim. By this time full 360 degrees visual/sensor coverage should not be an issue at all. Pilots will be able to view the battle in full 3D in real time and just draw maneuvers on the screen, that the fighter can perform.
I do believe the Unmanned option to be the true enabled of the 6th generation fighter. While it has value on its own, it serves to benefit all other 5 features of the aircraft by removing the need of a "on board pilot" requirement.
Every experienced fighter pilot can tell that the most demanding part of the flight is the battle when humans are actually needed is just mere minutes, sometimes seconds. The rest is boring and exhausting routine. If I had to design a 6 gen fighter, I would create a cheap but capable platform (not a mutirole fighter) that can be available over the battlefield 24/7. Obi Wan, said it best "Flying is for droids". The pilots should be working as a team in the same room making tactical decisions together and not worrying about their lives.
This actually turned rather nicely, for a first draft. B)