Boeing shows off sexy new fighter concept

Boeing Concept FAXX July 2009.JPG

SAINT LOUIS, Missouri — Boeing Phantom Works has revealed a new concept image for an F/A-XX fighter to replace the F/A-18E/F fleet after about 10-15 more years. The two-seat, twin-engine, tailless concept is advertised in the chart below as a “sixth-generation” fighter. The notional — and evolving — definition for a sixth-generation includes such technologies as optional manning, combined cycle propulsion, visual stealth, more composite materials and advanced electronic attack capabilities.

FAXX slide Boeing July 2009.JPG

Boeing’s new artistic concept marks a sharp departure from the image the company released in June 2008, which was first displayed on Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Ares blog. While the previous design showed a flying-wing fighter, the new image reveals a more conventional fighter shape from the cockpit area forward. You can see the changes below.


Boeing Concept FAXX June 2008.jpg

The F/A-XX concept first emerged last June, when US Navy officials first publicly discussed the potential requirement at the AUVSI convention in San Diego. Here are two pictures from that slide presentation showing the manned concepts on the USN officer’s briefing slide. (Read more here.)

faxxslide manned alternatives June 2008.JPG


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32 Responses to Boeing shows off sexy new fighter concept

  1. Eric Palmer 8 July, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    “Affordable”…. yeah sure… probably comes with a 6th generation price.

  2. The Airline Blog 8 July, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Interesting…I thought the JSF was set up to replace the FA-18?!


  3. alloycowboy 8 July, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Pretty pictures, but as we say in the real world, “show me the real hardware.”

  4. Sven Ortmann 9 July, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    A-12 meets FB-22…

    I doubt that it will come that fast, though.
    I recall the first JSF concepts from the early 90′s, about 1993? It’s still a long way for the JSF program to IOC.

    There’s a possible fast track, though: Use the avionics and engines from existing programs.
    A CV-capable airframe strong on range could be justified.

    That would possibly kill the F-35 airframe, though.
    The U.S. would end up with a specialized heavy fighter and a heavy multi-role fighter and European F-35 partners would move to Gripen NG, Rafale and Typhoon.

    In other words: The niche is too small.

  5. Mike Burleson 9 July, 2009 at 1:47 am #

    Yes, gorgeous, but it will never fly. Only the robots will by then!

  6. Charley Armstrong 9 July, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    At least it has 2 engines…

  7. Obamanite 9 July, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Principal and fatal problem to this concept: it’s manned. It’s sort of like talking about the latest concepts in horse-mounted cavalry versus tracked, armored, mechanized infantry. It is utterly ridiculous for Boeing to keep on insisting on manned platforms. Rewind to the early 1960s. Minuteman vs. B-70? No freaking brainer, dude…

  8. Stephen Trimble 9 July, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    To David, The JSF is intended to replace F/A-18C/Ds, but complement the larger F/A-18E/F. I know there’s a lot of excitement about the potential of unmanned strike aircraft in the future. But there remains a lot of strong resistance to such concepts within the pilot communities of all the services, and particularly the navy. We can debate whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Boeing has also embraced unmanned aircraft in a variety of roles, including strike. Boeing invested heavily in the X-45/Phantom Ray, for example. But this concept I think is a good indicator that Boeing is not convinced the customer is willing to walk away from manned fighters completely. And, like any contractor, Boeing will do what the customer wants.

  9. RobH 9 July, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    Mr. Armstrong brings up a great point: Are there any single-engine aircraft left in the USN inventory and what do Aviators think about flying a single-engine a/c over vast ocean in miserable weather at night while trying to line up with the proverbial ‘postage stamp’? I’ll bet you’ll see some pushback from the USN when the ~500 F-35Cs start finally rolling in.

  10. airplane jim 9 July, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Obamanite the NAVY concept for 6th gen fighter calls for optional manned. As Steve points out you give the customer what he requests. Also for the attack roll the unmanned version would be ideal. For the fighter roll, not so ideal. Air to air combat with robots might be a little too far into the future. Robotic situational awareness is not yet to the level required to allow the instant decisions necessary in air to air combat.
    I also wonder about the Navy’s true commitment to a single engine aircraft with limited legs and bomb load that is a compromise between STOL, land and carrier based requirements. That doesn’t even address the eventual cost of the F-35.

  11. Rene Rosales 9 July, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    RobH -

    The Navy is no stranger to operating single-engine jets off their flight decks. They operated A-4′s from their decks from 1956 until 2003 (when the last A-4 training squadron was retired). And of course there are others, like the Corsair and various piston platforms. Their carrier training jets are still only single-engine (T-45/T-2).

    And with better onboard diagnostics/maintenance, lower battle damage risk (speculating that F-35 stealth, and safer tasking (CAS role will be performed from much higher altitudes with precision guided munitions like SDB rather than low altitude bombing/strafing runs), I would imagine that the single-engine risk has been thoroughly evaluated and addressed in the Navy’s decision to acquire F-35′s.

    - Rene Rosales

  12. Vijainder K Thakur 9 July, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    Does anyone know a source that explains how combined cycle propulsion would work in fighter aircraft?

  13. Rene Rosales 9 July, 2009 at 7:50 pm #


    Combined cycle propulsion is (from my lay-person limited understanding), is an aircraft engine combines the characteristics of a turbofan and pulse detonation to allow efficient operation from subsonic to high supersonic speeds. VERY cool. I don’t understand it completely but here’s the patent:

    Very exciting stuff!

    Rene Rosales

  14. Rene Rosales 9 July, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    Vijainder –

    I double-checked my link and it’s not working for some reason – but you can google “combined cycle” and aircraft engine or patent and come up with a lot of reference. Here’s a brief mention on John Pike’s globalsecurity website:

    Rene Rosales

  15. RobH 9 July, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    Excellent observation Rene, however I was emphasizing ‘still in the inventory’ for a naval carrier role. Training aircraft, okay you got me, but as a pilot myself, which would I rather be in, over dark, unforgiving ocean? And to lose a jet that expensive? Whew.

    And I remember when the USAF and General Dynamics modified the F-16 for CAS. Everyone thought the A-10 was obsolete and that the future was high-altitude precision. Well…

    Cool link about the CC engine, btw.

  16. Rene Rosales 9 July, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    RobH -

    I definitely can’t argue with your assessment as a pilot, as I’m just an armchair aviation fan. In support of your argument, my brother (a carrier aviator) tells me that his scariest times in the left seat have not been in combat, but in coming aboard in miserable weather, especially at night, especially in low fuel states – I don’t know what the Navy’s safety margins are but I am sure none of the alternatives in those conditions are attractive in any way.

    Regarding CAS and the A-10: apparently, lessons learned from this Iraq war, combined with experience with of new precision-guided munitions (individually-targetable GPS guided bombs like the SDB) have caused the Air Force to modify the A-10A’s to a C model, adding datalinks and targeting capability to be able to strike from higher altitudes for more of its missions, lessening risk to the jet. F-35′s sensor package/targeting and precision stand-off attack capability will be generations ahead of this. That’s why I see F-35B/C’s as still able to take on the CAS role, without so much additional battle damage risk that it can’t be considered as the Navy’s new single-engine shipboard fixed-wing jet.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Rene Rosales

  17. Mike 14 July, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    The more I consider this the more I can see something like this coming to fruition. The USAF maintains a hi-lo mix with the F-22/F-35. The USN has only the F-35 out past 2025. Does it NOT need the same hi-lo mix as the USAF? This could signal the rebirth of NATF concept. Gates won’t be secdef forever.

  18. jason spears 26 July, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    F/A-XX concept is great in 15 yrs! but what about now? boeing or some u.s plane builder needs to put out a lower cost fighter,like the f-16 was to the world back in the day when everone bought u.s made planes, we are in big trouble if chinese and rassian is allowed to replace us with cheap su-30 ect,i have just heard this short fall? i’m not up on all the new stuff is are they any this coming out soon besides the f-35?

  19. bevel450 28 July, 2009 at 1:55 am #


    The F-35 meets all of your requirements and is entering LRIP with about a dozen countries signed on and very likely more to come.

  20. zeno 25 August, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    sirs, do you think a completely unmanned a/c is a wise choice? just a little last minute step ahead in signal jamming or the mishap of enemy exploiting a high tech bug and the whole 6th gen fleet is aground.
    sure a computer can stand more g than a pilot, but trained eyes and minds are still a good sensor fusion asset I won’t discard so gladly.

  21. Dank 12 September, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    Wait, does “manned or unmanned” mean that the aircraft itself will be able to be flown with a pilot or by remote control, or does it mean that the final product may be either or?

  22. jason c spears 13 September, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    yea i read that,but w/ the f-22 shut down we really don’t have a replacement do we? we need a new f-18 fight or the next f-16,from my understanding our best built f16 are in the hand of United Arab Emirates (UAE) does any other u.s builder have anythings in the works?

  23. Rangerone 10 November, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    Looks like a good A6/F111 replacement, multi role it properly wired to everything the Rhino can do

    Recon Version (unmaned)
    Air Combat (manned)
    Strike (Both Versions)
    Electronic Warfare (Both versions)

    Equip them with the same engines f135/f136 for spares commonality.

    With this and the F-35 you’d have a good Hi-Low mix of aircraft that are not stuck in niche role.

  24. jason spears 15 July, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    Boeing needs a new engine upgrade,we can’t retire it because the lack of f-22, and the jsf may not fill the true fighter role that well? if the f-15 could handle Pratt and Whitney F119-PW-100 and w/ AESA Radar upgrade it could be a great cost wise idea(if the body could take it) no matter what new planes are put up in the next 15yrs we must keep as many older f-15-16-18 planes because we are not that rich nation from the past sell the f-22 to Australia & canada goverments there begging for them IT TIME

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  26. 23 July, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    mel gibson is a jerk…i’d give the kid to the girl

  27. David P.Curcione 2 December, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    1. The new Fighters is scramjet & Rocket powered only too! Fighters will cruised at: Mack 13 to Mack 20+ too! By the year 2049 A.D. too!

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