USAF opens search for F-22 replacement

A new “tactical aircraft” to replace the F-22 could enter service in 2030. The aircraft must be ready to move beyond  prototype stage by 2020. It could be optionally manned or remotely piloted. Its primary mission will remain shooting down enemy aircraft, although it “may” also need to jam communications and electronics and spy.

That’s a quick summary of a capabilities request for information issued today by the USAF’s next generation tactical aircraft technology program, which is being led by the capability development and planning division of the Aeronautical Systems Center.

We’ve known that the USAF has been looking at F-22 replacement options for a few years. The process has now entered the stage where the USAF asks industry to submit information. Earlier this year, Boeing revealed concepts for a next-generation F-22 replacement (pictured above). We haven’t seen anything new from Lockheed Martin, but that could quickly change as the process moves forward.

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22 Responses to USAF opens search for F-22 replacement

  1. Charley 4 November, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    The F-22 replacement is in Navy colors….

  2. aerox 4 November, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    search one replacement of the f-35 first, like f-18 (hehe)

  3. Stephen Trimble 4 November, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    Right … this is the carrier-based version of Boeing’s concept … it’s not easy coming up with art work of aircraft that don’t exist yet!

  4. zeno 4 November, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    RFI is clear about that. so stealth that even a pencil can’t get it.

  5. ArkadyRenko 4 November, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    Wouldn’t the AF be well advised to try and replace the F-15E’s along with the F-22s? The F-35 isn’t exactly a long range airplane and going for a replacement F-22 (long range) + shorter legged F-35 seems like a rather unbalanced force to me.

    And, the AF would be well advised to do the following: don’t look for massive technological advancement, reuse as much of the F-22 and F-35 tech as possible and build the plane with room for upgrades.

    The two massive leaps forward may be successes, but its pretty darn expensive. The AF might spend the initial money on getting the stealthy shape down, then afterwards worry about sensors.

  6. Ed 4 November, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Could anyone tell me, what are the US government’s incentives for replacing the F-22? In what aspect may it be lacking in that time frame? It seems just perfect for “shooting down enemy aircraft”. As for jamming, I’d assume an F-22 upgrade would suffice. And spying I’m sure is mostly done via cyberspace, and also space these days… Using an air superiority fighter for that doesn’t sound very logical to me.

  7. sferrin 4 November, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    @Ed: If they want it by 2030 (when the F-22 will be 40 years old) they need to start now.

  8. jetcal1 4 November, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    LMCO would be smart to look at the F-18E for inspiration. An upgraded F-22 with a different DoD designation might allow everybody to save face, put it back into production and replace both F-22 and the F-35 which will probably have been cancelled for about 7 years by then.

  9. Ed 4 November, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Yes, I realise that, and that makes sense. But that isn’t really my question.

    What I meant to ask is basically; what is the point of replacing the F-22, exactly?

    This is a genuine question, I don’t want to state that the F-22 is suitable for the 2030 situation or anything. I just wonder why the USAF doesn’t think so, what their reasons are for this project. The F-22 shoots down enemy aircraft pretty well I’d say, and jamming surely doesn’t require a totally new platform. Why do they think the F-22 won’t meet 2030′s demands?

  10. Howe 5 November, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    I think the AF can push this back, I’d say a decade, and make more F-22′s.
    The military needs to get control over their wallets. (which is my wallet, as well as yours)

  11. Charley 5 November, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    F-22′s are old, as far as systems go. Airframes and coatings need some more development. Better a new plane.

  12. dude 5 November, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    Agree with jetcal1; a 2020-era redesigned F22 would be an excellent way to recapitalize the billion of dollars already spent on ATF RDT&E, infrastructure and fleet. Now if F22′s RCS is “marble size” is true – i don’t think such top-graded, uncompromisable VLO profile can be matched by anything foreign or domestic anytime soon.

  13. PMS 5 November, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    Good point, jetcal1.
    However, given the overruns of both F-22 and F-35 programs, will anyone be keen to pay LM for a yet-another-likely-to-be-delayed aircraft program?

    On the other hand, LM has just been preparing for such a move recently:
    * http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2010/11/for-posterity-lockheed-creates.html
    * http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2010/10/lockheed-proposes-f-35ing-the.html

  14. Sven Ortmann 5 November, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    The artwork means nothing (although it hints at a rather heavy, two-seat and long-range aircraft).

    The real question is about what it’s supposed to do, and how.

  15. dude 5 November, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    The artwork is a conceptual fusion of current (2010) ideas: F22-like front end, dual cockpit, F35-like intake, tailless & delta-wing.

    It’s doubtful whether the control surfaces are even sufficient enough for flight stability!

    Fast forward to 2030, the concept might appear laughable then. For reference, just look at how ATF was envisioned to look like at conceptual stage.

    “F-22′s [architecture] are old” because its RDT&E dragged ON for more than a decade while the rest of the world/technology evolves at shorter and shorter intervals. Envision how obsolete today’s F35 software architecture would look like in 2020.

  16. Big D 5 November, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Here’s a thought–evolve the F-22 (re-use anything that’s not outdated) into something somewhat bigger and longer-legged than the F-15E; perhaps the mutant stepchild of the F-22, F-15E, and B-1R, with an emphasis on stealth, range, payload, and supercruise, and to the extent possible, maneuverability. Would the old FB-22 designs get there? I’m not sure, but it would be an interesting capability if it could be achieved and actually bought in large quantities.

  17. dude 7 November, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    DITTO.

    That’s precisely the idea behind F15E, F16 blk40/50/60 and F18EFG – minimize the risk while maximize the return.

    Capitalizing on the maturity of the airframes allows the US to comfortably skip the whole “4th gen” milestone.

  18. jetcal1 8 November, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    Keep in mind that one of the criticisms leveled against Bell and other domestic helicopter makers versus Eurocopter is the US is still building derivatives versus clean sheet of paper designs that are claimed to be better.

  19. dude 8 November, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    From sale’s perspective, selling/buying new thing is always popular; from operation’s perspective, sharing infrastructure when possible is always a plus. Airframe refurbishment/refinement, whether it be fixed- or rotary-winged, isn’t new to the industry on either side of the Atlantic.

  20. n696 12 November, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    What the AirForce powers that be worry about, is “the next new thing” that’s going to de-stealth all these F-22′s, 35′s and whatever else THEY plan to buy.
    What they’d really LIKE to have, is what some 19 year-old game player watching a sci-fi movie thinks is cool on the screen. But everyone knows to be totally illogical/impossible, but he/she thinks that there MUST be a way to do it. That’s our next generation aero-engineer. And that’s where some of these current fat contract $$$ really need to finance.
    Hell, saturate a battlefield with enough sensing, and there is no stealth. Chameleon your vehicle and maybe then you can deceive your opponent.
    Maybe the rudder comes up only when the landing gear goes down…swing your wings far forward and someone might pause for 10 seconds thinking you’re a Sukhoi47/50. How far is 10 seconds @ mach 5/6? Within 15 km your opponent is finished.

    My question is, how many admirals needed “arm-twisting”, to force them to agree on a single engined main aircraft for their carriers?

  21. dude 12 November, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    True. The expensive/high-tech gizmos that the armed forces insist that they “need” (eg F35, CVN21, EFV) don’t always align with the threats and operations (COIN, nation building and, to much lesser extend, all-out-war) that we are likely to see over the horizon.

    The geopolitical landscape has changed, so has the nature of warfare; we need to either adapt or risk facing the current and next conflict with the wrong gears & skill sets. Deja vu Vietnam War, 1955-75.

  22. altor 22 December, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    “Fights between the F-22A and the PAK-FA will be close, high, fast and lethal. The F-22A may get ‘first look’ with the APG-77, the Advanced Infra Red Search and Track (AIRST) sensor having been deleted to save money, but the PAK-FA may get ‘first look’ using its advanced infrared sensor.[...]The outcome will be difficult to predict as it will depend a lot on the combat skills of the pilots and the capabilities of the missiles for end-game kills. There is no guarantee that the F-22 will prevail every time.”

    “the PAK-FA leaves the United States with only one viable option if it intends to remain viable in the global air power game — build enough F-22 Raptors to replace most of the US legacy fighter fleet, and terminate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as soon as possible, as the F-35 will no longer be a usable combat aircraft for roles other than Counter Insurgency (COIN), though more cost effective and more appropriate solutions already exist for this role.”

    “the only viable strategic survival strategy now remaining for the United States is to terminate the Joint Strike Fighter program immediately, redirect freed funding to further develop the F-22 Raptor, and employ variants of the F-22 aircraft as the primary fighter aircraft for all United States and Allied TACAIR needs.

    If the United States does not fundamentally change its planning for the future of tactical air power, the advantage held for decades will be soon lost and American air power will become an artefact of history.

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