Lockheed Martin's 2012 calendar -- which your blogger received in the mail but casually deposited, unopened, in the trash -- contained the company's first concept design for a sixth generation fighter to succeed the F-22 after 2030.
Call her "Miss February".
The US Air Force has already started the search for the F-X fighter to replace the F-22 after 2030. Boeing and Northrop Grumman have already revealed their concept designs. But the conceptual ideas of the USAF's sole fighter supplier had been a closely guarded mystery. Conceptual aircraft designs should not be mistaken for prototype blueprints, but they do offer some insight into the starting assumptions and philosophies.
We asked Lockheed to describe the philosophy behind this concept drawing. Here is the company's emailed response in full:
This concept originates from our Advanced Development Programs group called the Skunk Works®. The Skunk Works primary objective is to aggressively pursue next generation technology programs and conduct research and development that will allow it to rapidly respond to customer needs. U.S. 5th generation fighters are now operational with the F-22 in the USAF and F-35 soon to be operational for USAF, USN, USMC and our international partners. As with the 4th generation fighters (F-15, F-16, F-18), 5th Gen is poised for growth, and will go through a process of capability upgrades over their service lives. As such, they will be operationally relevant for decades to come. Even with that, it is time to start looking at the technologies that will provide the next quantum leap in capabilities for the next generation of fighters (IOC ~ 2030+). Simply removing the pilot from an aircraft or introducing incremental improvements in signature and range does not constitute a generational leap in capability. These improvements are already being looked at for our 5th generation fighters.
Future fighter requirements are not set and will depend on assessments of future threats that may emerge in the 2030 time frame. Greatly increased speed, longer range, extended loiter times, multi-spectral stealth, ubiquitous situation awareness, and self-healing structures and systems are some of the possible technologies we envision for the next generation of fighter aircraft. Next generation fighter capabilities will be driven by game changing technological breakthroughs in the areas of propulsion, materials, power generation, sensors, and weapons that are yet to be fully imagined. This will require another significant investment in research and development from a standpoint of both time and money. We will continue to investigate technologies that demonstrate great promise, and work closely with our customers to define the future operational concepts and requirements that the next generation of fighter aircraft must fulfill.