PICTURE: Lockheed reveals concept aircraft for post-F-22 replacement

LMT Fighter 560.jpg

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 AdvancedDevelopment Programs group called the Skunk Works®. The Skunk Works primaryobjective is to aggressively pursue next generation technology programs andconduct research and development that will allow it to rapidly respond tocustomer needs. U.S. 5th generation fighters are now operational with the F-22in the USAF and F-35 soon to be operational for USAF, USN, USMC and ourinternational 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 capabilityupgrades over their service lives. As such, they will be operationally relevantfor decades to come. Even with that, it is time to start looking at thetechnologies that will provide the next quantum leap in capabilities for thenext generation of fighters (IOC ~ 2030+). Simply removing the pilot from anaircraft or introducing incremental improvements in signature and range doesnot constitute a generational leap in capability. These improvements arealready being looked at for our 5th generation fighters.


 Future fighter requirements are not set and will depend onassessments of future threats that may emerge in the 2030 time frame. Greatlyincreased speed, longer range, extended loiter times, multi-spectral stealth,ubiquitous situation awareness, and self-healing structures and systems aresome of the possible technologies we envision for the next generation offighter aircraft. Next generation fighter capabilities will be driven by gamechanging technological breakthroughs in the areas of propulsion, materials,power generation, sensors, and weapons that are yet to be fully imagined. Thiswill require another significant investment in research and development from astandpoint of both time and money. We will continue to investigate technologiesthat demonstrate great promise, and work closely with our customers to definethe future operational concepts and requirements that the next generation offighter aircraft must fulfill. 


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