Propulsion is the key the US Navy’s next-generation F/A-XXfighter to replace the service’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet in the2030.
“That’s the long-lead item, frankly,” says Rear AdmiralWilliam Moran, director of the N98 air warfare office at USN headquarters. “Interms of technology it takes you to another place.”
The USN will have to engage with industry to determine wherethe “art of the possible” might lead the service. “Propulsion has a lot ofbenefits, and we know its kind of the critical path to new developments,” hesays.
What is clear is that for a next-generation fighter to fly faster,over greater distances and then persist over a target area, all the whilecarrying a greater payload, means that the aircraft will require a new type ofpropulsion system, Moran says. That means such a fighter must be able conservefuel while it is not operating at peak combat performance levels.
Next-generation propulsion systems should also be scalableto different applications, Moran says. That would afford the USN some level ofcommonality on the carrier deck of the future if parts of the air wing couldshare the same logistical train and skill sets for maintenance crews.
Moran reiterates his Naval Air System Commandcounterpart’s–Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis–comments that the next-generationfighter must have far better kinematic performance and range than existingfighters. That is particularly true in an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD)environment.
“If you look at the A2/AD environment, and that arc, overtime,is going to grow larger. We have to stay ahead of that,” Moran says. “So theweapons have to be able fill that. And the only way you’re going to do it ishave greater kinematics.”
The US AirForce and USN are both working on new fighter technologies and may find somebenefit from each other’s developmental efforts. It is possible that the twoservices might develop common subsystems but build different airframes based ontheir divergent needs, he says. But that has yet to be determined.
The USN issued a Request for Information (RfI) for a newfighter to replace the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler in the2030s on 13 April.