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Secret technology on the Mystery Plane



  • Last month, the Air Force announced that it had secretly designed, built and flown a new fighter jet.
  • The Air Force believes sixth generation fighters will need important new technology, but the service won’t say what that actually entails.
  • We have a few clues about the secret new fighter jet: The new technology includes “survivability, lethality and endurance”.

    In September, the US Air Force shocked the world when it announced that it had secretly designed, built and tested a new fighter jet – all in an astonishingly short time of just a year.

    The secret new fighter jet ̵

    1; if a new “fighter” at all – is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, an air force project designed to complement and eventually replace the F-22 Raptor. The Air Force has identified five key new technologies that it believes are necessary for the program. But what are they?

    ONE new report of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on NGAD gives a brief overview of the program. The secret new fighter jet officially announced by Air Force Secretary Will Roper on September 15 is just part of a program likely to include manned and unmanned aircraft, electronic warfare and cyber warfare, new weapons and other systems . The CRS report indicates that many of NGAD’s goals are top secret:

    The Air Force has stated that NGAD exists to study five major technologies likely to be used in next-generation aircraft with the aim of improving survivability, lethality and persistence. It was not specified what four of these technologies are.

    Only one of the five main technologies is public: propulsion or a new or modified engine. What could the other functions be?

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    Survivability

    The Luftwaffe’s secret new fighter jet doesn’t need to be discovered on the modern air battlefield. One obvious suggestion is a new next-generation anti-radar camouflage. Another option is to lower a fighter jet’s infrared signature.

    Many of today’s fighters use a nose- or pod-mounted infrared sensor to detect enemy aircraft. An aircraft that is warmer than the ambient air can be detected by such an infrared sensor, in particular the hot gases that blow out the tail of the aircraft. Infrared stealth would be very useful against weapons like that Russian infrared guided missile R-73.

    the royal international air tattoo

    F-22 and F-35 fighters of the fifth generation. Which technology would make up the sixth generation NGAD is a mystery.

    Steve ThorneGetty Images

    A placeholder could be optical camouflage or the ability to make NGAD aircraft essentially invisible to the human eye. The U.S. military is known to have researched this technology, but it is not clear what advances, if any, it has made.

    Could the technology be secretly advanced enough to be carried on a fighter jet? Most American stealth fighters plan to open fire before the enemy is in sight. However, when the aerial battle turns into whirling aerial combat, optical stealth would be very useful indeed.

    Lethality

    The secret new fighter jet must be able to shoot down enemy planes, especially from a great distance. The air force is A new long-range air-to-air missile is reportedly being developedwho have favourited AIM-260 to equip the F-35 and other jets. The AIM-260 was designed to “overtake” Russian and Chinese fighters such as the Sukhoi Su-57 “Felon” and Chengdu J-20 and shoot them down before their American opponents get within range of their own missiles.

    Another possibility is an air-to-air laser, with which not only enemy fighters, but also incoming missiles can be shot down. A laser powered by the jet’s engines could theoretically fire unlimited shots in one battle. For comparison: The 25-millimeter GAU-12 cannon of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter only holds 200 cartridges.

    2016 Airshow China, Zhuhai

    NGAD will have to fly long distances to defeat aircraft like the Chinese Chengdu J-20 shown here.

    Marina LystsevaGetty Images

    persistence

    This is the ability to hang around over the battlefield. The result is a fighter jet that can fly longer and farther than current fighters and would be useful not only over the Asia-Pacific region, but also over Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Eastern Russia. Today’s stealth fighters must carry weapons and fuel in-house as wing-mounted missiles, bombs, and drop tanks add to the aircraft’s radar signature. The amount of fuel and weapons used is limited by the internal volume of an aircraft.

    The Air Force could increase endurance with a better, more fuel-efficient engine, though that is covered by the NGAD’s only unclassified capability: propulsion.

    In the late 1980s, the Air Force’s “Have Slick” program called for stealth weapons that were attached to the underside of aircraft, allowing a stealth aircraft to carry weapons outward while hidden from the radar. Could the Air Force develop a similar system for transporting fuel? Could a fuel-carrying NGAD drone accompany a fighter and crew on combat missions?

    The Luftwaffe’s secret new fighter jet is just that: a total secret. Hence, the new technology focus on “survivability, lethality and persistence” could encompass all of these possibilities … or none of them exactly. We just have to wait and see.

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