Focus on the Family

The Defense Department is predicting that its “future” fighter force—after all F/A-18E/Fs, F-22s, and F-35s are delivered and nearing retirement—will be a “family of systems” much like its next-generation long-range strike portfolio. It’s too soon to characterize what the future fighter force’s capabilities will be, but Pentagon officials anticipate that “a family of systems—mixes of manned and unmanned aircraft, with varying stealth characteristics and advanced standoff weapons—will shape the future fighter/attack inventory,” according to DOD’s latest Aircraft Procurement Plan that looks out to 2041. The tradeoffs among these attributes “are being examined now, and subsequent aviation plans will reflect the resulting acquisition decisions,” reads the document. The Navy is already pursuing a “Next Generation Air Dominance” fighter concept. Air Force officials have already started looking at sixth generation concepts, but don’t anticipate launching a formal acquisition program for about a decade. (2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan)