Sixth Gen Fighter Far Off

The Air Force can’t afford to pursue a sixth generation fighter, and won’t be able to for perhaps 10 years, Secretary Michael Donley told reporters at a press conference Friday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. “I don’t think you’re going to see a sixth generation fighter program anytime soon,” said Donley. He continued, “We’re still working on the fifth [generation], folks.” USAF is continuing research and development on the fundamental technologies that such a sixth gen fighter would have to have relative to “components, avionics, [and] weapons,” but an actual program could be many years away, he said. It will involve an “extended timeline” of basic research, he said. Within the past year or so, both Russia and China have begun flight testing their respective T-50 and J-20 stealth airplanes. If their emergence has not triggered a US sixth gen program, what would? “More money,” said Donley flatly. He added that with a new bomber, tanker, and satellites needing copious funding, and requirements already stated for which there isn’t any money—such as the T-X trainer—a sixth gen program isn’t financially feasible. “We’re living with flat budgets,” Donley said, adding, “We don’t know if or when those budgets will increase.”