Thinking Beyond the F-22

Research into a sixth generation fighter to succeed the F-22 is “going forward,” according to Lt. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Staff lead for operations, plans, and requirements. “We’re learning a lot . . . but we’re in a learning stage,” said Carlisle, answering a question on this after his AFA-Air Force Breakfast Program address in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday. As with the new long-range strike bomber, the Air Force will “freeze” requirements at some point in order to get a defined capability going, he said. Service officials would then focus on “spiraling in” new capabilities as they become necessary or affordable, said Carlisle. Because funds are so tight, “we have to have very high technology readiness levels and also manufacturing levels” in order to “produce an airplane that is affordable for the American people,” he said. Carlisle noted that the next generation of aircraft would be “extremely low observable” rather than simply “very low observable.” The difference is not simply the addition of electronics, networking, and cyber, he said. “There is active [stealth], passive [stealth] as well as other techniques that aid in that capability,” he explained. (See also Requirements Discipline and Sixth Gen and Our Limited Horizon.)