Fifth Gen

5th Gen Fight­ers, Stealthy & Lethal

SP's Aviation - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY R. CHAN­DRAKANTH

FFIGHTER AIR­CRAFT ARE CON­TIN­U­OUSLY evolv­ing and there is al­ready talk of ‘sixth-gen­er­a­tion’, though they may not be up in the skies un­til the 2030s. Mean­while, ‘fifth-gen­er­a­tion’ air­craft are go­ing strong, in­clud­ing those in the de­vel­op­ment stages. Presently, Lock­heed Martin F-22 Rap­tor which en­tered ser­vice with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 2005, the Lock­heed Martin F-35B Light­ning II, which en­tered ser­vice with the US Ma­rine Corps in 2015. the Lock­heed Martin F-35A Light­ning II, which en­tered ser­vice with the USAF in 2016 and the Chi­nese Chengdu J-20 which en­tered ser­vice with the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Air Force (PLAAF) in March this year, are al­ready show­ing their prow­ess in dif­fer­ent kinds of de­ploy­ment. Mean­while, the Lock­heed Martin F-35C Light­ning II, Sukhoi PAK FA, Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Limited (HAL) Ad­vanced Medium Com­bat Air­craft (AMCA), Shenyang J-31 and Mit­subishi X-2 Shin­shin, are un­der var­i­ous stages of de­vel­op­ment.

F-22 RAP­TOR FIRST OFF THE BLOCK

The F-22 Rap­tor was the first of the fifth-gen­er­a­tion to show­case air su­pe­ri­or­ity plat­form. It has a unique com­bi­na­tion of stealth, speed, agility and sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, com­bined with lethal long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry. The air­craft has demon­strated pre­ci­sion at­tack ca­pa­bil­i­ties, dec­i­mat­ing both air and ground-based tar­gets with un­par­al­leled lethal­ity and sur­viv­abil­ity. The F-22 is lead­ing US AF trans­for­ma­tion ef­forts. Its abil­ity to pen­e­trate airspace, while find­ing, track­ing and tar­get­ing en­emy air and ground-based threats, helps all joint forces. The Rap­tor’s unique com­bi­na­tion of ad­vanced stealth, su­per cruise, ad­vanced ma­neu­ver­abil­ity and in­te­grated avion­ics al­lows it to “kick down the door,” and then fol­low up with 24-hour stealth op­er­a­tions and free­dom of move­ment for all fol­lowon forces – fully lev­er­ag­ing the Rap­tor’s tech­no­log­i­cal ad­van­tages. Lock­heed Martin con­tin­ues to up­grade the air­craft for it to stay lethal and en­sure su­pe­ri­or­ity.

F-35 LIGHT­NING II, LIGHT­NING IN­DEED

Also from Lock­heed Martin, the F-35 Light­ning II com­bines ad­vanced stealth with speed and agility, fully fused sen­sor in­for­ma­tion, network-en­abled op­er­a­tions and ad­vanced sus­tain­ment. Three vari­ants of the F-35 will re­place le­gacy fight­ers of the USAF, the US Navy, the US Ma­rine Corps and ten other coun­tries. The F-35 fam­ily in­cludes three vari­ants, all sin­gle-seat jets: the F-35A con­ven­tional take­off and land­ing (CTOL), the F-35B short take­off/ ver­ti­cal land­ing (STOVL) and the F-35C car­rier vari­ant (CV).The F-35 char­ac­ter­is­tics in­clude ad­vanced stealth, in­te­grated avion­ics, sen­sor fu­sion an d the most pow­er­ful and com­pre­hen­sive in­te­grated sen­sor pack­age of any fighter air­craft in his­tory. The F-35’s ad­vanced stealth al­lows pilots to pen­e­trate ar­eas with­out be­ing de­tected by radars that le­gacy fight­ers can­not evade.

THE F-35 LIGHT­NING II WAS DE­SIGNED TO BE AN AF­FORD­ABLE FIFTHGENERATION FIGHTER, TAK­ING AD­VAN­TAGE OF ECONOMIES OF SCALE AND COM­MON­AL­I­TIES BE­TWEEN THE THREE VARI­ANTS

The F-35 is de­signed with the en­tire bat­tle-space in mind, bring­ing new flex­i­bil­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity to the US and its al­lies. Mis­sions tra­di­tion­ally per­formed by spe­cialised air­craft — airto-air com­bat, air-to-ground strike, elec­tronic at­tack, in­tel­li­gence, surveil­lance and re­con­nais­sance, can now be ex­e­cuted by a squadron of F-35s.

Ad­vanced elec­tronic war­fare ca­pa­bil­i­ties en­able F-35 pilots to lo­cate and track en­emy forces, jam radars and dis­rupt at­tacks with un­par­al­leled ef­fec­tive­ness. Ad­vanced avion­ics give the pi­lot real-time ac­cess to bat­tle space in­for­ma­tion with 360-de­gree coverage and an un­par­al­leled abil­ity to dom­i­nate the tac­ti­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Data col­lected by sen­sors on the F-35 can be im­me­di­ately shared with com­man­ders at sea, in the air or on the ground, pro­vid­ing an in­stan­ta­neous, high-fi­delity view of on­go­ing op­er­a­tions, mak­ing the F-35 a for­mi­da­ble force mul­ti­plier while enhancing coali­tion op­er­a­tions. This sys­tem al­lows F-35 pilots to reach well-de­fended tar­gets and sup­press en­emy radars.

The F-35’s very low-ob­serv­able stealth al­lows it to safely en­ter de­fended airspace with­out be­ing seen by radars that fourth-gen­er­a­tion and ear­lier le­gacy fight­ers can­not evade. The com­bi­na­tion of the stealth fea­tures, ac­tive elec­tron­i­callyscanned ar­ray (AESA) radar tech­nol­ogy and the air­craft’s abil­ity to carry its full com­po­nent of weapons stores and fuel in­ter­nally, al­lows F-35 pilots to engage ground tar­gets at longer ranges with­out be­ing de­tected and tracked, us­ing pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions and radar-guided mis­siles to suc­cess­fully com­plete air-toground mis­sions. The F-35 will en­ter the air bat­tle-space first, clear­ing the way with air dom­i­nance for fol­low-on le­gacy fight­ers to op­er­ate with rel­a­tive im­punity.

The F-35’s in­te­grated sen­sors, in­for­ma­tion and weapons sys­tems give pilots an ad­van­tage over po­ten­tial threat from front-line fighter air­craft. Com­pared to fiftth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers like the F-35 and F-22, le­gacy air­craft have a larger radar cross-section which means they can be more eas­ily de­tected by en­emy radar. In ae­rial com­bat, le­gacy air­craft have rel­a­tively equal op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­tect and engage one an­other, while a pi­lot of a fiftth gen­er­a­tion fighter air­craft can see en­emy air­craft first and take de­ci­sive lethal ac­tion from a stand-off dis­tance. The abil­ity to see and not be seen is re­defin­ing pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion air-to-air tac­tics.

IN­TER­OP­ER­ABIL­ITY

When it comes to hav­ing a ‘quar­ter­back’ for the coali­tion joint strike force, the in­ter-oper­a­ble F-35 is clearly the air­craft for the lead­er­ship role. The F-35 is de­signed to share ev­ery­thing it can see with other air­craft and op­er­a­tion cen­tres to ex­pand sit­u­a­tional aware­ness across the en­tire network of air­craft. F-35s can sup­port le­gacy air­craft as well as other F-35s, to achieve mis­sion suc­cess and sur­viv­abil­ity us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of stealth, elec­tronic at­tack, in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and other mea­sures.

The F-35 Light­ning II was de­signed to be an af­ford­able fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter, tak­ing ad­van­tage of economies of scale and com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween the three vari­ants. Since the first F-35 was built, pro­duc­tion costs have dropped ap­prox­i­mately 60 per cent. The most re­cent low-

rate ini­tial pro­duc­tion (LRIP) 10 con­tract re­flects an av­er­age air­frame unit cost ap­prox­i­mately eight per cent lower than the LRIP 9 con­tract signed in 2016 and an ap­prox­i­mate 62 per cent re­duc­tion since LRIP 1.

CHINA’S CHENGDU J-20

By the late 1990s, sev­eral Chi­nese fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter pro­grammes, grouped un­der the co­de­name J-XX , were iden­ti­fied by Western in­tel­li­gence. By late 2010, two pro­to­types of the Chengdu J-20 were un­der­go­ing high-speed taxi tri­als. The J-20 made its first flight on Jan­uary 11, 2011. On De­cem­ber 26, 2015, a new J-20 with se­rial num­ber 2101 was seen leav­ing its Chengdu Avi­a­tion Cor­po­ra­tion fac­tory. It is be­lieved to be the first of the LRIP air­craft num­bered 2101 that con­ducted its maiden flight on Jan­uary 18, 2016.The Chengdu J-20 is a stealth, twin-jet, fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter de­vel­oped by Chengdu Aerospace Cor­po­ra­tion for the PLAAF. The J-20 re­ceived ini­tial op­er­a­tional clear­ance in March 2017.

Also China’s Shenyang Air­craft Cor­po­ra­tion is work­ing on FC31/J-31 stealth fighter, which is roughly the same size as the F-35, with a range of 775 miles, a max­i­mum take­off weight of 28 tonnes and a Mach 1.8 top speed. If it en­ters ser­vice, it would re­place sin­gle-en­gine J-10s as a medium fighter with stealth fea­tures.

SUKHOI T-50 PAK FA

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union out­lined the need for a nextgen­er­a­tion air­craft to re­place the fourth-gen­er­a­tion jet Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 in ser­vice. Two projects were pro­posed to meet this need: the 4.5 gen­er­a­tion Sukhoi Su-47 and Mikoyan Pro­ject1.44 in 2002. Sukhoi was cho­sen to lead the de­sign for the new com­bat air­craft. As the first post-Soviet fighter, the fifth-gen­er­a­tion jet fighter Sukhoi PAK FA in­cor­po­rates tech­nol­ogy from both the Su-47 and the MiG 1.44 and when fully de­vel­oped, it is in­tended to re­place the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Rus­sian in­ven­tory. The PAK FA is de­signed to com­pete against the F-22 Rap­tor and F-35 Light­ning II. It per­formed its maiden flight on Jan­uary 29, 2010 and the first pro­duc­tion air­craft is slated for de­liv­ery to the Rus­sian Air Force by 2017. Rus­sia is also de­vel­op­ing a light­weight, stealth, mul­ti­role fighter, the Mikoyan LMFS (MiG 1-270) (MiG-1.27). This jet fighter is based on the can­celled MiG 1.44 project.

IN­DIA ALSO ON HORI­ZON

In­dia is in­de­pen­dently de­vel­op­ing a twin-en­gine fifth-gen­er­a­tion su­per ma­neu­ver­able stealth mul­ti­role fighter, the AMCA. It is be­ing de­signed by the Aero­nau­ti­cal De­vel­op­ment Agency and will be man­u­fac­tured by HAL. The De­fence Re­search De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) de­fines AMCA as a “fifth-gen­er­a­tionplus plat­form”. Un­of­fi­cial de­sign work on the AMCA be­gan in 2008, while of­fi­cial work started in 2011 and fin­ished in 2014. The first flight is sched­uled for 2023–2024. It is a mul­ti­role com­bat air­craft de­signed for air su­pe­ri­or­ity, strike and other types of roles. It com­bines su­per cruise, stealth, ad­vanced AESA radar, su­per ma­neu­ver­abil­ity and ad­vanced avion­ics to over­come and sup­press pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion fighter air­craft along with ground and ma­rine de­fences. The fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft is in­tended to be the suc­ces­sor to the SEPECAT Jaguar, Das­sault Mi­rage 2000 and MiG-27 in the In­dian Air Force (IAF).

An­other joint project of In­dia and Rus­sia is the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth-Gen­er­a­tion Fighter Air­craft (FGFA). It is a de­riv­a­tive of the PAK FA T-50 be­ing de­vel­oped for the Rus­sian Air Force. FGFA was the ear­lier des­ig­na­tion for the In­dian ver­sion, while the com­bined project is now called the Per­spec­tive Multi-Role Fighter. The FGFA will in­clude a to­tal of 43 im­prove­ments over the T-50, in­clud­ing stealth, su­per-cruise, ad­vanced sen­sors, net­work­ing and com­bat avion­ics. But the project is run­ning way be­hind sched­ule. In Jan­uary 2016, it was re­ported that Rus­sia and In­dia had agreed to con­tinue to de­velop FGFA and lower in­vest­ment cost to $4 bil­lion for each na­tion. They will in­vest $1 bil­lion in the first year and an­other $500 mil­lion per year for the fol­low­ing six years. The IAF plans to in­duct 60 of this plat­form, down from an ear­lier es­ti­mate of 120.

FIRST OFF THE BLOCK: FIFTH-GEN­ER­A­TION MULTI-ROLE FIGHTER F-22 RAP­TOR

AD­VANCED STEALTH: AN F-35B PER­FORMS TWI­LIGHT WITH A KC-135

DE­SIGNED FOR AIR SU­PE­RI­OR­ITY: FIFTH-GEN­ER­A­TION MUL­TI­ROLE FIGHTER SUKHOI T-50 AIR­CRAFT

FROM THE DRAGON’S LAIR: CHINA’S SHENYANG J-31 STEALTH FIGHTER

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