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"U.S. Air Force Believes It Is B-21s With Air-To-Air" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2019 3:22 p.m. PST

…Capabilities And Drones That Will Dominate Future Air Combat.

"The U.S. Air Force is still working to iron out just what it thinks air-to-air combat will look like a decade from now and what types of aircraft it will need to come out on top in any future fight. As part of its ongoing Next Generation Air Dominance program, or NGAD, the service is exploring a wide array of manned, unmanned, and pilot-optional concepts, as well as advanced associated technologies, including increased network connectivity and autonomous capabilities. At the same time, however, it has steadily moved away from plans for a once much-touted sixth-generation fighter jet.

A number of senior Air Force leaders have offered updates about NGAD recently, all of who stressed that the final force mixture will include a variety of different platforms, as well as munitions and other systems, all tied together at various levels. This could include manned aircraft networked together with "loyal wingman" drones, fully autonomous unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), swarms of low-cost unmanned aircraft, and more…"


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Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2019 5:13 p.m. PST

That is very disappointing news to read about the 6th Gen. fighters, which they should be actively working on now, and fielding soon, given we have so few F-22s.

I suspect our enemies will not delay developing their own 6th Gen. fighters.

The mannned/unmanned/command-guided wingmen concepts are certainly interesting, since they provide for a wide range of options and complexities.

Sounds like they should be pursuing all of that for the B-21, and 6th Gen. fighters, or whatever replaces that.

I do find the following quote rather silly, since they go on to contradict themselves almost immediately, in short order:

"In addition, the line between aerial weapons and unmanned aircraft may also become increasingly blurry. For years now, the Air Force has been touting plans to develop and acquire fleets of unmanned aircraft that will be "attritable." This is typically understood to mean that they are cheap enough to procure that commanders can use them in riskier ways without worrying about the costs to replace them, but it is not supposed to be a synonym for "expendable" or "disposable".

Of course it means they are "expendable", and/or "disposable", despite their denials to the contrary.

My proof for that comes in the next two paragraphs, following the above quote:

"…The Air Force's top civilian specifically talked about investments in "low-cost single-use aircraft" as part of NGAD.

As Trimble highlighted in a series of Tweets, this would not only mean that these platforms could be used in a disposable fashion, but that they would be, by definition, disposable after a single sortie. This would be a significant departure from the commonly accepted understanding of "attritable" and create a class of systems that would lie somewhere between highly networked munitions something the Air Force is already working on through its Golden Horde program and more traditional unmanned aircraft……".

As mentioned further in the last paragraph, it certainly does blur the line between aircraft and "munition", or missile, which is an interesting concept in and of itself:

"…Extremely long-range air-to-air missiles, even anti-aircraft cruise missiles, possibly traveling at hypersonic speeds, might fit this general description, as well, though the U.S. military does typically make hard distinctions between these types of weapons and anything it would define as an "aircraft".

This is certainly new:

"Beyond that, in 2017, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency did outline a concept for a "flying missile rail" that a combat aircraft would carry like a stores pylon, but that would then detach and fly away on its own like a miniature UCAV. This unmanned platform would then fire its missiles at the intended target, extending the overall engagement range of those weapons and their overall tactical flexibility".

It's not clear if the "missile pylon" craft would be intended to survive for another use, or if it, itself would be expended in an attack as well.

If the latter were also used to carry air-to-air missiles, it would open up a further range of possibilities, with large bombers, or aircraft missile "trucks" carrying these to sweep the skies of the enemy's defending aircraft, in order press home attacks on key, heavily defended targets.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Sep 2019 3:48 p.m. PST



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