Fifth-generation jet fighter
A fifth-generation jet fighter is a fighter aircraft classification used in the United States and elsewhere encompassing the most advanced jet fighter generation as of 2013[update]. Fifth-generation aircraft are designed to incorporate numerous technological advances over the fourth generation jet fighter. The exact characteristics of fifth generation jet fighters are controversial and vague, with Lockheed Martin defining them as having all-aspect stealth even when armed, Low Probability of Intercept Radar (LPIR), high-performance air frames, advanced avionics features, and highly integrated computer systems capable of networking with other elements within the theatre of war for situational awareness. The only currently combat-ready fifth-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 2005.
- 1 Development
- 2 Common design elements
- 3 Critics and alternative definitions
- 4 Fifth-Generation Fighters in Service or with Flying Prototypes
- 5 Related Development
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Previous generation stealth aircraft, such as the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, were designed to be bombers, lacking the LPI Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, low probability of intercept (LPI) data networks, aerial performance, and air to air weapons necessary to engage other aircraft. In the early 1970s, various American design projects identified stealth, speed, and maneuverability as key characteristics of a next generation air to air combat aircraft. This led to the Request for Information for the Advanced Tactical Fighter project in May 1981, which resulted in the F-22.
The USMC is leveraging the USAF's experience with "fifth-generation air warfare" in the F-22, as they develop their own tactics for the F-35.
According to Lockheed Martin, the only fifth-generation jet fighter currently in operational service is their own F-22 Raptor. US fighter manufacturer Lockheed Martin uses "fifth generation fighter" to describe the F-22 and F-35 fighters, with the definition including "advanced stealth", "extreme performance", "information fusion" and "advanced sustainment". Their definition does not include supercruise capability, which has typically been associated with the more advanced modern fighters, but which the F-35 lacks. Lockheed Martin attempted to trademark the term "5th generation fighters" in association with jet aircraft and structural parts thereof, and has a trademark for a logo with the term.
The rapid development of the Sukhoi PAK FA may see a rival for the F-35 in the future. Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighters are expected to enter further development/service in 2017, which is also the predicted year that the F-35 program will enter the same stages.
In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union outlined the need for a next-generation aircraft to replace fourth-generation fighter aircraft: Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 in frontline service. Two projects were proposed to meet this need, the 4.5th generation fighter aircraft: Sukhoi Su-47 and the Mikoyan Project 1.44 (although later modernized MiG-35 to 4.5th generation fighter). In 2002, Sukhoi was chosen to lead the design for the new combat aircraft.
As the first post-Soviet fighter, Sukhoi PAK FA (T-50) will incorporate technology from both the Su-47 and the MiG 1.44 and when fully developed is intended to replace the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian inventory and serve as the basis of the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA project being developed with India. A fifth-generation jet fighter, it is designed to fight against the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. The Sukhoi PAK FA performed its first flight 29 January 2010.
Russia is now constructing a new stealth lightweight multirole fighter – Mikoyan LMFS (aka Projekt 1.27, MiG-1.27) by Mikoyan aircraft manufacturer. This jet fighter is based on the cancelled MiG 1.44.
By the late 1990s, several Chinese fifth-generation fighter programs, grouped under the program codename J-XX or XXJ, were identified by western intelligence sources. PLAAF officials have confirmed the existence of such a program, which they estimate will enter service between 2017–2019. Nevertheless, the United States has predicted that it may possess as much as 20 times more "advanced stealth fighters" than the Chinese by 2020. By late 2010, two prototypes of the Chengdu J-20 had been constructed and were undergoing high-speed taxi trials. The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011. China remains dependent on reliable Russian jet engines and advanced radars and so does not yet have an independent fifth generation jet fighter program, according to a Russian news report.
Another stealth fighter design from SAC started to circulate on the internet in September 2011. In June 2012, photos about a possible prototype of F-60 being transferred on highway began to emerge on the internet. This aircraft was named Shenyang J-31 later, and made its maiden flight on Oct 31, 2012.
In 2011 Turkish Aerospace Industries initiated a $20 million concept design phase for a fifth-generation fighter TFX. In 2013 a decision should be made for the future of this project. Turkey is the only JSF member with a program of its own. Turkish Aerospace Industries has stated that the program will cost $120 billion (with engine development).
India is developing the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), a twin-engine fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter apart from Sukhoi/HAL FGFA project being developed with Russia. The main purpose of the AMCA is to replace the aging SEPECAT Jaguar & Dassault Mirage 2000. Unofficial design work on the AMCA has been started.
Russia will also provide India with an advanced version of the Sukhoi-30MKI, which will have fifth generation capabilities and stealth features. India will be giving 18 Sukhoi-30K aircraft to Russia, to replace them with the advanced Sukhoi-30MKI, which is being christened as "Super Sukhoi" that boasts of fifth-generation features.
The sudden emergence of fifth generation jet fighters has caused other countries to either adopt their own, or if they are unable to do so, upgrade their current fourth generation fighters to the 4.5th generation level. In 2012, Lars Helmrich of the Swedish Air Force testified to parliament that the current fourth generation Saab JAS 39 Gripen would be useless in air-to-air combat by 2020 and that only the 4.5th generation Gripen NG would stand a chance.
Common design elements
Giovanni de Briganti has defined the defining elements of a fifth generation fighter to be:
- High maneuverability - Which tends to include short-field capabilities.
- Advanced avionics
- Networked data fusion from sensors and avionics
- Multirole capabilities
In order to minimize their radar cross-section (RCS), all fifth-generation fighters use chines instead of standard leading edge extensions and lack canards, though the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 has engine intake extensions that seem to function somewhat like canards and the Chengdu J-20 designers have chosen the agility enhancements of canards in spite of their poor stealth characteristics. They all have twin canted vertical tails also to minimize side RCS. Most fifth-generation fighters with supermaneuverability achieve it through thrust vectoring.
They all have internal weapon bays in order to avoid high RCS weapon pylons, but they all have external hardpoints on their wings for use on non-stealthy missions, such as the external fuel tanks the F-22 carries when deploying to a new theater.
All fifth-generation fighters have a high percentage of composite materials, in order to reduce RCS and weight.
Software defined aircraft
All revealed fifth-generation fighters use commercial off-the-shelf main processors to directly control all sensors to form a consolidated view of the battlespace with both onboard and networked sensors, while previous generation jet fighters used federated systems where each sensor or pod would present its own readings for the pilot to combine in their own mind a view of the battlespace. The F-22A was physically delivered without synthetic aperture radar (SAR) or situational awareness infra-red search and track. It will gain SAR later through software upgrades. However any flaw in these huge software systems can knock out supposedly unrelated aircraft systems and the complexity of a software defined aircraft can lead to a software crisis with additional costs and delays. By the end of 2013 the biggest concern with the F-35 program was software, especially the software required to do data fusion across the many sensors.
An automatic software response to an overheat condition apparently has contributed to at least one fatal crash of an F-22.
The F-35 uses Software-defined radio systems, where common middleware controls FPGAs. Col. Arthur Tomassetti has said that the F-35 is a "software intensive airplane and software is easy to upgrade, as opposed to hardware."
Fifth generation jet fighters use the newest generation of high performance jet engines and only the American Pratt & Whitney F119 is fully developed. The engines for the F-35 are still under development, the Chinese are dependent on Russian engines, and even the Russians are falling short in the development of the latest jet engines.
Sensor fusion and automatic target tracking are projected to give the fifth-generation jet fighter pilot a view of the battlespace superior to that of legacy AWACS aircraft that may be forced back from the front lines by increasing threats. Therefore tactical control could be shifted forwards to the pilots in the fighters. Michael Wynne, former Secretary of the United States Air Force, has suggested elimination of the Boeing E-3 Sentry and Boeing E-8 Joint STARS in favor of more F-35s, simply because so much effort is being made by the Russians and Chinese to target these platforms that are built to commercial airliner standards.
However, the more powerful sensors, such as AESA radar which is able to operate in multiple modes at the same time, may present too much information for the single pilot in the F-22, F-35 and T-50 to adequately use. The Sukhoi/HAL FGFA offered a return to the two-seat configuration common in fourth generation strike fighters, but this was rejected over cost concerns.
The limits of stealth
Even committed fifth generation fighter users such as the Israelis concede that advances in sensors and computing will overcome a pure stealth configuration within a decade. This is why the Israelis insisted that the F-35 have defined interfaces so that the electronic warfare systems could be constantly improved to match the threat. All known fifth generation designs have extensive electronic warfare systems, partly in response to an incident where the limited EW systems on a F-117 may have led to its loss in combat. Stealth is now seen as "part of the overall electronic warfare issue", in that a stealthy platform is easier to hide with the assistance of jamming.
Critics and alternative definitions
The definition of the term fifth-generation fighter from Lockheed Martin has been criticized by companies whose products do not conform to these particular specifications, such as Boeing and Eurofighter, and by other commentators such as Bill Sweetman: "it is misleading to portray the F-22 and F-35 as a linear evolution in fighter design. Rather, they are a closely related pair of outliers, relying on a higher level of stealth as a key element of survivability – as the Lockheed YF-12 and Mikoyan MIG-25, in the 1960s, relied on speed and altitude."
The United States Navy and Boeing have placed the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in a "next generation" fighter category along with the F-22 and F-35, as the Super Hornet has a "fifth generation" AESA radar, modest radar cross-section (RCS) reductions and sensor fusion. A senior USAF pilot has complained about fifth-generation claims for the Super Hornet: "The whole point to fifth generation is the synergy of stealth, fusion and complete situational awareness. The point about fifth-generation aircraft is that they can do their mission anywhere – even in sophisticated integrated air defense [IADS] environments. If you fly into heavy IADS with a great radar and sensor fusion, but no stealth, you will have complete situational awareness of the guy that kills you." Michael “Ponch” Garcia of Raytheon has said that the addition of their AESA radars to the Super Hornet provides "90 percent of your fifth-generation capability at half the cost." And a top Boeing official has called their newest 4.5th generation fighters "stealth killers".
In response to the use of the "fifth generation" term, Eurofighter has made a fifth-generation checklist placing different weights on the various capabilities, and arguing that the application of the label to strike aircraft such as Lockheed-Martin's F-35 is ill advised, and even inconsistent with the aircraft's specifications. Meanwhile, Eurofighter adds "net-enabled operations" as noteworthy requirement and de-emphasizes full-scope low observability as only one factor in survivability. In the same article Eurofighter GmbH appear to acknowledge the remarkable performance of Lockheed Martin's F-22 aircraft, while demonstrating that labels as simple as "fifth generation" may easily be devised to serve the interests of the writer.
Richard A. Bitzinger of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, a former consultant for the American RAND think tank suggests that Western Europe's "failure" to develop a fifth-generation jet fighter may reduce these former leaders in the market to also-ran status as the world's attention shifts to the competition between the United States and Asian powers. Canadians Alex Wilner and Marco Wyss of the Center for Security Studies claim that Europe's failure to "keep up" with the F-35 may make the European jet fighter manufacturers close up shop. However Europe may return with a trans-national 'sixth generation' UCAV, assuming that the political entanglements can be evaded. The European Defence Agency has warned that the European $60 billion industry could collapse by 2020.
The Russian Defense Ministry defines fifth generation as including "stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, highly-integrated avionics, electronics and fire-control systems".
Fifth-Generation Fighters in Service or with Flying Prototypes
|F-22||USA||1997||195||in service||2005||150 M||18.9||13.56||78.04||19,700 kg||29,300 kg||38,000 kg||CTOL|
|F-35A||USA||2006||27||testing||2016||107 M||15.7||10.70||42.70||13,300 kg||22,470 kg||31,800 kg||CTOL|
|F-35B||USA||2008||30||testing||2015||15.6||10.70||42.70||14,700 kg||27,300 kg||STOVL|
|F-35C||USA||2010||6||testing||15.5||13.10||62.10||15,800 kg||31,800 kg||CATOBAR|
|T-50||Russia||2010||5||prototype||2016||54 M||19.8||14.00||78.80||18,500 kg||28,800 kg||37,000 kg||CTOL|
|J-20||China||2011||2||prototype|| 2019||20.3||12.88||73.00||17,000 kg||36,287 kg||CTOL|
|F-22||USA||2,410||1,963||3,219||20,000||2||208 kN||1.09||2D|| 0.0001-0.4|
|F-35A||USA||1,930||1,362||2,220||18,288||1||125 kN||0.87||none|| 0.005-0.3|
|T-50||Russia||2,100-2,600||1,800||5,500||20,000||350 m/s||2||214 kN||1.20||3D|| 0.3-0.5|
Armament and Avionics
range 1 m² target
|F-22||USA||8||4||Yes||-||-||240 km||Missile warning|
|F-35A||USA||4|| 7||Yes||-||-||150 km||Full|
|T-50||Russia||6||6||Yes||Yes||Yes||300 km||Forward arc|
5G Design and Development
Proposed 5G fighters
- "F-35 Defining the Future" Lockheed Martin, 1 June 2012.
- 5TH Generation Fighters, Lockheed Martin. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
- Russia trails U.S. in pursuit of a fifth-generation jet
- A 21st-century Concept of Air and Military Operations by Robbin F. Laird
- Ultimate Fighter: Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter By Bill Sweetman page 133, Zenith Imprint, 2004
- Hehs, Eric. "F-22 Design Evolution, Part I." Lockheed Martin, 15 May 1998.
- Majumdar, Dave. "USMC hopes to leverage USAF’s F-22 experience when deploying F-35B." Flight International, 19 July 2012.
- Yoon, Joe. "Aerospaceweb.org | Ask Us – Fighter Generations". Aerospaceweb.org, 27 June 2004. Retrieved: 03 Jan. 2009.
- "JSF FAQ." "No, neither the F135 or F136 engines were designed to supercruise." Pentagon
-  United States Patent and Trademark Office, trademark serial number 78885922
-  United States Patent and Trademark Office, trademark serial number 78896843
- Majumdar, Dave. "China, Russia Erode U.S. Stealth Technology Lead." Defense News, 24 May 2011.
- Unnithan, Sandeep (29 September 2008). "India, Russia to have different versions of same fighter plane". India Today.
- Cohen, Ariel (16 January 2009). "Russia bets on new Sukhoi fighter to match F-35". United Press International (UPI).
- "Российский истребитель пятого поколения поднялся в воздух". Lenta.ru. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- "Russia to test fifth-generation fighter in 2009". (6 December 2007). RIA Novosti.
- Light Multi-Function Frontal Aircraft (LMFS) GlobalSecurity.org
- Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Abilene, KS, Saturday, 8 May 2010
- Aviation Week Bill Sweetman China's Stealth Striker 12/27/2010
- China conducts first test-flight of stealth plane, BBC News, 11 January 2011
- "Chinese ‘Mighty Dragon’ doomed to breathe Russian fire." Russia Today. March 11, 2012.
- Shenyang "F-60", UCAV stealth models revealed?, Flight Global. 29 September 2011
- New Chinese fighter revealed?, The Aviationist. 22 June 2012
- Maiden flight of J-31.
- Turkey Looks Into Fifth-Gen Complement To JSF, By Tony Osborne, Aviation Week
- "Seoul Drops KFX Technology Target To Generation 4.5."
- India Develops Requirements For AMCA
- "Gripen has to be modernized to meet air battles."
- de Briganti, Giovanni. "F-35 Reality Check Ten Years On -- Part 1: ‘Fifth-Generation’ and Other Myths." defense-aerospace.com, 9 May 2012.
- F-35 avionics: an interview with the Joint Strike Fighter's director of mission systems and software
- F-35 Electronic Warfare Suite: More Than Self-Protection
- David C. Aronstein, Michael J. Hirschberg, Albert C. Piccirillo Advanced tactical fighter to F-22 raptor: origins of the 21st century air dominance fighter page 171, section: Avionics
- F-35 Joint Strike Fighter leverages COTS for avionics systems
- Johnson, Maj. Dani. "Lockheed's F-22 Raptor Gets Zapped by International Date Line: Raptors arrive at Kadena." Air Force, 19 February 2007. Retrieved: 9 May 2010.
- Drew, Christopher. "Additional Costs Expected for Lockheed’s F-35 Fighter." The New York Times, 1 November 2010
- Shalal-Esa, Andrea (4 December 2013). "Pentagon focused on weapons, data fusion as F-35 nears combat use". reuters.com. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Russia flexes military power with 'futuristic' fighter jet
- Hennigan, W.J. "Fatal problems plague the U.S.' costliest fighter jet." LA Times, 19 December 2011.
- "EO/IR Multi-Sensor Fusion Tracker Algorithm - Navy SBIR FY2011.1"
- "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter leverages COTS for avionics systems."
- "An Inside Look at the F-35 Lightning II."
- Waldron, Greg. "China’s J-20 to be effective capability by 2018 – Pentagon." Flight International, 26 August 2011.
- Pukhov, Ruslan. "The Military's Achilles Heel." The Moscow Times, 1 September 2011.
- "Shaping a New Con-ops: The Impact of the F-22 and F-35." 'SLDinfo.com', 5 November 2010
- Clark, Colin "Scrap AWACS, JSTARS; Plough Dough Into F-35, Wynne Says." DoD Buzz, 31 January 2011.
- Sweetman, Bill. "Rivals Target JSF." Aviation Week 30 November 2010.
- "Israel, U.S. Agree To $450 Million In F-35 EW Work." Av Week, 6 August 2012.
- Pitts, Joseph R. "Electronic-Warfare Assets Badly Neglected." National Defense Magazine, June 2000.
- Tirpak, John A. "Two Decades of Stealth." Airforce Magazine, June 2001.
- Eurofighter, 5th Generation; the Debate Heats up
-  Editorial Insight by Bill Sweetman, Defense Technology International, December 2009.
- F/A-18 as good as 5th gen: US Navy
- Ferguson, Gregor 'Bridging fighter' packs quite a punch The Australian, 23 October 2010
- F/A18-E/F Super Hornet .... Leading Naval Aviation into the 21st Century US Navy, 17 August 2009
- Fulghum, David A. Super Hornet Radar Not Ready For Combat
- Erwin, Sandra. "Joint Strike Fighter Delayed? Not a Big Deal for the U.S. Navy." National Defense Industrial Association, 24 November 2010.
- Ewing, Philip. "Boeing’s iron Eagles, part 2." DoD Buzz, January 3rd, 2012.
- Eurofighter World February 2010, page 17 (PDF-page 9)
- Bitzinger, Richard A. "Global Fighter Jets: Asia, The New Centre Of Gravity?" RSIS, 20 April 2011.
- "Ignore the critics. There is no plane that can compete with the F-35." National Post, 16 May 2011.
- "Falling defence budgets and excess capacity have put Europe’s military-equipment makers in a bind. Consolidation is needed."
- "Lack of European Consensus on Future Fighters, UAVs Hurts Industry."
- "Russia Must Build Two Variants of 5G Fighter - Rogozin." RIA Novosti. February 16, 2012.
- "Pentagon: First F-35s Operational in 2015"
- "GAO-13-309, F-35 JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER."
- "The share of modern aircraft models in the Russian Air Force in the next 10 years should be 80%."
- "Stealth Aircraft RCS"
- Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, FUNDAMENTAL AND APPLIED PROBLEMS - Stealth
- "T-50 fighter to be ready in 2013."
- "F-35 vs. F-16 Range - The Ghastly Truth."
- Spick, Mike. Brassey's Modern Fighters: The Ultimate Guide to In-Flight Tactics, Technology, Weapons, and Equipment. Potomac Books Inc, 2002. ISBN 1-57488-462-X.