The replacement for the F-22 Raptor is starting to emerge!
Move aside F-22, the U.S. Air Force is looking beyond the F-22 Air Superiority Fighter to the new “Penetrating Counter Air” (PCA) all stealth fighter that will be the replacement for the F-22 Raptor and maintain America’s dominance of the skies. The Air Force is finalizing technology requirements for the new sixth generation fighter that will incorporate a number of new technologies that currently exist only on a paper.
The Current F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter is technologically far advanced than any comparable fighter currently in existence anywhere in world. However, recent advances in Russian weapon systems such as the Su-57 (PAK-FA) air superiority fighter and S-500 air defense missile system as well as major advances in Chinese stealth fighter technology has been cited as underlying reasons for the development of a sixth-generation fighter.
A new fighter hasn’t been designed in the United States in over 20 years and citing the problems associated with the F-35, the PCA concept approach and development would have to be radically different. The PCA’s mission role will differ significantly from current inventory F-22 and F-35 fighters to address new combat realities in Europe-Russia theater and the Asia-Pacific region. For example, the range of the PCA will have to be extensively longer to fly escort missions for current B-2 and future B-21 bombers and to counter the range of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter.
The problem with range is designing an engine that tastes fuel to allow the aircraft to travel longer distances as compared to an engine that drinks fuel and give fighters their high-performance capabilities. The Air Force hopes to blend both long range and high performance with new propulsion technology known as “three-stream propulsion” which uses a third air stream to allow the engine to be more efficient and provide more thrust.
Gone from the PCA will be the ubiquitous vertical tail fins that has been standard on all aircraft from the inception of air travel. While an integral part of stability and control, vertical tail-fins are a major impediment to achieving durable stealth against different types of radars and will be replaced on the PCA with the same control surfaces on the B-2 stealth bomber.
The Air Force will need a sharp increase in funding to the tune of an extra $147 million, to be able to keep technology development for the PCA. Such funding is needed if the U.S. Air Force will stay on the path outlined in its Air Superiority 2030 road map which calls for the Air Force to develop a new fighter and to maintain next generation air dominance.
Source: Aviation Week