I remember not too long ago, only about 10 years or so, where we were discussing on the Afterburner Club forum how Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) would render the F-22 and the F-35 as the last generation of manned combat aircraft.
At the time, I thought that the answer was ‘yes’, so much so that if the government really wanted to that they could have just skipped right over those two airplanes and move right on to operational UCAVs. Even then though, I didn’t worry too much about the future careers of our future fighter pilots in the club (a great many of whom are now flying jets today) because the services will be flying fouth generation fighter for at least another two decades to come and fifth generation will have fighter pilots flying in the service much longer than that.
Well, lo and behold…congress has been authorizing the development of sixth generation fighters for Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other DOD contractors and not only are they going to still be manned, they will be sporting amazing new technologies that seem like the stuff of science fiction!! I’m talking about fighters with no vertical control surfaces (tails), weapons that could probably take out a whole city beyond visual range (BVR), even mounted laser cannons on fighters!!
Okay, so they’re plasma weapons, not lasers. But still, that is something that I never actually thought I would see in my lifetime other than on a TV screen!
Make no mistake, as the world of aerial combat get to be more and more technologically advanced, it is definitely going to change that way we look at warfare.
Many of you no doubt watch a lot of military-themed science fiction shows where conflicts are fought in outer space. And while it’s still going to be a LONG time before THAT becomes a reality, it may not be a bad idea for you to take another look at those shows and see how Hollywood speculates how future wars will be fought. Your reality 20 or 30 years from now when you are a squadron commander may not be all that different- even if it is still Earth-bound.
But regardless of where the future of air combat takes us or what these 6th generation fighters wind up looking like or what you will be ding with them, the mission is still the same: to protect American civilians by supporting American troops on the ground. Any innovations that engineers come up with are meant for you to do that as efficiently and as safely as possible.
The future is fluid, but those who shape it are focused with a laser-sharp intensity. Take you future into your own hands and solidify your future today.