The U.S. has announced plans to develop a 4.5 generation light fighter jet to replace the F-16 months after Russia made known its plans for a single engine light fighter jet.
The U.S. Air Force is launching a study on future aircraft mix which will include a clean sheet design for a new “four-and-a-half-gen or fifth-gen-minus” fighter to replace the F-16, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown said last week.
“I want to be able to build something new and different, that’s not the F 16 — that has some of those capabilities, but gets there faster and uses some of our digital approach,” he said.
The jet will be built based on the lessons learned in digital engineering for the “e-series” T-7A Red Hawk trainer and the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD), Brown told the Defense Writers Group Wednesday afternoon.
He said he would like to see F-16 replacement sporting “open-mission systems” to allow near-real-time software updates. The idea of the tactical aircraft (TacAir) study is “to look at what is the right force mix,” he added, explaining that the service needs fifth-generation fighters such as the F-35; it needs NGAD “to remain competitive against our adversaries;” and, it needs capabilities for the “low-end fight.”
In December 2020, Rostec, the holding company of most of Russia’s Aerospace enterprises, had announced the development of a concept single-engine fifth generation fighter jet in manned and unmanned versions.
"Indeed, the creation of a combat aviation system of the future in the light and middle class is being worked out. According to the plan, it can be a universal platform, in manned and unmanned versions. The concept and tactical and technical requirements for such a complex are being worked out," Sergey Viktorovich Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation, said.
The new tactical aviation platform could complement Russia’s Su-57 stealth jet. Russian industry sources had told defenseword.net during the MAKS-2019 event that a possible light fighter, which could be called the MiG-XX for now, was on the table. This aircraft would borrow certain characteristics of the Su-57 such as an internal weapons bay, lightweight materials and stealth characteristics. Its engine would be more powerful than seen on the MiG-35.