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On Monday, President Barack Obama’s budget request for the Pentagon featured more than $5 million dollars for an item tagged “Next Generation Fighter.” If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the plane of the future meant to replace the F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18 Growler aircraft by 2030. Much like the future itself, it’s been a source of much speculation but exists only as an idea.
Yesterday, in broad but revealing terms, top Navy leaders described some of the capabilities that they want in tomorrow’s fighter.
First, a bit of background: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is often called the 5th Generation fighter. It also goes by F/A-XX or, more colloquially, the X Plane. The Navy first put out a requirement for the 6th Generation plane nearly seven years ago, in June 2008. The Air Force followed with its own F-X research program. In 2013, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or DARPA, began a program to pull the two together. At the time, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said. “This is not a question about what does the next aircraft look like, this is a question about what are all the capabilities that it will take, layered together, in order to really comprehensively extend air superiority.”