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Fighter Aircraft Generations: A Reference...

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posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 05:11 PM
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When referring to modern fighter aircraft the term "5th Generation" seems to be carelessly thrown about here in ATS's discussion forums and other military aviation websites.
There needs to be some consistency in what is considered in a particular generation - this task however is certain to be the source of heavy discussions and potential disagreements.

For that reason, rather than entering in my own personal opinion I have researched other knowledgeable and respected sources in order to find an objective point of reference. In the interest of impartiality, any personal viewpoints of my own will be entered in this thread outside of this particular post.

So what constitutes a 5th Generation fighter? To answer this question I checked sources such as the Rand Corporation, our good and knowledgeable friends at Aerospaceweb.Org as well as various political and industry publications. It is from these sources that I have compiled a generational listing of fighters and the attributes that categorize them.


1st GENERATION: 1945-1955
The generational system for figher aircraft seems to start with post-WWII fighters.
These are typically subsonic jet aircraft with similar abilities to their piston engined counterparts, they also had similar limitations, such as a lack of radar, and WWII vintage weaponry such as dumb bombs and belt-fed machine guns.
Aircraft seen in dogfights over the skies of the Korean War typify this generation. Aircraft such as the MiG-15, MiG-17, F-86 Sabre, as well as the de Havilland Vampire, Supermarine Attacker, Saab Lansen and Dasault Ouragan.
(aircraft links go to pictures)



2nd GENERATION: 1955-1960
According to the Rand Corporation the 2nd generation of fighter aircraft had performance goals in such categories as supersonic speed, ceiling and rate of climb. In addition the technology driving the second generation centered around aerodynamics, propulsion and building materials. New technology advances also enabled this generation to incorporate radar and missiles into their list of assets.
Aircraft typical of this generation are the F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, Dassault Mirage III, Saab Draken, MiG-19 & the MiG-21.


3rd GENERATION: 1960-1970
The 3rd generation is marked by technological refinements with a push toward improved maneuverability, multi-role capabilities (carrying out both air to air and ground attack).
Continued improvements in propulsion such as more reliable jet engines with increased thrust and the beginnings of large advances in avionics and weapons systems.
Fighter aircraft that flew in the Vietnam War are included in this group - the 3rd generation includes the F-4 Phantom, Northrop F-5, MiG-23, MiG-25, Sukhoi Su-15, Dassault Mirage F1 and the Dassault Super Etendard.


4th GENERATION: 1970-1990
The 4th generation includes notably more sophisticated avionics and weaponry brought on by advances in computers and system integration. Increased agility and flexibility in mission roles is also a typical attribute of the 4th gen. Examples of the 4th generation are the F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, AV8 Harrier, MiG-29, MiG-31, Sukhoi Su-27, Panavia Tornado, Dassault Mirage 2000 and the Saab Viggen.


4.5 GENERATION: 1990-2000
The 4.5 generation is typified by many of the same attributes as the 4th generation aircraft except that they incorporate advanced technology that could be interpreted as that for the 5th generation. Dominant performance and technology goals for 4.5 is reduced radar cross section through advanced airframe shaping and radar absorbant materials being used in the construction. Highly advanced avionics are also a prerequisite for this category. The 4.5 generation includes F-18 Super Hornet, Sukhoi Su-33, Sukhoi Su-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Grippen and the Dassault Raphale. (it bears acknowledgement that Aerospaceweb says that the Typhoon and the Raphale are arguably somewhere between 4.5 and 5th generation.)


5th GENERATION: 2000-
The attributes that characterize the 5th generation of fighter aircraft include highly advanced avionics and stealthy sensory suites giving the pilot a comprehensive view of the entire battlespace. Also characterizing 5th gen is a combination of stealthy design and efficient supersonic speeds.
Aircraft that stand as examples of 5th generation fighters are the F-22 Raptor, the not yet operational F-35, and possibly the MiG MFI and Sukhoi Su-47, should either of them ever see production.

Hopefully this will serve as a good reference source for ATSers as there really is not much on the web to assist the curious in determining what constitutes a specified generation of aircraft.

Sources:
Aerospaceweb.Org
Rand Corporation
"Jet Fighter Development", Hallion (1990)




[edit on 4-3-2005 by intelgurl]




posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 05:41 PM
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Lovely post, Intergurl.



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 05:54 PM
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Very nice post on Jet fighter aircraft.
But I was wondering if they also classified W.W.II and pre W.W.II in generations. It would interesting to see them posted if they were. After all, Fighter aircraft did not first start to appear after W.W.II but around W.W.I.

[edit on 4-3-2005 by beyondSciFi]



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 06:11 PM
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Originally posted by beyondSciFi
Very nice post on Jet fighter aircraft.
But I was wondering if they also classified W.W.II and pre W.W.II in generations. It would interesting to see them posted if they were. After all, Fighter aircraft did not first start to appear after W.W.II but around W.W.I.

[edit on 4-3-2005 by beyondSciFi]

It is apparent from what I gathered that this generation system which declares that the F-22 is 5th gen, etc.. is not at all associated with piston engine aircraft... I don't know why.



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 08:10 PM
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Where would you classify the Su-37 which was the first to incorperate 3d thrust-vectoring(I'm assuming 4.5).



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 08:17 PM
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Originally posted by Amur Tiger
Where would you classify the Su-37 which was the first to incorperate 3d thrust-vectoring(I'm assuming 4.5).


I think it's 4th gen tech. I don't believe it has modern avionics(but correct me if I'm wrong as I am unsure)

IntelGurl Great Thread as usual.



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 09:16 PM
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Russia's 5th Gen Fighter will not be the 1.42 or the Su-37 or the S-47 Berkut, the 5th Gen Fighter will be the T-50 and a Prototype will be built in 2006.



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 09:54 PM
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Good Reference!!!!! Pretty much in tune with how I have always seen things.

I have a theoretical question:

Where would you put the YF-12 had it actually made production? Or the F108 Rapier for that matter.

They had technical capabilities well beyond the norm for thier time Can't seem to figure out where. Not really close to 4th, but not really a 3 either and 2 is way to low.

Just curious.



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 10:03 PM
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Originally posted by FredT
Good Reference!!!!! Pretty much in tune with how I have always seen things.

I have a theoretical question:

Where would you put the YF-12 had it actually made production? Or the F108 Rapier for that matter.

They had technical capabilities well beyond the norm for thier time Can't seem to figure out where. Not really close to 4th, but not really a 3 either and 2 is way to low.

Just curious.


Maybe 3.5 generation, just like other aircraft fit in the 4.5 generation...?

[edit on 4-3-2005 by beyondSciFi]



posted on Mar, 4 2005 @ 10:43 PM
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Hi! Intelgurl. How do you know I am interested in this topic?

yeah! I have discussed it with my friend many times for many years ago. I really think this is an advanced topic.
I am sorry I couldn't agree the state of 5th generation, as I doubt what about "meteor" P-59 Me262 etc. If we add these aircraft, should we get 6th generation?
Why you plot out the"thunderchief" as a generation? Is it not multi-role capabilities fighter?
So I have a list to give you seeing
1) 1945-1954 Sabre Fresco meteor etc. which was born out of WWII and capability has got improve but still is subsonic dogfight that as avionics is tosy.
1.5) someone who can plot Supersabre Farmer and other transonic as a genaration which air-intakes was still designed at head, so their avionics couldn't get much improve, but they have a few characters of 2th generation. In my opinion those belong to 1th generation.
2) 1955-1969 In this time, almost all aircraft got duality air-intakes, so they are supersonic fighter we called. their avionics also got profit from air-intakes which be move to beside fuselage. I considerd that this is one of characters to differentiate between 1th generation from 2th generation.Such as Phantom Viggin etc.
3) 1969-- In this generation, fighters got a great character is spacious.
we or to say merge fuselage with aerofoil. So this generation fighter got high Max speed with maneuverablilty
Sorry my English is very poor, so I doubt you do can understand what I want to say, maybe I will get progress in talking about sth. with you.



posted on Mar, 5 2005 @ 03:32 AM
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To answer an earlier question, nobody thought in terms of generations at all until well into the 1950's when aircraft like the F-100 and MiG 19 etc began to bring supersonic performance into actual service, then almost as an accidental reference point, the aviation press such as Flight etc began to point out what an advance these aircraft represented over 'the first generation jets' meaning of course all the subsonic jets fom Meteor to Hunter, or P-59 to F-86 class in the USA.

When even more advanced weapon systems began to appear in more advanced fighters like the Lighning and F-4 these were replacements for these second generatioon jets (except of course that Britain missed out the second generation completely when its two F-100 class fighters were cancelled) and we have just carried on from there.

Its not an official classification by any means, just a point of reference for plane buffs to classify stuff. And that is why it doesn't include piston fighters.



posted on Mar, 5 2005 @ 06:51 AM
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Originally posted by SiberianTiger
Russia's 5th Gen Fighter will not be the 1.42 or the Su-37 or the S-47 Berkut, the 5th Gen Fighter will be the T-50 and a Prototype will be built in 2006.


Can you give me some information on the Russian T-50? Only T-50's, I know are the Tank and GOLDEN EAGLE of South Korea.

Thank you.



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 03:25 AM
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Here's a drawing of one version forum.keypublishing.co.uk...



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 05:36 AM
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Great thread, lots of info



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 07:42 AM
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T-50 is a joint development project of HAL and Sukhoi..

Good post all in all, but intelgurl's conspicuously left out such as the J-10 and the
LCA which are already flying..


I suppose both would come into the 4th gen category..
Also what about those Jap and Taiwanese planes?

Notice one thing..fighter gens were spaced only 5 years apart during the cold war and now they're more then twice that gap..
Nothing like a war or a tech race to boost development..



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 09:55 AM
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T-50 PAK-FA is a direct competitor to the F/A-22A, some concepts look blatantly like it.

Good post intel!

The J-10 is probably 4.5 gen since it uses an older (style) airframe, the LCA is pretty much same deal.

None of them incorporate stealth.



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 10:34 AM
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While there are bound to be many exceptions and debateable points withing listing aircraft in any sot of categories I think that this post goes an long way in terms of giving us some type of reference when referring to the generation of a particular jet fighter aircraft. I havent been posting here for as long as many of you and I really wasnt aware that such a problem existed. While there is bound to be squabbling about peoples favorite types I think that most of us will just be glad to have some reference system.



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 11:41 AM
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Originally posted by GrOuNd_ZeRo
T-50 PAK-FA is a direct competitor to the F/A-22A, some concepts look blatantly like it.

Good post intel!

The J-10 is probably 4.5 gen since it uses an older (style) airframe, the LCA is pretty much same deal.

None of them incorporate stealth.


J-10 does not incorporate stealth but the LCA does incorporate stelth from the aspects of sheer size.. (smallest fighter in the world) and hull composites alloys..
However no effort has been made to streamline the fuselage ...
Also note that the air intakes are the smallest (jaguar derivative) and the wing is delta..



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 01:32 PM
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f14 anf f15 cannot be considered 4th generation planes, their airframes and aerodynamics are completely diferent with the concepts of truly 4th generation aircrafts, the only thing that the f15 have is engines and radar, but the t/w is affected by the high bypass ratio, also the first version of the eagles only had 7gs limit, the f14 have 6.5gs, mig31 also isnt an 4th generation, is basicaly an 3th generation airframe with new electronics (both mig35-25 have almost the same high supersonic maneoverabiliy -arround 5gs-, its obvius that at subsonic the agility is greater), f14-15s are 3.5 generation planes.

here im go again



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 04:28 PM
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I disagree, I don't think that the 'generations' specifically relate to the tech incorporated in the aircraft, but rather are a guide to what you should expect to see in a given type depending on when it appeared.

For instance, to take the F-15 as a case in point.

following a linear path and obviously not including every type to enter service as it would be ridiculous;

The F-86 represents the first gen, these were replaced by the second gen F-100, these were replaced by the third gen F-4, therefore the F-15 which replaced the F-4 is 4th gen, making the Raptor 5th gen. Thats all there is to it really, and it is why talk of the Typhoon et al being 4.5 gen is fudged and wrong.

For instance, following the British line in the same way as I have just done above;

Meteor = 1st gen, Hunter 2nd gen, Lightning, 3rd gen, Tornado, 4th gen, Typhoon 5th gen.

OK, it is less capable than the Raptor overall but it IS the UK's 5th gen fighter, as it is quite literally the fifth generation to go into service. One generation follows another, the subsequent leap in capability is what we expect as a consequence of this (otherwise the new plane wouldn't be worth building). As I said in my earlier post, when the aviation press first referred to 'the first generation of jet fighters' which started the whole thing off, they were talking literally, not in a sense of of performance, this is a meaning we have since, incorrectly, applied to the terminology.

No doubt many disagree with me but this is the historical perspective of the term and I have referred back to publications from the fifties sixties and seventies to back it up. Moving further forward through the publications it appears that it was in fact with the F-22 Raptor itself that the 'generation' was first used as a definition of technology and capability so it is only now that we have corrupted the term, making some observers feel 'forced' to invent the '4.5' definition for non stealthy fighters of the same vintage.

I found this fascinating to discover as I have never reall ythought abouit it too deeply before this thread started.



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