Originally posted by Daedalus3
Fighters in space will only become a reality when non-orbital space(deep space?) will become lucrative 'territory'.
Orbital assets IMHO can be sufficiently defended and attacked with other orbital assets or terrestrial systems.
Infact I doubt space based fighters will ever be a reality.
More like space based capital class ships.
That too only 10th gen..
While I agree with your opinion that space fighters will only appear when they are damn well needed, I doubt the
capital ship will be such a good idea. The bigger the machine, the bigger the target, I believe. It's just like why we don't have battleships
anymore like we did in the 1940s: while the battleship is large and impressive to look at, "large and impressive to look at" a good war machine does
As for generational number, I think space-based combat vehicles will reside in a class outside the 6th generation atmospheric fighter. While aircraft
manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and their F-35 Lightning II might be making a jet-of-all-trades, trying to add "space fighter" to "fighter,"
"attacker," and any other job under the sun is asking too much of one airframe.
That being said, the first-generation space fighters will probably be designed as space-to-space missile platforms powered by either turbo-scramjets
or turbo rockets, and will largely prey on satellites, much like how submarines were originally conceived to prey on ships. In time, space fighters
will start turning on each other, and they will become agile and primed to take out other space fighters when necessary; hunter-killer space fighters,
if you will. ASAT craft will comprise the first generation while hunter-killers will compose the second. Refinements and possible hybrids of space and
atmospheric will probably make up the following generations.
As for the 6th generation atmospheric fighters, it's a safe bet that they will represent another step forward in speed, agility, stealth, range, and
networking. Updated engine systems will probably be explored, and things like scramjet boosters might be explored, but probably only to extend
operating range and either for quick insertion into or escape from a battlefield. An ISIS radar array like the kind proposed for large aircraft
directly integrated into the jet's skin might give it the edge by turning radar from a big lump somewhere on the jet to an integration into the skin,
freeing up space for more weapons, fuel, and other important and new things. I admit an ISIS array might be risky since getting a bullet to the
fuselage might mess up the radar workings, but the rewards could outweigh those risks. Other technologies might be explored, such as refined unit
networking, advanced helmet interfaces, and voice activation of certain commands. It might not be farfetched to also suggest the usage of aeroelastic
materials for variable geometry layouts that eat up less space on the jet.
A big thing I think will happen is that both manned and unmanned packages of the same airframe will start to be offered. You could send up unmanned
versions of this new fighter for suicidal ultra-deep strikes, or alternately, those boring-as-hell or painfully long and tedious sorties nobody would
bother sending up a human for.
When talking about next-generation fighters, I would also think it would be prudent to talk about the next-generation fighter pilot. It's not just a
question of what the fighter of the future will be equipped with, it's also a question of what the guys who fly them will need in order to master
these brave new birds. After all, figher pilot equipment goes way, way beyond just the newest pair of speed jeans. Am I right?