As key Air Force and Navy fighter jets—such as the F-22 Raptor and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet—face the end of their service lives in the 2030s, work is being done in earnest by the two services to field a new fighter.
The sixth-generation fighter, as it has been called, is still largely conceptual. While the services have ideas about some requirements and industry has already begun distributing artist renditions of potential aircraft, a formal program is still years away.
Sterling Anderson, deputy chief of Air Combat Command's air superiority core function team, told National Defense that the Air Force already has a few capabilities in mind.
The service wants to cut down on the amount of mid-air refueling, he said. Fighters, which are traditionally small and compact, often have less space for extra fuel, he noted.
"We think it's going to have to be long range, for sure," he said. "If you look at almost any part of the world, even in the Middle East, and look at some of the distances required and the tankers required, we would like to have a fighter with a longer range probably than the standard 500 miles that we have today."