Next-Generation Attack Fighter

Design Tradeoffs and Notional System Concepts

by Dan Raymer

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Current Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fighter/attack aircraft are 1970s vintage that will reach the end of their service lives in the early part of the next century. Although the Air Force is developing the highly advanced F-22, it cannot be used to replace all current assets, because of cost. A "low-end" complementary design is required. This report presents the results of research into the tradeoffs in requirements specification for a next-generation attack fighter. It develops and analyzes a representative notional design concept for such a fighter, then conducts numerous tradeoff studies of range, performance, payload, and technologies. The study concludes that a single-seat, single-engine fighter that uses a near-term engine and currently available advanced technologies could provide a substantial advantage in range, payload, and signature over current aircraft. Furthermore, tri-service needs appear to be attainable with a lower-risk, two-aircraft-variant approach in which the Navy and Marine Corps both use a virtually identical short takeoff, vertical landing design and the Air Force uses a nearly identical derivative of that design.

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