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Unmanned designs and electronic attack capabilities will be heavily represented in planning for the sixth generation of U.S. warplanes.“We’re looking at our next generation Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) more as standard trucks that would be modular and able to be configured to support several possible missions,” says Maj. Gen. Tom Andersen, Air Combat Command’s director of requirements. “Generally, we’re likely to see much less on-board processing. “Also key will be machine-to-machine communications and automated decision making aids so that [information] can be limited to decision quality data. It also will help us with the manpower intensive backend [of RPA operations] if people can limit or automate some of the activity that eats up those manhours.”Upgrades to Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars could turn them into fighter-sized directed energy weapons for both manned and unmanned aircraft.“An issue with most directed energy concepts is that usually you can’t see the [HPM] weapon’s point of impact nor the effect on the target,” Andersen says. “So how do you boresight that weapon and produce a known effect? Is that effect temporary or permanent? What does the strike planner want and what can he trust? How do you treat it like a real weapon so that the joint force commander knows the capability it will deliver?”AESA radars also may be the core of a new jammer and self-protection suite similar to the Navy’s next-generation jammer program.“There is no next generation jammer per se for us,” says Brig. Gen. Dave Goldfein, ACC’s director of air and space operations (A3). “There are capabilities that we’re looking for, but there’s no program of record. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface on AESA. We haven’t got it on the F-35 yet so that we can wring it out, but I think it is going to have tremendous capability for both electronic attack and electronic protection.”The capability will allow aircrews to find, avoid and neutralize enemy emitters on the battlefield. Remotely piloted aircraft are also certain to be part of the offensive mix, ACC officials say. Rather that working toward a single, elegant but expensive solution, they are looking for multiple ways of attacking a foe electronically.The next generation of aircraft will follow an incremental approach.“It will be logical, sustainable and affordable,” Goldfein says. “Long Range Strike, Sixth Generation Fighter, follow on to the MC-12 and MQ-1/9 will have evolutionary but multiple capabilities such as ISR and electronic attack-protection and strike.”
ar99, ACC, UAVs, electronic attack, AESA
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