While drones seem to have taken center stage over the past few years, two prime aircraft manufacturers have unveiled concept artwork showing their respective versions of a sixth generation manned fighter. Both employ stealthy characteristics, looking more like scaled down versions of a B-2 Spirit bomber than a true dogfighter. However, that’s where the similarities end, since both are expected to offer supercruise capability, carry large internal weapons bays toting a wide array of ordnance, be able to fly for long distances, and, most importantly, be armed with a laser cannon to ward off close range targets.
Both concepts feature a tailless design, twin engines and are oversized in comparison to previous fighters if they are to meet all of the Pentagon’s design requirements, and provide heat dissipation solutions to cool off the engines, power plant and laser cannons. Its unclear if the USMC will be equipped with a sixth generation fighter due to their need for a VTOL flight profile. The Northrop design is shown atop while the competing Lockheed Martin effort is shown below it. Interestingly, the Lockheed-Martin illustration seems to show two men in the cockpit, perhaps one controlling the myriad weapons systems and defensive components while the pilot flies the plane.
Boeing’s concept for their FA-XX sixth generation fighter is a bit different than the previous two entrants, sporting a canard wing for added stability in-flight. The Navy version will likely feature strengthened undercarriages for carrier operations and will likely come with folding wing tips for stowage, particularly if they are much larger than the legacy aircraft they are being designed to replace.