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Defense News: The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet


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https://www.defensenews.com/breaking-news/2020/09/15/the-us-air-force-has-built-and-flown-a-mysterious-full-scale-prototype-of-its-future-fighter-jet/

 

say whaaat?

 

how reliable is DefenseNews?

 

 

Quote

 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has secretly designed, built and flown at least one prototype of its enigmatic next-generation fighter jet, the service’s top acquisition official confirmed to Defense News on Sept. 14.

The development is certain to shock the defense community, which last saw the first flight of an experimental fighter during the battle for the Joint Strike Fighter contract 20 years ago. With the Air Force’s future fighter program still in its infancy, the rollout and successful first flight of a demonstrator was not expected for years.

“We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Will Roper told Defense News in an exclusive interview ahead of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”

Almost every detail about the aircraft itself will remain a mystery due to the classification of the Next Generation Air Dominance program, the Air Force’s effort for fielding a family of connected air warfare systems that could include fighters, drones and other networked platforms in space or the cyber realm.

Roper declined to comment on how many prototype aircraft have been flown or which defense contractors manufactured them. He wouldn’t say when or where the first flight occurred. And he refused to divulge any aspect of the aircraft’s design — its mission, whether it was uncrewed or optionally crewed, whether it could fly at hypersonic speeds or if it has stealth characteristics.

 

 

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There is so little detail that it is impossible to qualify what happened. They don't even mention a contractor; the article seems to imply that the USAF built its own demonstrator?

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1 hour ago, Josh said:

There is so little detail that it is impossible to qualify what happened. They don't even mention a contractor; the article seems to imply that the USAF built its own demonstrator?

I don't think it implys that all.

 

Quote

Roper declined to comment on how many prototype aircraft have been flown or which defense contractors manufactured them. He wouldn’t say when or where the first flight occurred. And he refused to divulge any aspect of the aircraft’s design — its mission, whether it was uncrewed or optionally crewed, whether it could fly at hypersonic speeds or if it has stealth characteristics.

they just arent saying anything.

which also begs the question, why say anything at all.

either a giant fabrication, or a pretty shocking development.

or a lot of deliberately misleading statements....

Quote

“We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Will Roper told Defense News in an exclusive interview ahead of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”

 

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3 hours ago, Josh said:

There is so little detail that it is impossible to qualify what happened. They don't even mention a contractor; the article seems to imply that the USAF built its own demonstrator?

Sounds like an X-plane to me, then. Interesting, but very far from a 'prototype'.

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Color me unimpressed. Industry can't even get a 1980's airframe-based tanker to work (KC-46) and the F-35 is still not problem-free after 15 or 20 years of development. I don't see this as being significantly different.

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Having thought more about this, I think the aircraft probably goes down one of two roads.

1). Its UAV using off the shelf technologies and new and larger airframe.

2). Its a manned fighter based on the F-35 engine/avionics but with a longer fuselage that better follows the area rule to increase acceleration, cruise, and top speed. They could keep the avionics and code outside the flight control software and have a new interceptor pretty easily that way.

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2 hours ago, Yama said:

Maybe it's a variable cycle engine powered demonstrator. They resurrected the concept years ago and IIRC have been testing it for some time by now.

Variable cycle is in ramjet/turbine?

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No, that was rumored to be pulse detonation, though it seems to have not panned out whatever it was. I think there is a lot of work going into rotating detonation engines though. I think a combined cycle engine is a turbojet embedded with a ramjet thrust chamber that at speed chokes off the turbine and switches to a pure ramjet. The idea is an aircraft can accelerate to supersonic speeds without a rocket booster to make the ramjet transition.

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1 hour ago, Josh said:

No, that was rumored to be pulse detonation, though it seems to have not panned out whatever it was. I think there is a lot of work going into rotating detonation engines though. I think a combined cycle engine is a turbojet embedded with a ramjet thrust chamber that at speed chokes off the turbine and switches to a pure ramjet. The idea is an aircraft can accelerate to supersonic speeds without a rocket booster to make the ramjet transition.

SR-71

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An absolute guess would be an F-18 in a posh frock, or an F-16 in the same.

More seriously, built and flying in a year means to me that it's not a clean sheet design. It's anybody's guess as to what it's derived from.

New engine technology seems unlikely for a rapid prototype.

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11 hours ago, DB said:

An absolute guess would be an F-18 in a posh frock, or an F-16 in the same.

More seriously, built and flying in a year means to me that it's not a clean sheet design. It's anybody's guess as to what it's derived from.

New engine technology seems unlikely for a rapid prototype.

Scaled up drone? Something that's been hanging around at the Skunk Works for a while?

The real challenge will be doing the electronics though.

 

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