WASHINGTON — In a departure from the dual-service F-35 effort, the Pentagon's sixth-generation fighter jet likely won't be common between the US Air Force and the US Navy, a top Air Force general said Friday.
"We will have some different requirements for what we need based on the different things we are expected to provide for the joint force," Holmes told reporters. "We will use common technologies and maybe some common things, but at this point we think it will be a different enough mission that it won't be the same airplane."
This is a departure from recent history, as the fifth-generation F-35 joint strike fighter will be used by the Air Force, Navy, and US Marine Corps. The F-35 was designed as a joint-service fighter, with three different variants built for the various services.
Last year, the Navy and Air Force said they were set to begin a joint analysis of alternatives to explore solutions to ensure air superiority into the 2030s and beyond. While the Navy went ahead with its AOA, the Air Force decided to delay its own effort, Holmes said. Still, the two services are collaborating closely on the project, he stressed.
"We took a year out on purpose to try to bring in a broader picture," Holmes said.
Instead of moving forward with the AOA, the Air Force stood up a Capability Collaboration Team (CCT) to study the possibilities for a sixth-generation fighter. The Air Force worked with industry, the other services, academia, scientists and government research centers to narrow the options down to two, Holmes said. The team will brief Air Force leadership on its findings in the spring, he said.
"With a multi-domain Air Force, we're going to approach problems with multi-domain solutions," Holmes said. "We wanted to open the aperture and take a look at what space, cyber and air capabilities can come to bear to try to regain that capability advantage we had in air-to-air against our potential threats."
The Air Force will decide this year exactly how to spend that cash, Holmes said.
"And so in the short term," Holmes said, there "is some experimentation and some technology demonstration that's being done to try to reduce the risk on the kinds of capabilities that we think should end up in that family of systems."