The days of the Air Force‘s first stealth air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor, may already be numbered. US Air Force General Mike Holmes told Aviation Week that the requirements for the next-generation “Penetrating Counter Air” (PCA) program are taking shape. Although the F-22 remains the most advanced and capable fully operational fighter in the world, new foreign developments have emerged which may threaten its dominance. Specifically, the Russian Su-57 stealth fighter resulting from the PAK FA program, and the already in service S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) air defense missile system were cited by the General as being two systems that could potentially threaten the F-22. Therefore, a new fighter program is needed to maintain air dominance, according to the general.
The fighter that results from PCA will be unlike any ever before. Unlike either the F-22 or F-35, it will be a long ranged platform, able to escort B-2 Spirit and B-21 Raider stealth bombers on their missions. To accomplish this, a new three-stream variable cycle jet engine will be developed, which will improve fuel efficiency as well as thrust by adding a second stream of bypass air, as well as by utilizing advanced materials. This engine will likely leverage the technologies applied via the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP). To maximize its stealth properties as well as reduce drag, the resulting PCA design will almost certainly lack any vertical control surfaces – a first for a fighter aircraft. The program is also reportedly accompanied by a new air-to-air missile program: the Air Dominance Air-to-Air Weapon (ADAAW), which will likely replace the current AIM-120D AMRAAM.
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H/T: Popular Mechanics