Friday, August 20, 2010

5th generation jet fighter’s technology

Aircrafts classified as fifth generation jet fighters currently represents the cutting edge of the fighter design. There are no strict and official rules for classification of fighters, but these aircraft are the most versatile and they have the most of the latest technological upgrades. They have high performances in terms of maneuverability (including thrust vector control), range, avionics, ability to attack objectives on the ground and in the air while keeping low visibility for radars (advanced stealth technology), and they are equipped with sophisticated “situational awareness” sensors and networking for improved “team” organization. 

Only 5th generation officially tested fighters in the world so far are the US’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II (3 different prototypes), and the Russian prototype Sukhoi PAK FA (T-50). The US intends to buy a 2,443 of F-35 Lightning II for an estimated US$323 billion, making it the most expensive defense program ever. The Russian Defense Ministry will purchase the first 10 of the T-50 after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. China, India, South Korea and Japan also have their actual 5th generation fighter programs, which should prepare their fighters for production within 8 – 15 years.

5th generation jet fighter’s technology brief overview

The 5th generation fighter combines high-performance airframes (structures / parts that combines aerodynamics, materials technology and manufacturing methods to achieve balances of performance, reliability and cost), internally carried advanced air-to-air, and air-to-ground weapons, advanced stealth technology, Low Probability of Intercept Radar (LPIR), and computer network communication systems for shared situation awareness.  Their advanced highly integrated avionics systems, with on and off-board sensor fusion, free pilots to focus on the task, rather than the different systems that generate the information.

Previous generation stealth aircraft, such as the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, lacked LPI Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, and LPI radio networks. Those lacks limited them to ground targets, because by engaging other aircraft, they would have revealed themselves.

In the 4.5th generation fighters (US F-18 Super Hornet, Russian Sukhoi, Eurofighter Typhoon…), the Infra-red search and track sensors were incorporated for both air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. These sensors are in 5th generation fused in with other sensors for Situational Awareness IRST or SAIRST, which constantly tracks all targets of interest around the aircraft so the pilot need not guess when he glances. These sensors, along with advanced avionics, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted sights (not currently on F-22), and improved secure, jamming-resistant LPI datalinks are highly integrated to provide multi-platform, multi-sensor data fusion for vastly improved situational awareness while easing the pilot's workload. Avionics suites rely on extensive use of very high-speed integrated circuit (VHSIC) technology, common modules, and high-speed data buses. Overall, the integration of all these elements is claimed to provide fifth-generation fighters with a "first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability".

5th generation fighters

F-22 Raptor (USA, 2005)
This is the world’s first and so far only produced fighter classified as 5th generation aircraft – it is introduced in December 15th 2005, but it’s first prototype, YF-22, had his first flight in September 29th 1990. 9 years earlier (1981), USAF identifies need to replace F-15. Manufacturers are Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and it’s partner Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. They produced 168 units so far (1 unit costs ~ US$150 million).

This fighter is a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft designed to be dominant in the air-to-air combat, but its complex structure and size makes it too expensive right now. On the other side, the smaller F-35 is less dominant and cheaper fighter, so it will be produced for selling.  

General performances

According to Lockheed Martin, the F-22 is the 2.0 Mach machine (Mach 1 = speed of sound) – they said that with afterburners, speed is "greater than Mach 2.0" (2,120 km/h, 1,317 mph).
According to AirForces Monthly magazine, the highest achieved speed by this aircraft is Mach 2.25 (2,410 km/h, 1,500 mph).
Range of F-22 Raptor is 2,960km, service ceiling (max altitude) is 19,802m, combat radius (max distance from the airbase) is 759km and g limit is -3.0/+9.0g.

This fighter is capable of maintaining a constant angle of attack of over 60°, yet still having some control of roll. During June 2006 exercises in Alaska, F-22 pilots demonstrated that cruise altitude has a significant effect on combat performance, and routinely attributed their altitude advantage as a major factor in achieving an unblemished kill ratio against other US fighters and 4th/4.5th generation fighters.

F-35 Lightning II (USA, 2014)

This is the single-seat, single-engine fighter descended from the X-35, the product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. First flight of prototype was in December 15th 2006, and its introduction is planed for 2014.

As mentioned, The United States intends to buy a total of 2,443 aircraft for an estimated US$323 billion, making it the most expensive defense program ever. Its development is being principally funded by the United States, with the United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Turkey providing additional funding. It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems as major partners.  The F-35 is likely to cost between US$65–120 million – it will be less dominant then F-22 in air-to-air combat, but much more economical (commercial).

To keep operating costs down, designers are developing 3 types of this aircraft: F-35A - conventional take off and landing (CTOL) variant, F-35B - short-take off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant and F-35C - carrier-based CATOBAR (CV) variant. The F-35 is intended to be the world's premier strike with close and long range air-to-air capability second only to that of the F-22 Raptor.

General performances

According to Aviation Week site, max speed of F-35 Lightning II is Mach 1.67 (2,065 km/h, 1,283 mph).
Range is 2,220km, service ceiling is 18,288m and combat radius is 1,090km and g limit is 9g.

Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 (Russia, 2015)
The twin-engined Sukhoi PAK FA (Russian: Перспективный авиационный комплекс фронтовой авиации, literally "Future Frontline Aircraft System") is the first non-American 5th generation fighter. It is developed by Sukhoi OKB for the Russian Air Force. Its first flight was in January 29th 2010, and introduction is planed for 2015. Estimated cost of 1 fighter is US$100 million.
As mentioned, the Russian Defense Ministry will purchase the first 10 of the T-50 after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. Also, Sukhoi director Mikhail Pogosyan has projected a market for 1,000 aircraft over the next four decades, which will be produced in a joint venture with India, 200 each for Russia and India and 600 for other countries.

General performances

Data available to public is unreliable, but according to, the T-50’s top speed is Mach 2.45 (2,600 km/h, 1,615 mph).
Ferry range is 5,500km, service ceiling 20,000m and g limit is +11g.

It seems that the PAK FA is going to surpass the US’s F-22 Raptor, and it going to be cheaper at the same time due to its more simple structure.
The PAK FA also has a bigger weapons bay and greater fuel capacity. Innovative wing leading edge radar of lower frequency (perhaps L band) would be able to locate stealth aircraft like the F-22, a capability that the F-22 does not have.

However, premier of Russia Vladimir Putin and Russian media has spotted that the stealth technology along with electronic equipment are not fully developed yet for this aircraft, so it need to be reequipped to regain its title as 5th generation fighter. 

J-XX, J-14 (China, 2018)
This is the Chinese 5th generation fighter (4th generation by Chinese nomenclature) under development in Shenyang Aircraft Industry. Its introduction is planed for 2018.

No details of the aircraft were given yet to the public, but it is almost certainly designed for supersonic cruise without afterburning. China is probably working on two 5th generation concepts – one would be a heavy twin-engine fighter probably of about the same size as the F-22, and the other is a single-engine aircraft probably closer to the F-35. 

Sukhoi/HAL (India – Russia, 2018)

In 2018, the Sukhoi/HAL will be introduced. It is developing for Indian Air Force in cooperation of Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

AMCA (India, 2025)

The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) will be the Indian twin-engine fighter. It is developing by Aeronautical Development Agency and its introduction is planed by 2025.

KF-X (South Korea - Indonesia, ~ 2020)

The Korea Aerospace Industries KF-X is South Korea's project to develop an indigenous fighter aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force. Indonesian Air Force is financing 20% of the developing costs. There are currently two competing designs for the KFX, the KFX-201 which has a tri-plane layout with canards and a more conventional, F-35 style KFX-101 design.

Mitsubishi ATD-X Shinshin (Japan)

The “Advanced Technology Demonstrator – X” (ATD-X) is a prototype being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for Japanese Ministry of Defence. It is not officially planed for production, but its first flight is expected in 2014.
The ATD-X will be used as a technology demonstrator and research prototype to determine whether domestic advanced technologies for a 5th generation fighter aircraft are viable, and is a 1/3 size model of a possible full-production aircraft. It is mostly inspired by F-22 Raptor.

Historical overview of previous jet fighter’s generations

1st GENERATION: 1945-1955
These are typically subsonic jet aircraft with similar abilities to their airscrew forerunners. They had the same WWII vintage weaponry such as dumb bombs and belt-fed machine guns.
Aircraft seen in dogfights over the skies of the Korean War typify this generation. Aircraft such as the MiG-15, MiG-17, F-86 Sabre, as well as the de Havilland Vampire, Supermarine Attacker, Saab Lansen and Dasault Ouragan.

2nd GENERATION: 1955-1960
F-104 Starfighter
2nd generation fighter aircrafts had performance goals in such categories as supersonic speed, ceiling and rate of climb. In addition the technology driving the second generation centered around aerodynamics, propulsion and building materials. New technology advances also enabled this generation to incorporate radar and missiles into their list of assets.
Aircraft typical of this generation are the F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, Dassault Mirage III, Saab Draken, MiG-19 & the MiG-21.

3rd GENERATION: 1960-1970
F-4 Phantom
This generation had improved maneuverability and multi-role capabilities (carrying out both air to air and ground attack).
Continued improvements in propulsion such are more reliable jet engines with increased thrust and the beginnings of large advances in avionics and weapons systems.
Fighter aircraft that flew in the Vietnam War are included in this group - the 3rd generation includes the F-4 Phantom, Northrop F-5, MiG-23, MiG-25, Sukhoi Su-15, Dassault Mirage F1 and the Dassault Super Etendard.

4th GENERATION: 1970-1990

These aircrafts includes notably more sophisticated avionics and weaponry brought on by advances in computers and system integration. Increased agility and flexibility in mission roles is also a typical attribute of the 4th generation. Examples of the 4th generation are the F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, AV8 Harrier, MiG-29, MiG-31, Sukhoi Su-27, Panavia Tornado, Dassault Mirage 2000 and the Saab Viggen.

4.5th GENERATION: 1990-2000
F-18 Super Hornet

Performance and technology goals for 4.5th generation are reduced radar cross section through advanced airframe shaping and radar absorbent materials being used in the construction. Highly advanced avionics are also a prerequisite for this category. The 4.5 generation includes F-18 Super Hornet, Sukhoi Su-33, Sukhoi Su-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Grippen and the Dassault Raphale.

Some interesting links


  1. Excellent site, thanks.

  2. Cool, I like the way how they designed these 5th generation aircrafts. Especially the KFX-201!

  3. Good site! Thnx for the infos 'bout the Aircrafts!

  4. very good &interesting site. I think the content in one page should be less. The background should be apparent for making it comfortable for eye.

    visit my site & give some advice to make it better .

  5. Sukhoi Su-33 gen. 4.5??? 0_0

  6. 1. Fith Geration Fighters Will Ready soon!

  7. Nice overall view
    but I think the chinese J-20 is missing. It is said that China is developping 2 fighters in the J-14 article, but thre are already pics of the J-20 in internet :)
    Have three other questions - is the Me 262 a 1st Gen. Fighter?
    And is the J-10 a 4,5th Gen. Fighter?
    How about the F-117 and the MiG-1.44?

  8. 1. The The Latest Fighter Jets Are China.U.S.S.R. U.S.A. Too! They Have Crusing Speed of M.2.1 + too!

  9. 1. The The Latest Fighter Jets Are China.U.S.S.R. U.S.A. Too! They Have Crusing Speed of M.2.1 + too!

  10. I like technology for fighter jet. Nice info and photo.
    nice blog.

  11. f-22 are so cool