The survivability equation is not simply a question of picking stealth or advanced kinematics, jamming or stand-off weapons, massed or exquisite platforms, but instead a mix of different elements to create a balanced solution suitable for the threat picture and mission(s) required. To that end, this conference will seek to re-examine what the optimal survivability mix might look like in the late 2020s, 2030s and potentially beyond in the light of current trends in both combat air systems design and emerging disruptive threat technologies.
The UK has announced its intention to develop a next-generation combat aircraft through the Team Tempest initiative, and multiple other nations including France and Germany, Turkey, Japan and potentially the United States are also looking at what will replace and/or supplant the current stable of advanced fourth and fifth generation manned fast jets. However, the threat picture has evolved significantly even since the design and introduction of fifth generation fighters in the mid-2000s. As a result, the next generation of combat air systems might be optimally configured with a different combination of characteristics than those which are currently at the cutting edge.
When the United States Air Force declared initial operational capability with the F-22 Raptor in 2005, it introduced a combat aircraft which combined revolutionary situational awareness, all-aspect stealth and extreme aerodynamic and kinetic performance resulting in a survivability and lethality mix which is still unmatched over a decade later. However, it also threw down a gauntlet to America’s potential great power rivals, Russia and China, to either develop comparable combat aircraft, or find ways to neutralize this formidable US advantage. Both have been working hard on this problem from multiple approaches and with varying degrees of success. As the F-35 Lightning II enters service with multiple air arms in the United States, Europe and beyond, it is important to examine both the advantages this fifth-generation platform offers, and the challenges posed by the fruits of nearly twenty years of research into unmasking and countering stealth fighters by Russia and China.
Meeting the threats and mission requirements of the coming decades will require both new systems and potentially platforms, but also careful management of current fleets to ensure that they stay complementary and interoperable with the cutting edge as it emerges.
Gen (retd.) Frank Gorenc, former Commander US Air Forces Europe and Africa, F-15C command pilot
Air-Vice Marshal Simon Rochelle, Chief of Staff, Capability, Royal Air Force
Maj Gen Frédéric Parisot, Armée de l'Air
Maj Gen Borys Kremenetski, Ukrainian Armed Forces
Prof Daniel Baltrusaitis, Professor Strategic Studies, NDU, Washington DC
Meia Nouwens, Research Fellow, IISS
John Venable, Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
Paul Smith, Operational Requirements Manager – Air, BAE Systems
Justin Bronk, Airpower Research Fellow, RUSI
Group Captain Jason Crawford, Director Joint EW Ops Support Centre, JFC