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The Sixth-Generation Quandary

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Conference Paper

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U.S. Air Force Academy USAFA United States

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During the Cold War and its aftermath, technical superiority was a core competency of the U.S. military, which relied on platforms that were high-performance, multi-role, expensive, and with long development times. This approach generally worked because adversaries couldnt easily counter those capabilities. However, the unipolar moment featuring the U.S. as the sole superpower may well be ending, and a number of capable rivals have emerged. In this changed world, a well-considered, timely response is therefore strongly indicated. But U.S. acquisition programs are taking ever longer to field combat capability. At the same time, adversaries are becoming more sophisticated and agile. Accordingly our paper addresses the following questions concerning 6th-gen air combat. First, what are the lessons learned from 5th-generation fighter programs, especially the F-35 Second, how many new 6th-generation fighter aircraft should the U.S. develop and fieldTwo, one, or none Third, what are the likely building blocks of the kinetic component of the next generation of air combat forces Fourth, what might all this mean for acquisition professionals


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