PLA 6th generation fighter thread


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Haven't they already flown NGAD prototypes?
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No pictures means nothing trustworthy yet. I mean they are surely in some stage of testing, may have mockups ready and airframe shape testing etc. But until the opposite is proven, they're just at the same stage with that as China is with the H-20.

No confirmed footage.


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They haven't even selected a program winner yet. Keep in mind that X-35 flew in 2000, but the first F-35 prototype did not fly until 2006 and did not enter service with USAF until 2016!
And we never had a point in early or mid 2000s when USAF was publicly saying that the program might be in trouble. Even though, we heard many times of the frustration that USAF had with this program

Also YF-22 first flew in 1990, but first F-22 flew in 1997 and it entered service in 2005.

So for 5th gen, we had a pretty consistent 15 to 16 year gap from first YF/X plane flying until when it actually entered service. And again, that's when it did not have the same funding issues we've heard recently with NGAD.

so if a PLAAF 6th gen prototype from selected winner makes its maiden flight and there are real photos and videos of it, I think that would be a huge sputnik moment.

Much bigger than the HGV+fractional orbit testing or the recent EV moment.

The only thing that could match this is if EUV produced chips start pumping out in a couple of years. But even that can't really match the visuals of Chinese 6th gen beating American 6th gen.


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I mean, what's preventing near-space, hypersonic tech from permeating into fighter-bombers?

I'd say its cost, if operation cost of reusable hypersonic vehicle approach that of conventional airplane then yes we'll see hypersonic bomber/fighter dominating the meta


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Shilao podcast on 6th gen in the event of the recent USAF NGAD comments. you need subscribe to them to see this.

I get the sense from this even the PLA security establishment is surprised at the slow pace and cost overrun of this project.

I will make this prediction. Based on what I remember from what happened around 5th generation projects and what I've seen in limited time with 6th generation so far, I would think we have the first flight in 2026 and service entry around 2033. So for both, about 15 years after J-20. And I think if we see first flight in 2 years (before NGAD), it's going to be a sputnik moment. Even though in reality, it probably don't mean that much, but the symbolism would be too hard even for the DC blob to ignore.
From recent comments there are no problems with NGAD as a technical program. It's that the initial price quote is too much. Secret project forum had a discussion that CCA probably does not match hype so they need to increase manned fighter component and at the quoted cost it's unfeasible.


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I see two major problems here:
  • You're both instinctively treating "6 gen" as a single distinct platform separate from the development of collaborative unmanned systems.
  • You're thinking that the technology development in American and Chinese programs is a political decision.

"6 generation" is like the preceding "5 generation" a marketing and propaganda term. However it does describe a process of technological evolution under selection pressure from a very literal arms race (because in evolutionary sciences natural selection pressure is often described as an "arms race" between predator and prey) and as such it is measurable and quantifiable in objective terms. In other words no matter what the manufacturers, decision-makers and media claim we can use data analysis to determine what a generation is and what it isn't and that analysis will always yield consistent and true result.

As such "6 generation" is not a single platform but a family of systems in each case. If you go to the Wikipedia page for NGAD you find the following description:

Pay attention - reading comprehension is a must here:

F-22 - an aircraft with a very specific tactical role - is not replaced by another crewed aircraft. It is replaced by a "family of systems" of which a crewed aircraft is only a single element. This means that this very specific tactical role will not be fulfilled by a single aircraft or even a single system. More importantly however nothing in the above description indicates that this crewed aircraft is F-22's equivalent in any way. It only claims that the crewed aircraft is a "centerpiece" of the program, which naturally is logical as it refers to a "decision node".

The 5th and 6th generation tactical elements will not overlap in the same way that 5gen and 4gen or 4gen and 3gen did. If all the preceding generations were like a blueprint overlayed on top of each other then 6gen is the first where someone moves the top layer sideways and starts drawing something completely different.

This is not accidental. This is precisely what distinguishes the 6th generation from the 5the and preceding generations. The introduction of distributed intelligence networks makes traditional single crewed aircraft obsolete in physical and tactical terms.

6gen is when we're moving from individual fighters on the battlefield to tactical formations. It's inevitable. It's physics. Whoever doesn't get it will end up charging a machine gun with a bayonet.

In other words if China develops CCA (collaborative combat aircraft) to work with J-16 and USA develops a 6gen fighter to work with CCA then J-16s with CCAs will win agains American 6gen with CCA due to dynamics of simple attrition. Being able to field all F-35s with fewer CCA is more valuable than fielding a handful of 6gen fighters with many CCA. It's the distributed nature of future aerial warfare that transforms the battlespace so it may as well be that having potent EW will be more effective than having potent VLO, because VLO has bigger physical limitations than EW.

Look at drone warfare in Ukraine. Right now every single trench line requires localized EW systems to defend against small drones because proliferation of distributed systems (drone and operator unit is the simplest a distributed system) turned the mathematics of the battlefield entirely on its head. The big expensive systems are not the game-changer. The attritable, ubiquitous, cheap, mass systems are what counts.

VLO works in one direction only. With multiple eyes in the sky how do you stay in one position to benefit from VLO? Even the best VLO is limited by physics.

The crewed specialised fighter that will emerge from 6gen programs will be like a sniper in an army unit. It will be used for very specific roles with extreme specialisation. A key component which influences many tactical choices but hardly the foundation. The foundation will be the waves of attritable and replaceable CCA of all classes. It will be the breech-loaded rifle that allowed every infantryman to become more effective than a line of musketeers.

The reason why US may field a 6gen crewed fighter has more to do with the fact that F-22 is simply too obsolete (let alone - lacking an existing industrial base) to be upgraded to match 6gen requirements. Which would make it similar to B-2 and the real reason why B-21 is being built right now. So USAF will build an "updated F-22" much like B-21 is an "updated B-2" to fill those few tactical gaps that still call for a F-22 (look how F-16 replaced F-15 to understand why) and the rest will be handled by F-35, B-21 and auxiliary aircraft.

The notion that something is happening in NGAD because the crewed fighter may be delayed or - gasp- cancelled altogether - only indicates that people reading about the program have no understanding of what the program is and keep focusing on what they do understand. Arguably USAF has been less than transparent about it, but if you follow the development of tactics and the resulting procurement choices then everything is extremely obvious.

You're chasing a PR shadow on the wall if you're looking for a crewed fighter. Even if it emerges soon it will be more of a test and development platform. You can't design a genuine crewed 6gen without comprehension of 6gen characteristics. Note that F-22 was designed only after F-117 was extensively tested, including in actual combat. Desert Storm was in February 1991. First serial F-22A entered service in 2003.

If you think 6gen is about that new crewed aircraft you're as out of touch with reality as Biden was during the debate. Wake up guys or you'll miss the revolution happening before your eyes.


All you need to understand is that under Jimmy Carter the US was suffering from the largest budget crunch in post-WW2 history that almost broke NATO posture in Europe and yet it was specifically Carter's administration that approved and fostered the most innovative weapons' programs including F-117A, B-2, AEGIS cruisers etc etc. Carter cut B-1 as too obsolete and Reagan being a fraud and an idiot later revived it as a pork barrel program, along many other wasteful programs as well (which ironically then forced huge cuts in the early 1990s). Similarly the land-based cruise missiles and Pershing 2 were initiated under Carter and not Reagan, who took credit for it.

You may temporarily withdraw from positions on the board but you may never stop innovating because then you fall out of the game entirely. It's not about whether you are winning or losing a game but which game you're playing. As long as you're playing it's fine. Problems start when you stop playing.

What's the lesson from this? Unless USA collapses as a country the same way USSR collapsed the innovative programs will not be affected because they are the consequence of a general technological shift. If anything fewer F-35s can be bought in favour of more CCA. And the likelihood of USA collapsing in the same manner as USSR did is near zero at this moment. USA is historically and economically not where the Soviet Union was in 1991 at all but where France was before French Revolution (if Biden wins) or Germany in was in late 1932 (if Trump wins) and both of those were followed by inevitable re-direction of internal aggression outward which means a war and higher military spending.

And considering that 6gen is not 5gen, we will likely see more of 6gen, rather than less.

Consider that the generations tend to move in a see-saw pattern of "performance" and "affordability".
  • gen1 is performance - turbojets are expensive, turboprops are affordable.
  • gen2 is affordability - high-performing supersonics and rocketry are performance
  • gen 3 is performance - heavy multiroles and increasingly capable radar is expensive, gen2 is affordable
  • gen 4 is affordability - hi-lo mix is affordable, continuing as gen 3 is expensive
  • gen 5 is performance - no explanation necessary, gen4 upgrades are affordability
  • gen 6 must be affordability - especially in wartime (look around you).
And the same logic applies to China which incidentally fits everything I wrote about J-16 in that thread, in my previous post.

While everyone wants to fight the previous war the next one is already being fought.

Mark my words.
Is this necessarily true especially given that sixth gen fighters such as the NGAD are seemingly very expensive on a per unit cost.


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Various posts deleted.

Can people stop getting mad at western rhetoric about the PLA next gen/6th gen fighter that hasn't even been written yet?

Show some discipline and restraint please instead of using this forum for expressing frustration.