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What’s going on with America’s next fighter designs?

WASHINGTON ― America is developing a pair of two new high-tech fighter aircraft, and you probably haven’t heard much about them. Under the leadership of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Pentagon has clamped down on talking about cutting-edge capabilities in development, citing concerns about giving potential foes too much information. Nevertheless, some details have emerged about the ongoing programs, one each from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. And inlight of European plans for new fighter designs, it is worth revisiting what is, and isn’t, known about the American efforts. In 2016, the U.S. Air Force unveiled its “Air Superiority 2030” study, which posited that although the service would need a new air superiority fighter jet — called Penetrating Counter Air — as soon as the 2030s, it would be just as important that the new plane fit into a "family of systems” of space,cyber, electronic warfareand other enabling technologies. “When you look at — through the lens of the netw…

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The Army’s Next Fighting Vehicle Will Be a Troop Carrier

The U.S. Army is concentrating its efforts on fielding a new infantry fighting vehicle. The new vehicle will replace the M2 Bradley, first fielded in 1981. The vehicle will incorporate new technologies that the Army has increasingly had to bolt onto the older vehicle, as well as be more lethal and survivable against modern threats.
The M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle was introduced in 1981 as a new type of vehicle, the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). Unlike the earlier armored personnel carrier, a lightly armored and lightly armed vehicle which merely dropped off infantry troops at the edge of the battlefield, the infantry fighting vehicle was meant to carry troops into combat. Keeping soldiers onboard preserved a unit’s mobility, making mechanized units more agile and better able to respond to the fast-moving battlefield.
U.S. troops dismount from the back of a M2 Bradley. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Shelton SmithPhoto by: U.S. Army Pfc. Shelton Smith
The Bradley aged well over the past four decades, fighting in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. But military technology has changed over the decades and it’s not easy to retrofit armored vehicles with new tech. Upgrades over the years have included improved armor, fire control and a new navigation system. Still, the Bradley is still limited to carrying seven dismounted soldiers (six until the Army rejiggered the interior to install a seventh, awkward-facing seat), has the same 25-millimeter chain gun, and carries two TOW anti-tank missiles.
A new infantry fighting vehicle would ideally carry more nine or more soldiers–a standard six man dismounted infantry squad plus an attached Javelin anti-tank missile team, machine gun team, anti-defense/anti-drone team, or air and artillery controllers. It would mount a heavier gun, probably a 40-millimeter gun firing compact case telescoped rounds, and mount smaller, lighter Javelin anti-tank missiles instead of the older TOW. It would be armored against 40-millimeter guns and buried improved explosive devices, and feature an active protection system designed to detect, track, and shoot down incoming rockets, anti-tank missiles, and even anti-tank shells.
This is the Army’s third try at developing a Bradley replacement. The first effort, Future Combat Systems, ran from 1999 until cancellation in 2008. The Army spent a staggering $18.1 billion without fielding a single vehicle. A follow-on program, the Ground Combat Vehicle, scaled back plans from an entire family of armored vehicles to just replacing the M2 Bradley. The concept vehicle, with its many jutting antennas looked like the car that Homer Simpson designed. That was cancelled in 2014.
The Army will have to face some difficult engineering choices. If it chooses to increase the number of dismounted soldiers the size of the vehicle quickly balloons to accommodate them, then protect them. It may end up keeping the dismount size at 6-7 and having other soldiers ride in a cheaper, less well armed, less well armored vehicle such as the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV). It may choose a more robust electrical system to accommodate future energy-hog weapons such as railguns and lasers. The Army also has to decide whether it wants to value protection or speed, or spend the big money and enjoy both. Whatever decisions the Army makes it will likely have to live with for another forty years.
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