Defence Space & Technology

Fifth-generation fighter Aircrafts

A fifth-generation jet fighter is a jet fighter classification used around the World which encompasses the most advanced jet fighter generation as of 2015. Fifth-generation aircraft are designed to incorporate numerous technological advances over the fourth-generation jet fighter. The exact characteristics of fifth-generation jet fighters are controversial and vague, with Lockheed Martin defining them as having all-aspect stealth even when armed, low probability of intercept radar (LPIR), high-performance airframes, advanced avionics features, and highly integrated computer systems capable of networking with other elements within the battlespace for situation awareness. The only currently combat-ready fifth-generation fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, which entered service with the United States Air Force in 2005.

Common design elements:

Giovanni de Briganti has defined the defining elements of a fifth-generation fighter to be:
1. Stealth
2. High maneuverability – Which tends to include short-field capabilities.
3. Advanced avionics
4. Networked data fusion from sensors and avionics
5. Multirole capabilities

In order to minimize their radar cross-section (RCS), all fifth-generation fighters use chines instead of standard leading edge extensions and lack canards. They all have twin canted vertical tails (similar to a V-tail) also to minimize side RCS. Most fifth-generation fighters with supermaneuverability achieve it through thrust vectoring.
They all have internal weapon bays in order to avoid high RCS weapon pylons, but they all have external hardpoints on their wings for use on non-stealthy missions.All fifth-generation fighters have a high percentage of composite materials, in order to reduce RCS and weight.

Software defined aircraft:
All revealed fifth-generation fighters use commercial off-the-shelf main processors to directly control all sensors to form a consolidated view of the battlespace with both onboard and networked sensors, while previous-generation jet fighters used federated systems where each sensor or pod would present its own readings for the pilot to combine in their own mind a view of the battlespace.

Advanced engines:
Fifth-generation jet fighters use the newest generation of high performance jet engines and only the American Pratt & Whitney F119 is fully developed. The engines for the F-35 are still under development, the Chinese are dependent on Russian engines, and even the Russians are falling short in the development of the latest jet engines.

Situational awareness:
The combination of stealthy airframes, stealthy sensors, and stealthy communications is designed to allow fifth-generation fighters to engage other aircraft before those targets are aware of their presence.[59] Lt. Col. Gene McFalls of the USAF has said that sensor fusion will feed into inventory databases to precisely identify aircraft at a distance.[60]

Sensor fusion and automatic target tracking are projected to give the fifth-generation jet fighter pilot a view of the battlespace superior to that of legacy AWACS aircraft that may be forced back from the front lines by increasing threats. Therefore tactical control could be shifted forwards to the pilots in the fighters.

The limits of stealth:
Even committed fifth-generation fighter users such as the Israelis concede that advances in sensors and computing will overcome a pure stealth configuration within a decade.Stealth is now seen as “part of the overall electronic warfare issue”, in that a stealthy platform is easier to hide with the assistance of jamming.



Previous-generation stealth aircraft, such as the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, were designed to be bombers, lacking the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, low probability of intercept (LPI) data networks, aerial performance, and air-to-air weapons necessary to engage other aircraft. In the early 1970s, various American design projects identified stealth, speed, and maneuverability as key characteristics of a next-generation air-to-air combat aircraft. This led to the Request for Information for the Advanced Tactical Fighter project in May 1981, which resulted in the F-22. The USMC is leveraging the USAF’s experience with “fifth-generation air warfare” in the F-22, as they develop their own tactics for the F-35.

According to Lockheed Martin, the only fifth-generation jet fighter currently in operational service is their own F-22 Raptor. US fighter manufacturer Lockheed Martin uses “fifth generation fighter” to describe the F-22 and F-35 fighters, with the definition including “advanced stealth”, “extreme performance”, “information fusion” and “advanced sustainment”. Their definition does not include supercruise capability, which has typically been associated with the more advanced modern fighters, but which the F-35 lacks. Lockheed Martin attempted to trademark the term “5th generation fighters” in association with jet aircraft and structural parts thereof, and has a trademark for a logo with the term.


In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union outlined the need for a next-generation aircraft to replace fourth-generation fighter aircraft: Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 in frontline service. Two projects were proposed to meet this need, the 4.5th generation fighter aircraft: Sukhoi Su-47 and the Mikoyan Project 1.44 (although later modernized MiG-35 to 4.5th generation fighter). In 2002, Sukhoi was chosen to lead the design for the new combat aircraft.

As the first post-Soviet fighter, Sukhoi PAK FA (T-50) will incorporate technology from both the Su-47 and the MiG 1.44 and when fully developed is intended to replace the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian inventory and serve as the basis of the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA project being developed with India. A fifth-generation jet fighter, it is designed to compete against the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. The Sukhoi PAK FA performed its first flight 29 January 2010.

Russia is now constructing a new stealth lightweight multirole fighter – Mikoyan LMFS (a.k.a. Project 1.27, MiG-1.27) by Mikoyan aircraft manufacturer. This jet fighter is based on the cancelled MiG 1.44


By the late 1990s, several Chinese fifth-generation fighter programs, grouped under the program codename J-XX or XXJ, were identified by western intelligence sources. PLAAF officials have confirmed the existence of such a program, which they estimate will enter service between 2017–2019. Nevertheless, Robert Gates has claimed that the United States may possess as much as 20 times more “advanced stealth fighters” than China by 2020.[20] By late 2010, two prototypes of the Chengdu J-20 had been constructed and were undergoing high-speed taxi trials. The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011.
Another stealth fighter design from SAC started to circulate on the internet in September 2011. In June 2012, photos about a possible prototype of F-60 being transferred on highway began to emerge on the internet. This aircraft was named Shenyang J-31 later, and made its maiden flight on Oct 31, 2012.


Japan is currently developing a prototype of a stealth jet fighter called the Mitsubishi ATD-X. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japan, seeking to replace its aging fleet of fighter aircraft, began making overtures to the United States on the topic of purchasing several Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighters for their own forces. However the U.S. Congress had banned the exporting of the aircraft in order to safeguard secrets of the aircraft’s technology such as its extensive use of stealth; this rejection necessitated Japan to develop its own modern fighter, to be equipped with stealth features and other advanced systems.

A mock-up of the ATD-X was constructed and used to study the radar cross section in France in 2009. ATD-X first prototype rolled out in July 2014 and its first flight will occur in first quarter of 2015. The Mitsubishi ATD-X Shinshin will enter service in JASDF in 2024 as Mitsubishi F-3.


India is independently developing a twin-engine fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter, called HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). It is being designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and will be produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Unofficial design work on the AMCA started in 2008 with official design work started in 2011. First flight of HAL AMCA is to occur in 2017 with planned service introduction in 2020. AMCA would be powered by K 9 or K 10 engine with Supercruise capability without afterburner. The main purpose of the AMCA is to replace the aging SEPECAT Jaguar and Dassault Mirage 2000.

Another project of India is the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which is a fifth-generation fighter developed together by India and Russia. FGFA is based on Sukhoi PAK FA which is being developed by Russia. FGFA will include a total of 43 improvements over the existing PAK FA design and will be able to carry many weapons of Indian origin, however the project is already four years delayed caused due to multiple issues.[28][29] The cost of the project will be shared equally by India and Russia. The Indian Air Force plans to induct 130 FGFA fighters, down from an earlier estimate of around 220.

As of 2015, AMCA is under development and FGFA is under negotiation.

Korea and Indonesia:
South Korea and Indonesia are developing an advanced multirole fighter called the KF-X/IF-X for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU). The project was first announced by South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung at the graduation ceremony of the Korea Air Force Academy in March 2001. South Korea and Indonesia agreed to cooperate in the production of KF-X/IF-X warplanes in Seoul on July 15, 2010. The overall focus of the program is producing a 4.5th generation fighter with higher capabilities than a KF-16 class fighter by 2020.


In 2011 Turkish Aerospace Industries initiated a $20 million concept design phase for a fifth-generation air-to-air fighter, TAI TFX. During a State visit of the President of Turkey to Sweden on the 13th of March 2013, Türk Havacılık ve Uzay Sanayii AŞ (Turkish Aerospace Industries, TAI) signed an agreement with Sweden’s Saab AB to provide design support services to Turkey for the TAI TFX program. In 2013 a decision should be made for the future of this project. Turkey is the only JSF member with a program of its own. Turkish Aerospace Industries has stated that the program will cost $120 billion (with engine development). Prime Minister Erdogan has stated that Turkey has allocated the funds for development of the fuselage (less engine) and that it intends to have the TAI TFX fully operational prior to 2025.

The Qaher F-313 is an Iranian single-seat stealth fighter aircraft that was publicly announced on 1 February 2013. A press presentation about the project was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on 2 February 2013, as part of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies. According to Iranian government sources, the F-313 Qaher was designed and is indigenously produced in Iran by the Aviation Industries Organization (AIO), a division of the Ministry of Defense, and IRIAF. Experts from the aviation industry have questioned the airworthiness of the aircraft; for example the aircraft cockpit is just too small for a pilot to effectively perform necessary tasks. Some believe Iran does not have the necessary capabilities to design and develop a 5th generation fighter all by itself.

Fifth-generation fighters in service or with flying prototypes:

General Data

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