Lockheed Martin’s Vice President Greg Ulmer has revealed the company's plans for the future of its key F-35 programme during a briefing, which suggests evolving it to a degree, when the line between the now fifth generation jet and the next generation blurs.
"It's definitely something Lockheed is looking at. I'm not sure you're going to see this big leap — like you saw from fourth gen to fifth gen — with fifth gen to sixth gen. I think it could very well be an evolution", he said.
Ulmer elaborated that the F-35 jet won't stay "static" and will be constantly upgraded until eventually it can be considered a six generation fighter with advanced network capabilities that will allow a pilot to control external weapons and tools, such as drones or sensors. The company's vice president considers the US military's dream of teaming up jets with unmanned drones achievable with the F-35.
Lockheed's vice president also shared that the Block 4 modification phase of the F-35 will get improved processors and memory, a panoramic cockpit display and an ability to install additional fuel tanks to extend operational range. It's unclear though, when F-35 will get sixth-gen capabilities and if Lockheed Martin will achieve this status for its key jet before European countries roll out their planned sixth generation fighter.
The main craft of the European Future Air Combat System (FACS), which essentially will be a whole suite of weapons, was showcased this week's during the Paris Air Show. The first flyable model is expected to be rolled out by 2026, while deployment is being eyed for around 2040. The FACS will be replacing Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafale.