Are seventh-generation stealth fighters gonna have Laser Firing Capability in space?

The United States Air Force’s sixth-generation stealth fighter has taken to the skies, signaling the beginning of a new era of aerial dominance.

Sixth generation fighter

Most details of the sixth-generation demo plane remain elusive for safety reasons, but Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and other service leaders have clearly characterized it as a “family of systems.”

Miniature drones will work in groups or swarms, which pilots will manage in larger aircraft. Some of these unmanned systems are called Collaborative Combat Aircraft by the Air Force. They are essentially drones that will fly alongside stealthy, next-generation manned aircraft to assist in high-risk combat operations.

The Next Generation Air Dominance program aims to develop a new generation of fighter jets that are faster and more stealthy than the F-22. Yet, integrating these technologies into a sixth-generation plane will be a major feat.

Sixth generation technology

It is likely to include conformal sensors, combo antennas, a new level of AI-powered sensing and computing, manned-unmanned equipment, and smart skins with sensors embedded in the airframe.

They will probably also carry a new generation of stealth properties, such as coating materials, heat thermal signature management, and a new external configuration.

Industry renders of a sixth-generation aircraft, one of which could represent the chosen demonstrator, do indeed reveal a sleek, advanced, and stealthy new type of bodywork. The images show a fuselage with no vertical structures, giving it an ultra-stealthy, horizontal wing and body similar to the B-2.

Are seventh-generation stealth fighters going to have Laser Firing Capability in space? 

What could be to come?

With all these innovations in sixth-generation aircraft, it can be hard to imagine what a seventh-generation stealth fighter might look like. In fact, will there be such a thing? Are there technologies yet to be discovered capable of redefining aerial combat? 

If history is any guide, the answer is probably yes. The first thing that comes to mind is that a seventh-generation stealth fighter will be hypersonic. Imagine a stealth fighter flying at more than five times the speed of sound. 

Could it be manned?

At the moment, the manned hypersonic flight seems out of the question given the intense conditions like the heat that is generated at those speeds. 

However, cooling technologies or protective equipment may emerge that allow humans to withstand hypersonic speeds. If not, a seventh-generation attack stealth fighter could be totally unmanned.

After all, there are already very high levels of autonomy. Unmanned combat aircraft can not only maneuver without the need for human intervention but have also outperformed manned aircraft in some simulated combat.

 However, there is no doubt that there are many elements of human cognition, emotion, intuition, and other more subjective variables that mathematically derived computer algorithms cannot reproduce.

Are seventh-generation stealth fighters going to have Laser Firing Capability in space? 

What would it look like?

What would the seventh-generation stealth look like? Perhaps further miniaturization of sensors, computers, and weapons would make it possible to create a much smaller and, therefore, stealthier platform to achieve the same or greater level of lethality. It may not be too far-fetched to imagine a stealth fighter capable of operating beyond Earth’s atmosphere and conducting combat and surveillance operations in space.

If it flew at hypersonic speeds, it seems conceivable that a seventh-generation aircraft could travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere and return on a single fuel tank.

Could seventh-generation stealth fighters function as air and space strike platforms capable of destroying enemy fighters, and even satellites or missiles like ICBMs, that travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere?

Lasers and a fleet of drones

Of course, a seventh-generation stealth fighter would control small fleets of drones and be armed with a new arsenal of extremely accurate, ultra-long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. A seventh-generation stealth aircraft could be stealthy and fast enough to incinerate enemy ICBMs with jet-fired laser weapons.

This seems especially realistic, given that Air Force weapons developers are advancing rapidly in the development of jet lasers.