Even as the US Air Force is hunting for advanced jets to replace the iconic fleet of F-16s, independent experts have floated a new design called ‘F-36 Kingsnake’ pitching it as America’s next fighter jet.
Last month, US Air Force Chief Gen. Charles Brown said that the service was having a second thought on the earlier plan of replacing the sturdy F-16 fighters with the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
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While the F-35 is a highly sought-after aircraft across the world, the fighter jet’s huge operating cost, coupled with the history of problems, may have forced the US to look at other alternatives.
“The Air Force will consider a ‘clean-sheet design’ for a new ‘four-and-a-half-gen or fifth-gen-minus’ fighter as a direct replacement for the F-16s currently in service,” said Brown, adding the service has already launched a study to look at possible alternatives.
While the study is expected to be finished by 2023, an aviation magazine Hush-Kit invited some experts to design the potential replacement for the F-16.
The magazine teamed up with aviation experts such as Stephen Mcparlin and James Smith, who helped develop aircraft such as the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II and Eurofighter Typhoon, and illustrator Andy Godfrey from the Teasel Studio.
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Originally developed by General Dynamics, the single-engine, supersonic, all-weather multirole F-16 fighter jet has remained the backbone of the US Air Force ever since its first flight in 1974.
However, the USAF is now struggling to maintain an aging fleet of fighters and there is a need for a more advanced aircraft to provide support to the F-35 and F-22 Raptors.
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According to Brown, the new fighter jet should be an affordable, lightweight one that doesn’t necessarily have advanced stealth features, and hence a ‘fifth-gen-minus’ design.
Keeping all parameters in mind, Hush-Kit and the team of experts designed a new fighter jet calling it ‘F-36 Kingsnake’.
The ‘F-36 Kingsnake’
Like the F-16, the F-36 Kingsnake would be a multi-role fighter jet capable of carrying out air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
According to reports, the new design has made provisions for missiles and guided bombs that could be carried in internal bays. The weapons that may be integrated include new generation long-range air-to-air missiles.
The F-36 fighter would also be equipped with a gun, making it capable of strafing attacks against enemy forces on the ground.
It is believed the concept aircraft would use the F-22 Raptor’s F119 afterburning turbofan engine to attain a top speed of Mach 2. The fighter would be equipped with AN/APG-83 advanced electronically scanned array radar, the same one used on the latest version of the F-16 fighter jet.
According to Hush-Kit, the F-36 fighter jets’ wings are based on the wings of the F-16XL, with the cranked arrow having an inboard section of increased sweepback.
The new fighter jet’s wing makes it efficient at high speeds, enabling it to be faster than the F-35 stealth fighter jet. Moreover, the design of the wing allows sufficient space for fuel and external hardpoints.
Bigger wings also provide instantaneous turn rate. The fighter is expected to have high energy maneuverability with low wave drag and a good thrust-to-weight ratio.