What is the purpose of the F35

USAF boss wants new fighter jet as F-16 successor

The F-16 Fighting Falcon - its pilots call it "Viper" - is a living legend. It has been in series production since 1976, initially by General Dynamics and has now been under the direction of Lockheed Martin for almost 30 years. Constantly new variants and improvements ensured that the "Viper" was always at the forefront when it came to the performance of modern combat aircraft. But even the best jet gets old - and it's not just the US Air Force that has to think about how to replace its aging F-16 in the not too distant future.

Four-star General Charles Quinton Brown Jr. has been Chief of Staff of the US Air Force since August 2020. He wants a new fighter.

A "Volkswagen" for the US Air Force

For the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Charles Q. Brown, one thing is certain: the F-35A, which was once launched as the designated successor, is not suitable for this. At least not alone. Because the sinfully expensive Stealth Fighter is something like the Ferrari among fighter jets for Brown - and after all, you don't drive a Ferrari to work every day, but only on Sundays, Brown told reporters last week. The F-35 is the "high-end fighter", but it also needs an aircraft for "low-end" tasks for which the F-35 does not want to burn. In other words: Brown would like a Volkswagen to complement the Ferrari.

The "Ferrari" among the US fighter jets: The F-35 Lightning II is out of the question for Air Force Chief Brown as an F-16 successor.

Redesign instead of F-16 upgrade

One such Volkswagen could be the F-16V (Block 70/72) - the youngest and most modern member of the venerable Falcon family, which has been built in Greenville for some time. So far, however, only for export: Bahrain, Bulgaria, Morocco and Slovakia have ordered the F-16V from Lockheed Martin, other nations such as Greece have their older F-16s partially upgraded to the new standard. USAF boss Brown, meanwhile, favors a different solution: He has a completely new fighter in mind, a "clean sheet design", and thus not a derivative of an existing pattern.

Lockheed Martin
The F-16V is the most modern variant of the Fighting Falcon family. Bahrain, Slovakia and Taiwan have adopted this pattern.

Decision in 2023?

According to Brown's wish, the new design should combine the capabilities of fifth-generation fighter jets with the (cost) advantages of a fourth-generation aircraft. The result would be a jet of the "generation four and a half or generation five minus", explained the air force chief. "I want to be able to build something new and different that isn't the F 16," Brown pointed out. What exactly that could be, what capability a new fighter must have, what it can cost and what number of units it needs - this is what the US Air Force and its boss now want to discuss in a large study of the Air Force's future fleet mix. "In the 2023 budget, I see that we're really going to make some important decisions," Brown predicted.