According to US media reports, the United States has flown a new jet which it calls as Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) demonstrator for the 6th generation program which is still supposedly in its conceptual stages. The United Kingdom on other hand has announced plans to develop a sixth-generation fighter called the Tempest. both of this programs are still in the initial stages of design and concept stages but both programs promise to move away from traditional weapons and gradual transition to the next generation weapons which means the development of next-generation weapons and then arming them on this jets is what will make them 6th generation jets rather than only to measured on Stealth and avionics even though it will be a key milestone for the programs.

NGAD and Tempest programs will move from concept to prototype stage by 2025-2030 time frame and move from prototype to production stage from 2035 onwards which fits with the 15-year time frame usually used as a standard for the completion of development, trials, and testing of the new jet in western countries. But what will make 6th generation fighter jets stand out from 5th generation fighter jets will not only be some radical airframe designs which have been showcased or improved jet engines and avionics and multi-sensor architecture but next-generation weapons like Hypersonic, swarming technology, and Direct energy-based weapons which are reaching inching towards the maturity stage after been in development for decades. 

Tactical Airborne Laser Weapon System for defense against incoming missiles or to be used as offensive weapons are already under development this for the first time in decades will shift the role of cannon and air to air missiles to secondary roles as Airborne Laser Weapon System will be used for both offense and defense in near future in close combat range dogfights against incoming air to air or surface to air missiles but we simply can’t discount that their might exists the possibility of Airborne DEW being used to shoot down an enemy jets too.

6th Generation projects for the first time also bring in Artificial intelligence (AI) in forway which will gradually be scalable with due to adaptable physical architecture along with machine learning capabilities which some believe will ultimately remove the need of pilot from the cockpit and put in an unmanned jet which was recently demonstrated in an epic dogfight between artificial intelligence and a real fighter pilot where the score stood 5.0 against the human pilot.

AMCA Program and 6th Generation fighter jets 

India likes to call its AMCA program as 5.5 Generation program and Indian developers have avoided any direct comparison with any known 5th generation fighter jet-like F-22, F-35, Su-57, or J-20 but Since AMCA will have all-up take of weight just under 25 tonnes, it is fair that it is not compared to existing 5th generation aircraft which are at least 5-15 tonnes heavier than AMCA. 

India plans to get its first stealth fighter jet into production by 2035 if it ever can maintain a strict deadline for the program, but it also means NGAD and Tempest programs might have also moved to the production stage by 2035 which puts the AMCA program at least 0.5 generation old compared to 6th generation but since India plans to upgrade and bring in some additional features of 6th generation fighters like DEW, EW and AI in 2035, it means the world could have also moved to upgrade its current 5th generation fighter jet-like F-22, F-35, Su-57, or J-20 to 6th generation features bring in at same level as what could be classified as 5.5th generation fighter jets in 2035-40 onwards. 

Conclusion: ” When the world is moving to 6th Generation fighter jets why are we developing a 5th generation fighter jets ” are regular comments and observation made by Indians at various forums but the question doesn’t take into account if we can develop a 6th generation fighter jet program from scratch or any country will be willing to provide India total ToT for the same jet to be manufactured locally?. do we need a 6th generation fighter jet in 2035-40 answer could be Yes, But does the lack of 6th generation fighter jet effects and tilts the balance of power in South Asia in 2035-40 against China and Pakistan ? not likely in that period for India but it is likely by 2050 due to which a clean slate 6th generation fighter jet program after AMCA can be attempted but for that India needs to master basics of 5th generation technology like rudimentary stealth and next-generation avionics and then gradually move to Hypersonic, swarming technology, and Direct energy-based weapons.

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