Friday night topic: Fighter planes and such


— 5:11 PM on February 21, 2014

This is probably very junior high of me, but every once in a while, I just open up some browser tabs to Wikipedia and start reading about fighter jets and other cool sorts of military planes. They represent, in some ways, the pinnacle of modern technology, and I'm always curious to see what's going to happen with them next.

Fighter planes are in a bit of a weird spot right now, with cost overruns bringing an end to production of the F-22, arguably the most capable plane of its type ever developed. Check out the vectored thrust maneuvers:

Between that, the stealthniess, the advanced avionics, and the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds, the F-22 is pretty special. I guess maintaining the stealth coating was a big part of the expense and trouble of keeping them running.

The F-35 borrows a lot of technology from the F-22 program but seems to be somewhat more affordable, so it's set for a much larger production run. It's a single-engine plane, though, that's more of a compromise design intended to serve mulitiple roles and keep costs down. Seems less exciting. I dunno.

Meanwhile, there are intriguing things happening with the Eurofighter and the Chinese effort to develop a home-grown stealth fighter jet. I need to spend more time reading up on those. Do we have any candidates for a new "king of the hill" fighter jet, or is the end-of-life F-22 going to remain the reigning champ for a while?

It's not a fighter, but one of the most amazing planes ever is the SR-71 Blackbird. Speaking of being in weird places, I have to admit I'm less excited about the recently revealed SR-72 in progress at the Lockheed Skunk Works—even though it's a scramjet—simply because it's an unmanned vehicle. I mean, we already have ICBMs to do that job, right? What's the fun of something going Mach 6 if there's no possibility you could be strapped into the pilot's seat at the time?

Discuss.

   
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