So what does the future hold?
It can be hard to make any kind of definitive statement about sixth-generation fighters, in large part because, as stated above, the technology that is set to make the future of aerial combat go hasn’t yet gotten off the ground itself in many cases.
Some of this technology builds on extant state-of-the-art tech used in fifth-generation fighters. However, some of it is still in its early stages of research and development, and some is merely conceptual at this point.
It is also worth noting that sixth-generation fighter jets are in large part a response to the current military and political state of play. While military technology, as with all technology, is on a constant march forward, that march has been accelerated by international and regional tensions.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the fighter jets on this list are all being produced by nations caught up in international conflicts or quasi-cold wars. From three-way rivalry between the US, Russia, and China to the EU and UK’s military interests to Japan and India’s wary eye at China, Pakistan, and other threats, sixth-generation jets are part of a new arms race.
These are the top nine Sixth-Generation Fighter Jets currently in development, in no particular order.
1. HAL AMCA (India)
The AMCA is a fifth-generation fighter for the Indian Air Force that is planned to eventually have sixth-generation capabilities. Initial research has been completed and the fighter is scheduled to be displayed in 2024, with prototypes and the first test flight arranged for 2025, and manufacturing for 2030.
Because it is a fifth-generation fighter that is destined to be upgraded to a sixth-generation one, this fighter jet, while still in the developmental stages, is still further along with more concrete specifications to list.
The AMC is expected to measure 56 feet 5 inches long, be able to reach Mach 2.15, have an operational range of 1750 nautical miles, and be armed with several kinds of armaments, including laser-guided bombs, a 23mm GSh-23 cannon, S-8 rocket pods, Astra Mark 1/2/3 air-to-air missiles and BrahMos NG air-to-ground missiles.
This proposed stealth fighter for Japan’s Air Force is still in development, with the timeframe for its mass production released in July 2020. The project aims to have a prototype ready for 2024, test flights in 2028, and, if all goes well, regular manufacturing could begin by 2031.
The F-X will likely feature stealth technology, including plasma stealth antenna, which can be used to deflect radio waves, thus making it harder for radar to detect it. While it can deflect radar, however, the antenna will still allow for communication while it’s activated.
Bearing the nickname “Godzilla,” it does not have official specifications yet, but some believe that it will be bigger than the F-22, may be built with X-2 capabilities, and perhaps even be able to be armed with more missiles than the F-35. It will also feature XF9-1 engines.
3. MiG-41 (Russia)
Being manufactured by Russian aviation mainstay Mikoyan and also known as the PAK-DP, the MiG-41 is planned to be either an extremely advanced fifth-generation-or sixth generation fighter jet. It is expected to have stealth capabilities and be able to exceed Mach 4.
When completed, this will replace the long-serving MiG-31s that serve as part of the core of Russia’s Air Force but were last produced in 1994. The MiG-41 design was completed in 2019, tests were conducted in 2020, and, by January 2021, it entered its development phase.
The MiG-41 is planned to have a missile interceptor system that will be able to intercept not just conventional missiles but hypersonic ones as well. Assuming that everything continues to go according to plan, the MiG-41’s mass production is at present scheduled for 2025.