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Russian Innovation Accelerates U.S. Fighter Jet Production

Their anti-aircraft system means next-gen fighter jet designs need to choose firepower or stealth.

Equal parts intimidating and inspiring – competition has always played a key role in driving people and fueling innovation.

New aerospace developments have always pushed technological boundaries, and they often have roots in competitive struggles. The latest example could be the next generation of F-18, F-22 and F-35 combat jets.

Russia recently rolled out the latest version of their S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, which houses the ability to track up to 300 targets simultaneously and fire missiles from over 250 miles away. This includes detecting the current generation of U.S. fighters before their radar can even pick up the air-defense system.

And just to complicate matters, Russia is taking advantage of some capitalist tendencies in selling the S-400 to other countries, like China.

So while the Air Force sweats the details of Russia’s radar, manufacturers like Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and Boeing might see the allocation for funds for their next generation of jets made available much sooner than expected.

These models are projected to carry stealthier designs with limited infrared signatures, but with a trade-off – they can’t carry as many missiles and bombs.

Boeing has also proposed retrofitting their current F-18 with a radar-evading coating and moving the fuel tanks from their current placement under the wings in reducing their visibility. Regardless, with less firepower at this next generation’s disposal, the current generation of fighters would still be counted on to provide the knock-out punch.

Just in case you were wondering, these models would range in price from $61 million to $140 million each. The projected order would be for about 100 new jets.

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