F-36 Kingsnake: A Hypothetical 4.75 Gen Fighter Jet

The F-36 Kingsnake is a proposed new fighter to answer the problem of the United States Air Force’s ageing population of F-16s. If it is developed to production, the finished product will be a semi-stealth aircraft that may still utilize elements of low-observability technology, and will use existing technology, such as the F119-PW-100 engine from the F-22 Raptor, 3D printing, and existing avionics, to reduce cost and development time.

As such, it will be somewhere between a Gen 4.5 and Gen 5 aircraft – Gen 4.75, perhaps. Should the proposal go to development, the aim is to have the aircraft in operation as early as possible, possibly even before 2030.

Of course, it is just an idea at the moment, none of the military aviation companies have put forward any design proposals, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from coming up with ideas about what the new aircraft could look like.

For the name shake, Aviation enthusiasts called the Fighter “Kingsnakes”, Kingsnakes are medium-size nonvenomous snakes native to North America. They are called kingsnakes because they sometimes eat other snakes, as does the king cobra.

The Air Force has started a study that will describe its preferred mix of fighters and other tactical aircraft that will be used to help build the fiscal year 2023 budget. That result could include a brand new “four-and-a half or fifth-gen minus” fighter with capabilities that fall somewhere in between the 1970s era F-16 and stealthy fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 joint strike fighter, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown.

“If we have the capability to do something even more capable for cheaper and faster, why not? Let’s not just buy off the shelf, let’s actually take a look at something else out there that we can build,” Brown told reporters during a Defense Writers Group roundtable.

Brown’s comments are the first time an Air Force official has spoken about introducing another fourth-generation aircraft into the service’s fighter inventory. In January, former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper disclosed that the service’s ongoing study will also weigh whether to buy new-build F-16s from Lockheed Martin.

After the comments of General Brown, Aviation magazine Hush Kit got together with enthusiasts and artists and came up with this design, which looks very pretty, and remarkably like the F-16XL which, after the Northrop YF-23, is probably the world’s most capable multi-role fighter that never got past the prototype stage.

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An artist impression of F-36 Kingsnake. photo courtesy Hushkit.net.

The guiding principles behind the F-36 are speed of development, affordability, and the ability to incorporate new tech at a later date. “The F-35 is a Ferrari, the F-22 a Bugatti Chiron—the United States Air Force needs a Nissan 300ZX,” Hush-Kit’s Joe Coles tells Pop Mech.

The requirement for a sub-5th generation fighter isn’t set in stone yet, but the Air Force will make up its mind by 2023.

Given that the Air Force recently admitted to designing and building its secret sixth-generation fighter jet in just one year, it could build a plane like the F-36 fairly quickly.

Hush-Kit used Gen. Brown’s specifications—a lightweight, inexpensive fighter jet that doesn’t emphasize stealth (making it a “fifth-gen-minus” design)—to design the F-36.

An artist impression of F-36 Kingsnake. photo courtesy Hushkit.net.

The average age of the Air Force’s 783 F-16C fighter jets is 28.7 years, making a 20-year development period for a new jet out of the question. Instead, experts wanted a fast design process that froze the plane’s specs within one year and relied on simple construction techniques, but also utilized advanced technologies such as 3D printing if it could get the fighter off assembly lines faster.

Re-using existing technologies would speed up the process. For example, the F-36 uses the F-22 Raptor’s F119 afterburning turbofan engine to achieve a top speed of Mach 2. The Kingsnake is equipped with an AN/APG-83 advanced electronically scanned array radar— the same one used in the latest version of the F-16—and an infrared sensor system derived from the Legion electro-optical targeting pod.

A “Luddite Czar” would prevent new technologies from creeping into the jet, drawing out the jet’s development time and increasing the likelihood Kingsnake would fall behind.

Like the F-16 it would replace, the Kingsnake would be a multi-role fighter jet capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The jet would carry missiles and guided bombs in internal bays, but as a non-stealthy plane, it would pack both on wing-mounted external hard points. The Kingsnake would also a gun, making it capable of strafing attacks against enemy ground forces.

A similar concept of F-36 Sterik Stealth-Fighter jet is also under development. It’s just a Fictional Aircraft featured in one of video of Raytheon based on Cyber Threats in Aviation. Seemed to be A Hybrid of F-22 and F-35.

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