The Skunk Works Path to 6th Gen

Palmdale, Calif.—Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works shop is taking a three-pronged approach to figuring out what Air Dominance in 2030 looks like, according to Skunk Works Vice President and General Manager Rob Weiss. In an exclusive interview, Weiss told Air Force Magazine that his outfit is doing operational analyses and “wargaming … to understand what advantages we have today” versus potential adversaries and what’s needed five to 30 years from now. First, Skunk Works has to figure out how to “connect all the systems we have operational today,” among air, surface and subsurface platforms, to derive the best possible power. Second is to determine “the appropriate modernization paths” for today’s systems, and “how do we implement that modernization in the most affordable way?” Weiss said Lockheed is not only looking at how to improve its own F-22 and F-35 systems, but those of competitors as well, as it may compete for those upgrades. However, the more compelling reason is because finding where the “capability gaps” will be two decades hence won’t make any sense “unless you look across all the systems out there.” Skunk Works’ third goal is to deduce how much of a “new capability insertion” is really required, Weiss said. “What specifically is the gap, and what is the range of solutions that can be provided to fill that gap?” He thinks “there could be a new platform in the equation,” but the analysis isn’t finished yet.