Very often, when it comes to comparing devices like the F35, the Su-57 and the J-20 to European devices like the Rafale, the Typhoon or the JAS39 Gripen, a sledgehammer argument is used to close the debate, That of 5th generation. Indeed, according to a widely used classification, the first would be 5th generation devices, while the second would only be 4th generation devices, sometimes classified 4G + in a rather condescending way to reflect their performance levels. So who are these generations so important that they would allow fighter planes to be leveled off bluntly? And is this classification relevant and revealing operational realities? We will see in this article that the facts are far from being so clear ...
What is a generation of combat aircraft?
The term “generation of combat aircraft” is an empirical term intended to create groups in order to study the major developments that have marked the history of combat aviation. It would be possible to define a new generation as follows:
« A set of major new technologies applied to the design of combat aircraft, offering marked and permanent advantages to the aircraft by being equipped compared to aircraft of the previous generation. «
Traditionally, in the West, we identify 5 generations of combat aircraft:
1st generation : Devices propelled by propeller and internal combustion engines, armed with machine guns, cannons and unguided air-to-ground weapons. This generation covers combat aircraft designed between 1915 and 1945. The last 1st category aircraft to have been used in operation was the Douglas A-1 Skyraider during the Vietnam War
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