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Future War

BAE Channels Michael Bay in Pentagon Aircraft Proposals


If you liked Transformers, you’ll love these new fighter jet concepts from defense contractor BAE Systems (BA:LN).

Among the designs is an aircraft capable of splitting into three separate flying machines to increase range or complete multiple missions, such as surveillance and re-supply, simultaneously.
 

 
A further idea is for a “self-healing” aircraft skin made of an adhesive liquid within nanotubes. The idea is that an aircraft that takes enemy fire would repair itself—and keep flying.
 

 
A third concept offers a look at the potential of “directed energy” weapons, somewhat akin to a powerful laser, to replace the current generation of missiles. A blast of energy may provide a better missile-defense paradigm than firing a missile to intercept an enemy missile, the current defense employed for most U.S. Navy ships. A variation of that technology is incorporated into a new electric-powered rail gun (video) that discharges smaller rounds at seven times the speed of sound—a far higher speed than conventional cannons offer. That increases the missiles’ efficiency at lower cost. In the future, however, energy itself could become the weapon.

BAE—a British company whose U.S. headquarters is in Arlington, Va., right near the Pentagon—says the technologies could become operational in 2040, or even sooner. Given that Lockheed Martin (LMT) and the Pentagon have been unable to sort out the myriad woes besetting a far more conventional fighter, the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, a plane that can heal itself or split into multiple flying portions may be a bit of a financial and technical stretch, at least in this century.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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