F-35 Lightning II STOVL

The military's F-35 Lightning II has not had an easy road these past several years. The most recent problem for the fifth-generation fighter came in late June, when an engine fire broke out on an F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base. Despite this, Air Force brass continues to stand by the embattled Joint Strike Fighter.

"Pratt and Whitney has been making pretty darn good engines for single-engine airplanes for a long time for the United States Air Force," Gen. Mark Welsh told Defense News. "What we found in the program so far, with these almost 9,000 sorties so far, is this engine works pretty well, too. [The day of the fire] it didn't, and we need to figure out why."

Meanwhile, there are some within the USAF that are already looking beyond the troubled F-35, with Gen. Michael Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, elaborating on what exciting advances the sixth-generation fighters could bring to the table.

"It isn't necessarily another single-seat fighter," Hostage said during an Air Force Association breakfast in Arlington, VA, according to Stripes. "Be thinking in terms of what is the capability that future technology will bring to us that will allow us to provide air dominance."

That could, if Hostage proves correct, include lasers or other "directed energy" weapons. Yep, we could have fighter jets with lasers in the next few decades.

"There is some amazing developments in that arena," Hostage said. "I think it holds great promise."

As for when this amazing new fighter could arrive, the current timetable is set for the 2030s, meaning it will likely serve alongside the F-35 for at least several years. Here's hoping the JSF's bugs are sorted out by then.