ORLANDO, Florida – Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle says stealth will be "incredibly important" for the F-X aircraft that the U.S. Air Force is pursuing as an eventual F-22 replacement.

The Air Force is intending to follow a methodical path of risk reduction, Carlisle said. He suggested this harkened back to earlier days in developing aircraft decades ago. With the F-35 and F-22, new technologies were required during development, driving up cost and delaying introduction into service.

Carlisle said the Air Force intends to include as much prototyping, technology demonstration and systems engineering work as possible leading up to a program of record. He spoke with reporters at a Feb. 12 roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium here.

The service is returning to what Carlisle describes as its roots as it plots a path ahead to a sixth-generation strike capability. He and other Air Force leaders emphasize that the 6th-generation system is not just an aircraft. They describe a sweeping review of a system of systems to include a comprehensive look at communications, capabilities from space, standoff and stand in options under the umbrella of Air Superiority 2030.

The Air Force does "not want to jump straight to the idea of a sixth-generation fighter," said Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements.

As the Air Force pursues F-X, the Navy is examining its needs for an F/A-18E/F replacement in the F/A-XX. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has said that the F/A-XX needn’t be so focused on survivability as to sacrifice speed and payload.