The NGAD sixth-generation stealth fighter is essential to the US military as it could be critical in today’s threat environment and complement the F-35.
Modernization of the F-35 and its relevance
The F-35 could maintain its dominance well into the 2070s thanks to software upgrades in areas like computing, AI, mission systems, weapons, and command and control. However, the need for a sixth-generation fighter is imminent.
Substitute for the F-22 and “manned-unmanned” teamwork
A sixth-generation fighter would be the successor to the F-22 in terms of air supremacy and speed. Advances in this generation will focus on teamwork between manned and unmanned platforms and command and control.
AI-based data link, command and control, and data analysis technology will enable a “family of systems” in which a single manned platform will simultaneously operate multiple drones.
Characteristics of the sixth generation fighter NGAD
A sixth-generation fighter like the NGAD will need long-range sensors, high fidelity, and targeting data analysis. It will also require the ability to network with other systems, such as ground command centers, drones, ground vehicles, Navy ships, and satellites.
Speed, maneuverability, and long-range sensors will be crucial, but networking, AI-based high-speed computing, and weapon guidance will set the sixth-generation fighter apart from its competitors.
The urgency of the NGAD in the face of current threats
The urgent need for the NGAD stems from the appearance of fighters such as the Chinese J-20 and J-31 and the Russian Su-57. Although there is no evidence that these are superior to the American F-22 and F-35, their existence drives the need to stay ahead of rival powers.
China and Russia have a numerical deficit when it comes to fifth-generation aircraft, but their specific performance characteristics may be unknown, motivating the adoption of innovative or “disruptive” technologies.
The NGAD sixth-generation stealth fighter is crucial to maintaining America’s strategic advantage in today’s threat environment, being a perfect complement to the F-35 and a replacement for the F-22.
Key features of this new generation include networking with various systems, artificial intelligence, and teaming between manned and unmanned platforms.
The urgency in the development of the NGAD is due to the emergence of fighters from rival powers such as China and Russia, which drives the need to adopt innovative and disruptive technologies to maintain air superiority.