The US Air Force has officially announced the start of the competition for the design of its new stealth fighter within the framework of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. The winning designer of the next-generation airframe is expected to be announced next year.
The Department of the Air Force has published a classified call for an engineering and manufacturing development contract with the goal of awarding a contract in 2024. The NGAD is intended to be the future replacement for the F-22, the first fifth-generation fighter in the world.
The future of the F-22
The F-22 Raptor, designed by Lockheed Martin, has been a flagship aircraft of the US Air Force for more than four decades. However, with the arrival of the NGAD, the F-22 could be retired and replaced.
Although the House and Senate Armed Services committees urged the modernization of the Raptor fighters, the Air Force plans to allocate the necessary funds to maintain the remaining 32 F-22 Block 20s in its NGAD program.
The NGAD program and its competitors
The NGAD program launched nearly a decade ago, aims to design a sixth-generation fighter that can be operational by the 2030s. US-China tensions could accelerate this time frame if the necessary funds and technologies are made available.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, among others, will compete for the NGAD contract for airframe design and engine development. Companies like Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman will be responsible for developing the powerful engines that will power the new fighter.
NGAD: A “Family of Systems” and Unmanned Aircraft
The NGAD program is not limited to a single aircraft but refers to a “ family of systems.” In addition to the sixth-generation manned aircraft, drones are expected to accompany and work in conjunction with it. Procurement of at least 1,000 drones is planned, with the expectation that each of the 200 new NGAD fighters will fly alongside two drones.
The program also sees the addition of unmanned aircraft to the 300 Block 4 F-35s. The Air Force plans to invest more than half a billion dollars in this effort in 2024.
The Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program aims to design and develop a sixth-generation fighter that can maintain US air superiority. This new aircraft is expected to have advanced stealth capabilities, agility, connectivity, and weapon systems to meet future challenges in aerial combat.
The NGAD is expected to be operational by the 2030s. However, if the necessary funds and technologies become available, tensions between the United States and China could accelerate this time frame.
Companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are competing for the NGAD contract. These companies are involved in both the design of the airframe and the development of the engines of the new fighter.
It is expected to procure at least 1,000 drones for the NGAD program. The idea is that each of the 200 new NGAD fighters will fly together with two drones to work together and increase the effectiveness of air operations.
It is planned to invest more than half a billion dollars in the NGAD program in 2024.