Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told the Brookings Institute last month that developing and advancing the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program remains a top priority for the Army.
This “family of systems” is meant to produce a successor to the iconic Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor in the role of air superiority fighter.
The Air Force intends to utilize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a unique manner to fly alongside piloted jets in a configuration known as Collaborative Combat Aircraft. Last March, Lockheed Martin published a series of illustrations showing mockups of the new sixth-generation fighter.
The graphic promotes the manufacturer’s LMXT tanker design, featuring sleek, tailless aircraft refueling. Outside of her exterior and her resupply ability, the extent of her true potential remains top secret.
Brief description of the NGAD program
The NGAD initiative, conceived in 2014, aims to produce an air superiority system for the United States Air Force in the 2030s. According to the service, the program examines five technologies likely to be incorporated into a future-generation airframe: stealth, advanced weapons, propulsion, digital design, and aircraft’s signature thermal management.
Although the new fighters will incorporate state-of-the-art and innovative improvements, their price will likely be high. In fact, Kendall noted that a single airframe could cost “several” hundreds of millions of dollars, which could be more than double the price of an F-35 Lightning II fighter.
Kendall has justified the cost of the sixth generation by reaffirming that the United States “cannot afford not to have air superiority” in the face of escalating tensions with China.
If a conflict arises in the South Pacific, including these fighters in combat could make all the difference to the outcome.
However, the UAVs accompanying the piloted fighters are expected to be much less expensive. The secretary of the Air Force explained that “The expectation is that these (unmanned) aircraft can be designed to be less capable of surviving and less capable, but that they still contribute a lot to the fight in a mixture that costs the enemy a lot.” classify and treat,” adding that “you can even intentionally kill some of them to draw fire if you want so that the enemy exposes himself.”
Are the dogfights over?
Based on what we know of the NGAD fighter, its frame, and size may be much larger than expected. While the smaller F-22‘s maneuverability gives it an advantage in dogfights, a new sixth-generation fighter could use its bulk to carry heavier payloads.
A report published in Sandboxx News explains that “an aircraft the size of a B-21 might not maneuver like a fighter.No enemy would dare to fly in a wide swath of airspace if they knew an aircraft of this size was patrolling it with a directed energy weapon and powered by several engines generating enormous electrical power. That’s what we call “air superiority.”
The NGAD program is on the right track.
Kendall stated during the summer that the Air Force would be delivering some capabilities from the NGAD program before the decade’s end. The Air Force Secretary announced that the NGAD program had entered the engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) phase.
If Kendall’s timetable is accurate, the sixth-generation fighter’s production process would be light-years faster than its predecessors. As tensions between the United States and China continue to escalate, the sooner the development and production of the NGAD program are completed, the better.