US Air Force ‘puts brakes’ on 6th-gen NGAD, more time needed

WASHINGTON — The United States will need more time to realize the sixth-generation fighter project, which is being developed under the Next Generation Air Dominance [NGAD] aircraft program. The civilian boss of the US Air Force, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, cooled the passions of enthusiasts during a planned meeting with representatives of the Air & Space Forces Association on June 24th.

US 6th generation combat aircraft by the end of this decade
Photo: AFResearchLab / YouTube

“Give us more time. The NGAD that we’re working on now … is going to take longer,” Kendall said, according to Air Force Magazine. “It’s not a simple design,” Kendall recalled how expensive the program has been so far, and how expensive it will be when it’s finished. The civilian boss of the aviators emphasized that the foreign market is also dynamic and it is not clear how many million dollars each NGAD fighter could set the Air Force back.

US military experts comment on Kendall’s statement. They say that his words are not indicative of the program, since the plane is a system of systems, the construction of which involves passing through various stages until it is built. Although NGAD is currently a “mystery program”, the complexity of its implementation will make it difficult to oversee the entire puzzle of its acquisition. If the NGAD project is realized and implemented, observers and experts say, the US will gain air superiority over Russia and China, thereby not only catching up but also ahead of the two most hostile countries to the US.

What do we know about NGAD?

The next-generation fighter under the US Air Force’s NGAD program is meant to replace one of the two flagships of US combat aviation, the F-22, which will be retired this year and early next decade.

How will the new U.S. Navy 6th generation fighter looks like?
Photo credit: USNI

According to many experts, the sixth generation aircraft is a system of systems. He will be able to control swarms of drones – reconnaissance, and attack. In such a configuration, the main role of the “quarterback” NGAD will be, with the help of its loyal wingman, to conduct electronic warfare, to block the enemy’s anti-aircraft forces. NGAD will be more of a flying computer than a fighter plane – it will process data fed by its loyal wingman and suggest strategies for action.

Of course, the NGAD will be a fully combat-capable and technologically advanced fighter. Joseph Trevithick at the War Zone described it as being comprised of “new weapons, sensors, networking, and battle management capabilities.” Some have speculated that the new fighter could be unmanned – a possibility that cannot be ruled out, especially after the claim that the XQ-58A Valkyrie project could be part of the NGAD’s future.

Is there a prototype already developed?

At the moment, such information can be defined as speculative, since there is no official confirmation confirming the existence of such a prototype. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that at the end of last year, photos appeared from the Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility of Lockheed Martin, which allegedly show a 6th generation fighter being transported on a flatbed trailer. The information has not been confirmed and remains in the realm of speculation.

Is this the secret NGAD fighter jet of the US? Probably not
Photo credit: Twitter

Other reports in open sources on the Internet claim that a prototype NGAD exists and has even made its first flight – perhaps with a tail-less airframe and able to fly long-range with stealthiness and the ability to handle a large weapons payload. This information has also not been officially confirmed.

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