US Air Force reveals more on its sixth generation fighter jet

Concept art of the new fighter jet, which featured in a recent US Air Force biennial report for acquisition
Concept art of the new fighter jet, which featured in a recent US Air Force biennial report for acquisition

The US Air Force has revealed more on its sixth generation fighter jet, the centre-piece of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) system.

The jet, which is poised to replace the F-22 Raptor, will be a multirole fighter, according to USAF chief of staff, General Charles Q. Brown Jr at a House Armed Services Committee.

The air force boss, testifying on the fiscal 2022 budget request yesterday, said the fighter jet’s primary role will be air dominance, but will be able to strike ground targets as well.

The sixth generation fighter will have “some air-to-ground capability to ensure, one, that it can survive, but also to provide options for our air component commanders and for the Joint Force.”

Brown also said the NGAD fighter will have increased range and weapons load compared to the F-22, which will allow it to operate at the great distances required in the Indo-Pacific region.

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These details match the concept art that was recently published in a USAF biennial report for acquisition, which suggested a larger blended wing airframe compared to the F-22, which would give more room internally for a larger weapons bay and fuel tank.

Air Force Magazine has reported General Mark D. Kelly, head of air combat command, has said there may be two variants of NGAD: one with long range and payload for the Indo-Pacific and one more oriented to the relatively short ranges between possible battle areas in Europe.

Lockheed Martin concept art for a sixth generation fighter jet

NGAD is described as a family of systems, with a sixth generation fighter at its centre. Last September it was revealed that the fighter had been designed, developed and tested in the space of a year and flown.

USAF’s top acquisition official, Will Roper, said at the time: “We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it. We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”

Related: What the DoD budget means for the NGAD sixth gen fighter

Brown said in May USAF plans to reduce its fighter fleet to just four types of aircraft, including the F-35, F-15EX, F-16 as well as NGAD.

The NGAD fighter will fly alongside the F-35, with the latter “the cornerstone, [the] F-15EX as we come in, and then we’ll have F-16 for a while as well,” Brown said.

The US Department of Defense has published its budget request for 2022, which included new funding for NGAD.

USAF is looking for $1.5 billion to support NGAD, an increase of roughly $623 million compared to funding received previously.


Lockheed Martin

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