Last September, USAF's top acquisition official, Will Roper, told Defense News: “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.”
The new plane, which is intended to replace the F-22, is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme.
Little is known about the jet, but the Air Force has just dropped a massive clue: concept art of a fighter jet being built under the NGAD programme. The image appears in USAF’s recently released biennial report for acquisition. Read the full report here.
The report says of the programme: “Next Generation Air Dominance is a family of capabilities that enable Air Superiority in the most challenging operational environments by enforcing the development pillars of digital engineering, agile software development, and open architectures. By executing shorter technology development cycles, the program matures technology and reduces risk through prototyping and operational experimentation.
“Designed to complement the F-35, F-22, joint, and partner forces in the Air Superiority role, Next Generation Air Dominance is an advanced aircraft program for development of penetrating counter air platforms with multi-domain awareness, agile resilient communications, and an integrated family of capabilities.
“The program uses a non-traditional acquisition approach to avoid traditional monolithic program schedules and exorbitant life-cycle sustainment costs. This strategy, called the Digital Century Series approach, creates a realistic business case for industry to adopt commercial best practises for key design activities – before a part is even manufactured.”
The image also hints at the capability to refit the aircraft with weapon and propulsion upgrades. The jet is seen alongside three versions of air-to-air missiles, landing gear, and engines labelled V1, V2, and V3.
USAF developed the secret fighter jet with digital engineering technology designed to dramatically shorten the time to develop a new aircraft.