The United States Air Force (USAF) has revealed for the first time how many 6th-gen stealth aircraft and ‘Loyal Wingman’ drones it intends to initially order.
In a speech at the Air Warfare Symposium, held this week in Colorado, Frank Kendall, secretary of the USAF, said that the force plans to acquire 200 fighters from the Next Generation Air Dominance Fighter (NGAD) project, in addition to 1,000 unmanned collaborative combat aircraft (CCA). According to Kendall, CCA drones will fly in pairs with manned aircraft.
“This figure was derived from an assumed two CCAs per 200 NGAD platforms and an additional two for each of 300 F-35s for a total of 1,000,” said the USAF secretary at the event.
According to Kendall, the first batch of CCA drones should be delivered to the USAF by the end of this decade. The US is developing projects of the kind like the Boeing Loyal Wingman and the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, but there is still no definition about the aircraft that will actually be operated in the future.
The two unmanned aircraft are designed with stealth capability to perform a variety of strike and reconnaissance missions, operating independently or accompanying manned aircraft.
The USAF secretary emphasized that the large number of drones is necessary to support and complement the actions of the future NGAD fighter, which will be a “really expensive airplane”.
In 2020, the USAF confirmed that it had started flight tests with an experimental prototype of the NGAD, a project that should lead to the first sixth-generation US fighter.
Details of the aircraft and its performance are still being kept secret by Washington. So far, it is not known which manufacturer developed the project.