The US Air Force (USAF) surprised the defense sector by revealing in September 2020 that it had developed and flown a 6th gen fighter prototype in record time.
The aircraft is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which is managed in absolute secrecy. The revelation made by former assistant Air Force Secretary Will Roper to the Defense News did not provide any technical details of the new fighter.
Instead, it was known that the demonstrator had been developed using advanced digital tools, which allowed its design to be carried out in a very short time for such a complex project.
NGAD promises to be a game changer in aerial weapon technology, capable of changing the way a military aircraft is developed, produced and operated.
Thanks to the use of advanced software, the aircraft will be able to enter service in a shorter time and be adaptable to new systems.
Instead of a 30-year long-term program as in combat aircraft in service today, NGAD can design aircraft with a shorter service life, but which could be replaced in periods of around 8 years. It would be a kind of continuous evolution instead of generational changes.
The USAF, however, does not say who is the prototype manufacturer or what are the characteristics sought by the Pentagon. Companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin have released artwork for possible 6th gen fighter designs, but none of them have been confirmed by the Air Force to date.
Despite this, a document published by the USAF’s acquistion department that addresses the plans of a digital force cites NGAD, including an illustration related to fighter, as revealed by the Alert 5 website.
The text explains that the “Next Generation Air Dominance is an advanced aircraft program for development of penetrating counter air platforms with multi-domain situational awareness, agile resilient communications, and an integrated family of capabilities”.
Concept art, however, can be just a generic image, unrelated to the real project. Its diamond shape, with air intakes on top of the wings and double vertical stabilizers, looks like artistic illustrations from the 80s or 90s, with elements that resemble the designs of Skunk Works, the famous special division of Lockheed Martin.
Interestingly, the USAF text refers to the 6th generation fighter as a complement to the “F-35, F-22, and partner forces in the Air Superiority role”. There is no doubt that NGAD will still give rise to many rumors until the day it is revealed.
Via The Avionist.