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The 6th generation NGAD aircraft: what a $300 million fighter will be

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jul5,2024

6th generation NGAD aircraft: what a $300 million fighter will be

The US military is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which aims to create a stealth fighter of the sixth generation , designed to replace the F-22 Raptor.

Focus translated Stavros Atlamazoglu's article about the 6th generation NGAD stealth fighter for the US Air Force.

  • NGAD, expected to cost up to $300 million per aircraft, will include both manned and unmanned systems.
  • This program is a follow-up to the 2014 classified DARPA-led X-Plane project, which tested technologies currently under consideration for NGAD. The Armed Forces plan to conclude a contract for NGAD in 2024, and the main contenders for it – companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

How a secret DARPA project influenced the creation of a new NGAD fighter

The US military spends hundreds of millions of dollars on the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the purpose of which is to create a stealth fighter of the sixth generation.

The NGAD program has been underway for several years, and the Pentagon expects to be ready for testing by the end of the decade. The NGAD is expected to replace the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter and become the cornerstone of America's future air superiority fleet. The sixth-generation stealth fighter will have both manned and unmanned variants and could cost as much as $300 million per aircraft.

However, prior to the NGAD, the Pentagon was working on the secret X-Plane, which eventually became the basis for of the future stealth fighter.

Secret X-Plane

According to Defense Secretary Frank Kendall, development of X-Plane took about a year, starting in 2014. The project, called “The Dominance Initiative” and led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been developing for a year. As a result, a family of unmanned systems appeared, recommended for use in the NGAD fighter.

A year later, in 2015, the Pentagon began work on X-Plane, which preceded the NGAD program. According to Kendall, about a billion dollars was spent on the program, with the Army, Navy and DARPA each covering one-third of the cost. Within the X-Plane program, several prototypes have been created that have successfully tested technological innovations that are likely now being considered for the NGAD program.

It should be noted that when the Defense Forces work on a new project, they assign it the designation “X” for the initial stages of testing and development. Such aircraft are used to test new technologies and sensors. As soon as the project gets the green light and moves forward, it gets a “Y” (prototype) designation. Finally, when the aircraft is ready and awarded the contract, it is designated according to its operational role – eg “F” for fighter, “B” for bomber, “A” for attack aircraft, etc.

NGAD fighter

The U.S. Army expects to award a contract for NGAD during 2024.

In May 2023, the Armed Forces published a classified tender for a small number of defense and aerospace companies for the development and production of the NGAD fighter. Last summer, Northrup Grumman dropped out of the race for the sixth-generation jet, leaving Lockheed Martin and Boeing as the two main contenders. A number of other companies, such as General Atomics and Textron, will also be working on various NGAD technologies.

As for the engine, Pratt & Whitney, which recently completed a critical evaluation of Next-Generation Adaptive Propulsion (NGAP). This is an important step toward the final design.

While the Navy is not yet interested in an NGAD-based fighter, it does need the sixth-generation F/A-XX carrier-based stealth fighter, which most likely , will have many technologies in common with the NGAD of the Armed Forces.

About the author

Stavros Atlamazoglu – an experienced journalist who writes on defense topics and specializes in special operations, as well as a veteran of the Greek Army (served in the 575th Marine Battalion and Army Headquarters). He earned a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Published in Business Insider, Sandboxx and SOFREP.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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