Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall revealed that his service wants to have a real Next Generation Air Dominance program capability by 2030.
The Next Generation Air Dominance program includes both a crewed fighter jet and an unmanned aerial system that will support the former. Kendall announced that the program had begun the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) phase, which is the step that leads to actual production.
But to get an operational aircraft in the skies is no joke. And delays can come in many ways, including a desire for more capabilities and features.
The secretary of the Air Force added that he isn’t interested in demonstrations of experimental capabilities unless they are necessary to build a new capability for the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program.
“I’m not interested in demos and experiments unless they are a necessary step on the road to real capability. What we tend to do is do a quick demo, and then we have to start an EMD or development program and wait several more years, because we didn’t start the developmental function. If we don’t need it to reduce risk, we should go right to development for production and get there as quickly as we can,” the secretary of the Air Force said.
According to Kendall, the clock for the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter didn’t start back in 2015 but is instead starting now with the aim of producing a capability by the end of the decade.
Back then, the Air Force had an “X-plane” program that “was designed to reduce the risk in some of the key technologies that we would need for a production program,” Kendall said.
In 2021, General Mark Kelly, the commander of the Air Combat Command, had said that the Air Force doesn’t want to come second when it comes to air superiority.
“I would like to have more of a sense of urgency and a whole-of-nation effort towards it,” Kelly said, going as far as to compare the Next Generation Air Dominance Program with the Manhattan Project that created the first nuclear weapon during the Second World War.
NGAD: The Next Generation Air Dominance Program Is Coming Soon
The Next Generation Air Dominance program isn’t just about on futuristic stealth fighter jet. Instead, the program seeks to develop a family of manned and unmanned systems that will complement one another and fight together.
The goal is to stay ahead of the competition—in reality, only China—and create such a powerful fighter jet that will dominate the skies and ensure air superiority for years to come.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.