Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


NGAD: The Air Force’s New Stealth Fighter (No Pilot Needed?)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, taxis into Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., July 1, 2021. The F-35 Demo Team flew out of JBLM, headlining both the Gig Harbor Wings-and-Wheels and Tacoma Freedom Fair air shows for the 4th of July weekend, showcasing the advanced capabilities of the F-35 to the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)

NGAD is getting a lot of play in the press these days. And yet, we don’t know much about it beyond the possible costs and that it seems to redefine what a stealth fighter actually is. Here, we asked a serious expert to breakdown what we know so far about the fighter plane: The 2020s promises to be an exciting time for the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance fighter (NGAD) program and military aviation enthusiasts.

The Air Force wants to push the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program forward and create a real capability by the end of the decade, according to the secretary of the Air Force.

NGAD Updates 

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 one 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 InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise 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.