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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

NGAD: America’s Plan for a New Stealth Fighter to Battle Russia or China

By: Image Credit: Rodrigo Avella

The U.S. Air Force’s Next-generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter is getting closer to fruition, according to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. Kendall is never at a loss for words, and he often speaks at conferences with quips and quotes that can help us glean clues regarding future weapons systems. This time, in an address to an industry gathering, Kendall let it be known that the NGAD program is now in its design phase.

What’s Next for NGAD?

Kendall told journalists assembled on September 19 at the Air and Space Force Association’s annual conference in National Harbor, Maryland, that, “We are working on the actual design of the aircraft … so that means we are in the engineering and manufacturing development phase,” according to National Defense Magazine.

Getting Closer to the Next Milestone

The next step for the NGAD would be a professional design review, known as Milestone B, he said. Milestone B is the critical part of the engineering, manufacturing, and development phase or EMD. So, the NGAD is years away from serial building or initial operating capability, but designers likely have some concrete ideas on how it is going to look.

One NGAD Can Lead a Dominating Flight of Drones

The NGAD is slated to replace the F-22 as a sixth-generation fighter. It will be a family of systems that can allow the airplane to be a “quarterback in the air” to lead networked drones in the “loyal wingman” concept. This will allow NGAD to receive situational awareness and targeting data from up to five stealth unmanned systems flying in formation. The NGAD, using this configuration, can better penetrate enemy air space and launch its munitions or have the drones fly out ahead and fire theirs. The NGAD can also be integrated with F-35s to create a formidable squadron of aircraft.

Multi-role Mission

One robotic aircraft could carry electronic warfare equipment, one can be a decoy, and one could be full of stand-off missiles for ground strike. This is the force multiplier aspect of NGAD to burnish its credentials for full-time operational advantage. “The idea is to create multiple targets that an enemy can’t ignore,” Kendall said.

Kendall reminded the audience that the NGAD will not be ready until the end of the decade. But the future fighter will be able to gather new capabilities as aerospace technology such as artificial intelligence matures.

Nothing So Advanced Is Cheap These Days 

This program will take a huge investment – close to hundreds of millions of dollars per airplane. Just in FY23, the Air Force wanted $1.3 billion for NGAD with $133 million dedicated to research and development, testing, and evaluation.

Will White House Strategy Include NGAD?

Kendall has said before that he has a sense of urgency about NGAD. Meanwhile, the White House is set to release its National Security Strategy any day now. It has been delayed to account for the war in Ukraine and China’s designs on Taiwan. It will be interesting to see if NGAD makes an appearance in the document. The National Security Strategy is supposed to drive acquisition and procurement, so many in Congress are watching for its introduction.


Image: Creative Commons.

At first I was skeptical about the NGAD. I thought the money plowed into this program could be better spent buying more F-35s and keeping the F-22 in the air. But I have since transitioned my thinking to be in favor of investing more research and development dollars into it. China is building more J-20 Mighty Dragon fighters with stealth characteristics, not to mention more carriers. The United States military needs to stay ahead and the NGAD project is one way to achieve an edge in aerial combat that can be more survivable in a conflict with China, especially as Beijing has more designs on Taiwan with a reunification effort that could result in a shooting war.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. xheavy

    September 22, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    Throw that away.

    Its nice to have plans. But we are now formally in a pending shooting war with RU if not actual Nuclear starting with tacticals being sprinkled around UKR by RU.

    We simply dont have the time. When wars erupt you fight with whatever you have on hand. You pretty much cannot count on the factories to not be hit anyway. Poof. All gone. Where you gonna build that whizbang fancy plane now?

    It would be far better to fabricate battle kits that are idiot proof for planes. Anyone can read a cartoon and slap them together. Hook up the wires and some tubes. Throw the fuel into them, arm them with whatever and call for a volunteer to fly the damn thing. Wont take but a short time.

    No time anymore for whizbang fancy technology. World war four planning will be back to the Tehchubets from our Middle ages. LOOSE!

  2. GhostTomahawk

    September 23, 2022 at 1:45 am

    Complete waste of money. It’ll go so fast over budget and under deliver. Like the F35.

    When was the last time US 5th generation planes shot down another 5th generation plane? NEVER. How about a 4th gen plane? Never. Why? Because the US is scared to lose expensive air frames. So they treat them like stealth missile trucks shooting missiles from far away at high altitudes like cowards.

    I’d rather fly an A10 or F18. These are cheaper airframes that can be replaced. These next gen planes… too expensive.

    Save the money.

  3. pagar

    September 23, 2022 at 2:34 am

    Heh, Mr Eastwood, ya missin’ the forest becuz of the leafy north ‘merican aerospace tree.

    Aircraft like f35 and j-20 are crap. So is NGAD, and the PCA (penetratin’ counter-air) and other hyped up 6th gen presentations or offerings like tempest. Might as well fly 24carat gold-plated jets.

    Goin’ forward, only rational presentations are autonomous supersonic drone jets optimized for nuisance raids, attrition strikes, including dogfightin’ unmanned aircraft.

    Reason is other countries have been woken up (awakened) by biden’s reckless warmongering & hair-raising or voraciously nasty warrish dogbarking.

    They now realize that only nukes can stop crazy dementia-hobbled uncle sam.And one place to keep their nukes is in low earth orbit.

    Thus they now need to develop spaceplanes, spacegliders and FOBS fliers. These are truly real bona fide 8th, 9th and 10th gen warfighters. The real mcCoy. The real deal. No crap.

  4. Flint

    September 23, 2022 at 10:18 am

    For every 30 years a new generation of fighter appears, going forward, the classification of “generation of fighters” is getting convoluted,it’s in each of their interest to keep up pace in technology and development.

  5. Steven

    September 23, 2022 at 9:12 pm

    Ghost, what a stupid post. You’re a little bit of a moron, eh?

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