Weapons giant Lockheed Martin may have just revealed a new image of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) offering on its Instagram account, as the company published an image or rendering of what looks like the kind of 6th-generation stealth fighter jet configurations the industry giant has previously released.
Studying the NGAD Image
The image, which shows a sleek, blended wing-body tailless configuration does resemble previous 6th-gen renderings released by Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, all potential competitors for the anticipated NGAD contract award. Of course, very little is known when it comes to actual design or production plans for the 6th-gen fighter that is still deep in development. However, senior Air Force leaders have been clear for quite some time that NGAD demonstrators are indeed already airborne.
The apparent Lockheed Martin NGAD rendering appeared on Lockheed’s Instagram alongside images of known aircraft such as the U-2 Spy plane, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk, and F-22 Raptor in celebration of Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works division 80th anniversary.
Details on the NGAD Remain Secret
There is certainly no shortage of conjecture, intelligent speculation, or assumption when it comes to potential technologies woven into NGAD. The aircraft is expected to be faster, stealthier, and more advanced than any aircraft that has ever existed. The image of the fighter, which may indeed be Lockheed’s NGAD candidate, seems to reveal a new generation of blended-wing-body stealth design as it is more horizontal and even “bomber-like” in shape as it has no vertical structures and is almost entirely flat. Clearly, an aircraft with a bomber-like stealth shape, yet able to thrust, maneuver, and vector like a next-generation fighter jet introduces what could be a massive breakthrough in stealth technology.
NGAD Will Control Drones
Senior Pentagon leaders have also said the aircraft will likely be capable of unmanned missions but also control small groups of “loyal wingman” drones able to test enemy air defenses, conduct forward surveillance, or even deliver weapons strikes when directed by a human. The wingman drones are called Collaborative Combat Aircraft and, Air Force weapons developers say, they are already under construction.
The external configuration of Lockheed’s image looks stealthy, and indeed the NGAD is expected to bring paradigm-changing new stealth technologies. The emerging 6th-generation fighter likely contains an entirely new generation of avionics, computing, weapons interfaces, sensing, and AI-enabled technologies. Few details are available for public knowledge, yet it certainly makes sense that many of these technologies involve breakthrough innovations expanding upon existing technologies.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.