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Next Generation Air Dominance is a development and acquisition program for a future sixth generation air superiority fighter to replace theUS Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet beginning in 2025. It is planned to incorporate sixth generation stealth capability. The aircraft is to be operated with or without a pilot, depending on the role. The new fighter is to perform strike, air superiority, ground support, precision bombingand reconnaissance roles. Only Boeing is known to have interest in the program though Northrop Grumman is known to be developing a carrier-based aircraft known as the X-47B. A 1/16 scale model shown at the Navy League Sea Air Space Exposition 2010 shows a ‘Flying wing’ design with no vertical tails and twin engines.
In late 2011, the Navy plans to analyze alternatives for the NGAD program with a technology demonstration phase beginning in 2013. One of the alternatives being considered is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which would double the Navy’s purchase of that aircraft.
Within the next few years, we will begin work on the sixth generation [fighter] capabilities necessary for future air dominance.” The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley, and the USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, issued that statement in an April 13 Washington Post article.
The Air Force may have to move a little faster to develop that next generation fighter. While anticipated F-22 and F-35 inventories seem settled, there won’t be enough to fix shortfalls in the fighter fleet over the next 20 years, as legacy fighters retire faster than fifth generation replacements appear.