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USAF:s Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program


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The Air Force’s secretive and highly classified Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program has started its crucial engineering and manufacturing development phase, Secretary Frank Kendall said Wednesday.

In a discussion at the Heritage Foundation, Kendall said the Air Force began early experimental prototyping on NGAD in 2015, when he was the Pentagon’s top acquisition official. This was essentially an X-plane program, he said, designed to reduce risk and develop key technologies needed for the production program.


NGAD is described as a "family of systems", with a fighter aircraft as the centerpiece of the system, and other parts of the system likely to be unmanned escort aircraft to carry extra munitions and perform other missions. In particular, NGAD aims to develop a system that addresses the operation needs of the Pacific theater of operations, where current USAF fighters lack sufficient range and payload. USAF commanders have noted that there may be two variants of NGAD: one with long range and payload for the Indo-Pacific and one more oriented to the relatively short ranges between possible battle areas in Europe.


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