The US Air Force is unlikely to retire its F-22 Raptors until its sixth-generation NGAD fighter jet is ready by the 2030s. This new-gen jet was earlier stated to be a replacement for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets
At a time when major world powers struggle to develop a credible fifth-generation platform, the US has already designed, developed, and produced two fighter aircraft, and even closed the production for one.
In separate interviews with Air Force Magazine and Defense News, USAF Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote revealed some details about the new generation fighter (NGAD), a prototype of which is undergoing trials.
Hinote also mentioned the timeline for the induction of NGAD. This new generation fighter was earlier stated to be a replacement for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Now, as the service intends to replace the F-22s, Hoke said that USAF is focusing on the development of its next-generation fighter.
The replacement of the F-22 is unlikely to happen before the 2030s, by which time the fighter would be a 40-year old platform. “What we’re going to want to see is, when do we press from the NGAD being a developmental program to being a production program?” he said.
Although the service has been tight-lipped over the status of NGAD, it is known that at least one prototype is flying and undergoing developmental trials. This makes the United States far ahead of its contemporary adversaries, and Hinote even hinted that a second prototype, probably a totally new follow-on design, could come out soon.
“As you’re allowing that program to mature, through a spiral series, you’re designing the next platform” with new software and sensor technology”, Hinote told Air Force Magazine. He also hinted that new iterations could come along every five to eight years.
He said, the F-22 is a “great airplane” but is increasingly becoming obsolete with the new-generation challenges posed by adversaries like China. Even, the Air Force’s new drills against the PLA’s hypothetical invasion of Taiwan didn’t include the F-22, carried out only by the F-15 Eagle II, the F-35, and NGAD.
In images revealed in its biennial report for acquisition, the US Air Force showed a diamond-shaped fighter jet with large engine intakes over the airplane’s wing to the left and right side of the cockpit, featuring two engines.
A bubble canopy cockpit and very interestingly, two vertical stabilizers capable of being folded into the wings were also present in the illustration. The fighter was also seen dowing other aircraft and missiles using a laser weapon system.