Saturday, April 10, 2021

The US ‘On Course’ To Become 1st Nation To Field Sixth-Gen Fighter Jet?

A US Department of Defense (DoD) contract notice indicates that the country could field a new fighter jet by 2029. This development assumes significance given that the US is currently developing the sixth-generation fighter jet under the NGAD program.

Currently, the US possesses the F-35 stealth fighters, considered the ‘most advanced’ combat aircraft in the world. However, the contract notice has hinted that it could produce yet another fighter jet.

According to the notice, a $74-million deal has been signed with US defense contractor Raytheon for the integration of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) with various types of aircraft, including the next-generation fighter jets.

“This contract will provide the necessary aircraft lab, flight test, flight clearance and simulation support during all integration requirements in AMRAAM for F-15, F-16, FA-18, F-22, F-35, and other current inventory or next-generation platforms that may join the Air Force or Navy inventory before the end of fiscal 2029,” according to the notice.

While the Pentagon possesses the fifth-generation stealth fighters, F-35 and F-22 Raptors, it is steadily working on developing its sixth-generation fighter jet under its next-generation air dominance program (NGAD).

Artist impression of NGAD fighter jet, F/A-XX. (Image: Boeing)

Now, if the contract notice refers to the next-generation NGAD fighter, there is a possibility that the US could become the first country to field a sixth-generation fighter jet.

In addition, the contract award could also point to the potential future integration of the AMRAAMs to its Skyborg future ‘Loyal Wingman’ uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), which is currently being explored by the US Air Force.

The Pentagon had already hinted at the need for a new multi-use fighter jet to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

It had stressed that it will not feature the extremely high-prices and technological prowess of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets.

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