Home Air US Air Force officially begins search for its next-gen fighter

US Air Force officially begins search for its next-gen fighter

NGAD US Air Force
US Air Force illustration

The US Air Force has released a classified solicitation for the next-generation fighter aircraft, with the intent to award a contract in 2024.

The initiation of this solicitation release marks the official start of the source selection process, outlining the specific requirements set by the Department of the Air Force (DAF) for the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

NGAD will be the first all-new fighter design for the US Air Force in decades, taking into consideration that first work on the F-35 fifth-generation fighter began in the 1990s.

The acquisition strategy for NGAD aims to revitalize and expand the industrial base, fostering the delivery of rapid and innovative warfighting capabilities.

Incorporating insights from recent Air Force acquisition programs, the strategy embraces “open architecture standards” to leverage their benefits.

“This approach will enable the government to maximize competition throughout the life cycle, provide a larger, more responsive industry base and drastically reduce maintenance and sustainment costs,” the statement said.

The NGAD Platform, among a range of vital combat capabilities, is poised to empower counter-air missions, effectively engaging airborne and ground-based threats to establish air superiority and provide steady support to the Joint Force.

The forthcoming NGAD fighter is set to succeed the F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter widely regarded as one of the finest air-to-air combat aircraft ever manufactured.

“The NGAD Platform is a vital element of the Air Dominance family of systems which represents a generational leap in technology over the F-22, which it will replace,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.

“NGAD will include attributes such as enhanced lethality and the ability to survive, persist, interoperate, and adapt in the air domain, all within highly contested operational environments. No one does this better than the US Air Force, but we will lose that edge if we don’t move forward now.” 

“NGAD must be more than just the next crewed fighter jet. It’s a program that will include a crewed platform teamed with much less expensive autonomous un-crewed combat aircraft, employing a distributed, tailorable mix of sensors, weapons, and other mission equipment operating as a team or formation,” he outlined in his statement defining the Department’s seven operational imperatives last year.