USAF/US NAVY 6G Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA, ASFS news

You don't built a 1.6 billion building if you are not sure of the end of the contract.
They will be sure of what they will build there by the time this thing begins costing them a ton of money to build out. Its not like they would sink $1.6 Bn and then find out what's going to be built there. Majority of that capital expense can be diverted if some of their big bets don't pan out. This thing is going to take 2 years to be fully built out. Most big programs require bidders to be able to show how they plan on executing..and having these investments is something you almost always need.
 
My guess it's not "awarded" but they've been given the nod, who knows
Boeing publicly revealed their intention to support this $1.6 Bn project back in August of 2023. By this time NG had exited NGAD and the RFP was out. In order them to be viable candidate, in addition to having a design that's competitive they would have to have a plan to actually build this thing. Lockheed likewise has made hundreds of millions of capital investment to expand its Palmdale footprint. You kind of have to put up or shut up in these programs and have to show you can actually execute on your proposal. Of course, they will re-purpose it for other classified work if they do not win, or perhaps even downsize original plans significantly and look to transition other programs to this more modern facility. LM would have plans to do the same for their investments.
 
YES it seem that , this facility is for higly classified projects.... May be Boenig have win a big classified project..What is interesting is the words "construction has started before Boeing has secured the contracts that would fund the aircraft sitting in there ...."
Black programs are spread across the big three. Even though Boeing commercial is struggling (includes KC-46 since its a B767 derivative), Phantom Works is independent like Skunk Works and NG Advanced Programs are, you need the friendly competition and innovation. When I was at Northrop and affiliated with advanced Programs (AP) starting in 1986, we cross pollinated with Skunk Works, ultimately we were developing systems for the common good for the US but we have and had our friendly rivalries of course.

During the ATF competition and since I supported YF-23, I used to joke with some of my ADP buddies why they developed an F-15 (YF-22) with internal weapons carriage and an F-15-style speed brake, which was deleted but this was all in fun but the F-22 is an awesome fighter and does the job. Just like with Tacit Blue, the ADP guys with there, Northrop designed an upside-down bath tub or Airstream trailer with a whales tail, you gotta love it, you can just feel the love, good times.

There is no reason Boeing PW would not get awarded the NGAD. Also, in regards to the F-35, you will never see a tri-service aircraft program again, this started with the B-21.
 
Looks like you have a problem reading because I clearly mentioned that I'm not comparing the programs

"I don't know how Boeing is going very well with the F-15EX relative to the F-35."

You're comparing the programmes, that's what those words mean
 
A common myth is that contractors 'make investments' in plant, property & equipment PPE, in addition to independent research & development IR&D and bid & proposal B&P.
In fact, with few exceptions, all these costs are reimbursed by the US government by way of the negotiated rate structure, if they are deemed 'allowable' by the Defense Contract Audit Agency DCAA.
https://www.dcaa.mil/Careers/Career...e/2496672/common-dcaa-audits-forward-pricing/

Typically the total labor rates (a.k.a. burdened rates) are 2 or 3 times the direct labor rates. The true 'investment' by contractors is essentially limited to the time-value of the money float, i.e., the difference in time between when allowable costs are incurred and when allowable costs are recovered.

Existing programs at a defense contractor facility almost always are the bill payers. For example, if Boeing-St Louis is shelling out big bucks for new factories, the reality is that the F/A-18E/F, the EA-18G, the F-15EX, the MQ-25, the T-7A, etc. are picking up the tab.

As long as a contractor's costs are deemed 'allowable', the only real governor on the direct and indirect rates is the competitive climate for future business opportunities. Forward pricing of labor and material rates is a key component of a contractor's proposal for a major bid such as NGAD. If Contractor X's rates (i.e., dollars/hour) for a given work effort is higher than Contractor Y, then that can become a disadvantage during source selection.

One reason the Navy turned sour on Grumman in the late 1970s-early 1980s is because Grumman was spending an inordinate amount of IR&D, B&P and PPE for Air Force business opportunities (e.g. ATF, JSTARS) and other diversification thrusts. The F-14, A-6, EA-6, and E-2 programs were the bill payers.

Takeaways: 1) Defense contractors do not invest their own money as done in the commercial world (Boeing Defense vs. Boeing Commerical is a text book example.); 2) Contract costs are negotiated DoD-wide, not service-by-service.
Northrop started investing its own money way back in the early 1960's, in LO technology and Northrop (along with Lockheed) knew about the potential of stealth technology 30+ years before anyone else, this was clearly stated by the late Thomas V. Jones (former Northrop CEO) during the B-2 roll out. Some history, Northrop flew the YB-49 against radars at Half Moon Bay and by the time the radar operators got a lock on the aircraft, the YB-49 had already had destroyed the facility, and this with an all-aluminum flying wing. There is a lot of technology Northrop and Lockheed had developed over decades that more than likely no one except the special few know about. Northrop and Lockheed had true visionaries, everyone else had and has to play catch-up.
 
Northrop started investing its own money way back in the early 1960's, in LO technology and Northrop (along with Lockheed) knew about the potential of stealth technology 30+ years before anyone else,
It would be interesting, but impossible, to understand the funding split between IRAD and government contracts in this technology area. Also interesting to factor in government transfers of IP from 3rd parties (e.g. MIT RadLab).

It sort of seems that the current US combat air primes are a direct result of some fairly low scale contracts (and mostly single source) back in the 50s/60s. Apart from Boeing, which is more a result of the cash generated by their commercial business off the back of 367/KC-135 etc. enabling them to acquire other companies. But there's probably some luck/coincidence thrown in there as well.
 
This notion that it has to be some huge leap forward as a "6th generation" fighter when that is an even more nebulous concept that what had defined/separated prior generations of jet fighters.
Okay, let's talk about what the different generations are.
1st Generation: P-80, F-84, and F-86
2nd Generation: Century Series, not counting F-111
3rd Generation: F-4 and F-111 (not that F-111 is particularly a fighter, but it needs to be placed here)
4th Generation: Teen series
5th Generation: F-22 and F-35
6th Generation: NGAD and FAXX

So, what defines each generation?
First Generation is having jets at all.
Second Generation is going supersonic.
Third Generation is going Mach 2 or close to it, and starting into multirole capabilities.
Fourth Generation is not generally as fast but is much more maneuverable and heavily multirole.
Fifth Generation is stealthy and multirole.
Sixth Generation is looking like sensor fusion, heavily datalinked, with drones flying support jobs. (I will happily be corrected on that point, but I think it's right.)
 
Wondering about directed energy via all that extra power generation & cooling capability? And electronic attack?
 
My definition of 6th gen would be:

1) distributed architecture enabled by AI and MUM-T
2) step change in utilization of non-traditional EM techniques beyond jamming and spoofing, like directed energy and cyberattack
3) supersonic tailless aircraft with reasonably "fighter-ish" maneuverability (loaded)
4) variable cycle engines
5) big data and fancy communications (lasers and/or AESAs?)
6) thermal signature focus -- high internal airflow, lots of fuel to thermally soak, extra power for cooling, high altitude
7) survivable basing through pure engine power (esp when taking off with light fuel load and then tanking) and range, plus austerity

I may easily be missing some ideas, but this seems like PLENTY to constitute a new generation. Am very confused by recent suggestions that NGAD might not offer enough to be worth it, in comparison to 5th gen. Rather, I think the problem is mainly a tightening budget.
 
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Any new combat aircraft tailored for local operations is unlikely to need "significantly increased range". The extra range will come at a price. Different operators will make different decisions.
 
Any new combat aircraft tailored for local operations is unlikely to need "significantly increased range". The extra range will come at a price. Different operators will make different decisions.
And yet NGAD, FAXX, GCAP, and FCAS are all looking to have more range than the existing fighters.
 
Mostly because all the systems that make them able to do the job at all are expensive, and more systems keep getting added to the "minimum requirements" list.

"We can't afford to build carriers if they cost that much!" says the accountant.

"Then either we make really good friends with the people that do have carriers and pray they don't decide to take over us, or we don't have a country anymore. Take your pick."
First para: maybe added systems might be farmed out to cheaper platforms then? Carriers would never operate alone anyway. The wide stern of the Ford is an example of this potential problem - it's a means of 'future-proofing' the ships by adding extra space for workshops and so on but its effect is to concentrate more essential capability in one hull. Considering perfectly reasonable expectations of growth in required capabilities over the long life of the class, it makes sense (certainly considering the increasing difficulty in shoehorning more and more into the Arleigh Burkes) but I'm not sure if that's wise in the long term as a trend. Compare the render with the ship as it was actually built.

Second: Yep, that's what they say. Unfortunately, politicians mostly haven't heard the proverb 'penny wise and pound foolish'.

Third: That seems to be the NATO strategy/doctrine as it emerges. The British Army has a reduced number of tanks but the UK's strength is in naval, nuclear, space and cyber, and these are given priority in studies at least. For self-defence, land forces are likely to be less of a priority for the UK's defence on its own, while its strategic assets are also its most valuable contribution to NATO. The arrangement would be similar in its continued relationship to the EU, if anyone sane and with an IQ greater than that of a potato is in the cabinet next month.

Thanks for the reasoned discussion.
 

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Addendum. In my ideal world, there's coherence and co-ordination of needs and requirements across the entire fleet and a plan is followed and circumstances don't change, versus an attitude of 'who knows what's going to be funded next, let's cram as much of what we need into this one!' I do know what's the most pragmatic...
 
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By the way, supremely cynical sf writer and (in his own words) lapsed marine biologist Peter Watts describes the principle of evolution by natural selection not as 'survival of the fittest' but 'survival of the least inadequate.'
 
"I don't know how Boeing is going very well with the F-15EX relative to the F-35."

You're comparing the programmes, that's what those words mean
It was meant to state that both programs are not going according to set plans. Not comparing one's problems to the other. You can't say F-35 is stuck but EX is going smoothly when both have delayed deliveries to the Air Force.

LM's problems are partially on account of delays in suppliers supporting the upgrade effort. Boeing's problems are with actual production of the aircraft being late particularly problems within Boeing (onshoring of certain production) itself. From a technical perspective, TR-3 and Block 4 are introducing several new things into the F-35 which are running behind. F-15EX is not really doing anything as risky (mission comp, and EPAWSS were programs long before EX became a program and they've omitted certain other things like MAWS to save cost and testing time) so it was a pretty mature system to begin with. It would be akin to LM having trouble delivering on Block 3F aircraft running TR-2 hardware and APG-81 radar in 2024. With the EX, you have a program that has delivered aircraft for decades that is now beginning to deliver to the USAF with a highly mature technical baseline and another that is undergoing a major upgrade to mission computer, radar and other hardware..Yet the AF is going to have to wait between 8 and 14+ months to take delivery on both. So yeah, both are underperforming just for different reasons.
 
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Northrop started investing its own money way back in the early 1960's, in LO technology and Northrop (along with Lockheed) knew about the potential of stealth technology 30+ years before anyone else, this was clearly stated by the late Thomas V. Jones (former Northrop CEO) during the B-2 roll out. Some history, Northrop flew the YB-49 against radars at Half Moon Bay and by the time the radar operators got a lock on the aircraft, the YB-49 had already had destroyed the facility, and this with an all-aluminum flying wing. There is a lot of technology Northrop and Lockheed had developed over decades that more than likely no one except the special few know about. Northrop and Lockheed had true visionaries, everyone else had and has to play catch-up.
Northrop may be unique in having spent 'their own money' in the defense biz. During the period before F/A-18A/B production, and after F-5E/F sales slowed, Northrop Aircraft's largest revenue stream came from building 747 fuselages for Boeing (I've been told that subcontract was very lucrative). Without a significant DoD business base (which would include F-5 Foreign Military Sales since those are under a US govt contract), their is no place to allocate or distribute IR&D, B&P, PPE costs. That is a true business challenge, so Thomas Jones deserves credit there too.

If memory serves, Jones also self-funded the F-20A Tigershark development and flight testing, much to the chagrin of the Air Force and F-16 community.

Re: Lockheed -- the Skunk Works (aka ADP) was deliberately buried inside of the Lockheed California Company (aka Calac) from the P-38 days until 1991. Once it was its own 'profit center' it became more of a challenge for leadership as to where to distribute IR&D and PPE costs (they traditionally spend relatively little in B&P). During the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Calac had two substantial 'white world' programs to allocate ADP's allowable costs -- the S-3 and P-3 aircraft for the Navy and FMS.

Isn't it ironic, and even bizarre, that the Navy picked up most of the tab for ADP's IR&D-funded stealth technology development, while they themselves were largely in the dark, to wit, the A-12 disaster.
 
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@Scott Kenny Which could saddle their operators with a Ferrari SUV doing a Ford Bronco's job. And doing it poorly.
Given that NGAD is being designed around a fight in the Pacific, not so much. GCAP and FCAS are being designed around flying to the Ural mountains and back.

Only the KF21 seems to be designed with a relatively short range (ie, on par with F4s).



First para: maybe added systems might be farmed out to cheaper platforms then? Carriers would never operate alone anyway. The wide stern of the Ford is an example of this potential problem - it's a means of 'future-proofing' the ships by adding extra space for workshops and so on but its effect is to concentrate more essential capability in one hull. Considering perfectly reasonable expectations of growth in required capabilities over the long life of the class, it makes sense (certainly considering the increasing difficulty in shoehorning more and more into the Arleigh Burkes) but I'm not sure if that's wise in the long term as a trend. Compare the render with the ship as it was actually built.
It's looking like bunching up is extremely dangerous when under threat of AShBM attack, much easier to swamp the defenders in numbers when there are 3+ targets in the footprint. Plus, hypersonics require the defender to basically be on top of the target (within 10km at the farthest, closer is better). So either you have a plane guard DDG right next to the carrier, or the carrier itself needs to carry defenses against hypersonics. The later Ford class carriers will have SPY6 and Aegis by default, so you might as well add a few cells of whatever the Hypersonic defense missile is to the carrier.
 
Northrop may be unique in having spent 'their own money' in the defense biz. During the period before F/A-18A/B production, and after F-5E/F sales slowed, Northrop Aircraft's largest revenue stream came from building 747 fuselages for Boeing (I've been told that subcontract was very lucrative). Without a significant DoD business base (which would include F-5 Foreign Military Sales since those are under a US govt contract), their is no place to allocate or distribute IR&D, B&P, PPE costs. That is a true business challenge, so Thomas Jones deserves credit there too.

If memory serves, Jones also self-funded the F-20A Tigershark development and flight testing, much to the chagrin of the Air Force and F-16 community.

Re: Lockheed -- the Skunk Works (aka ADP) was deliberately buried inside of the Lockheed California Company (aka Calac) from the P-38 days until 1991. Once it was its own 'profit center' it became more of a challenge for leadership as to where to distribute IR&D and PPE costs (they traditionally spend relatively little in B&P). During the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Calac had two substantial 'white world' programs to allocate ADP's allowable costs -- the S-3 and P-3 aircraft for the Navy and FMS.

Isn't it ironic, and even bizarre, that the Navy picked up most of the tab for internally-funded stealth technology development, while they themselves were largely in the dark, to wit, the A-12 disaster.
Yes, Northrop did fund the F-20A internally at a time when the USG wanted primes to explore new potential platforms and tech but in the end, we all know how that goes, ultimately the USG does not like unsolicited proposals because they do suffer from not-invented-here-syndrome, even if the primes were and are right-on the money. We got screwed on the F-20A primarily because it had some capabilities that rivaled and potentially were better than the F-16, so no exports.
 
Heres a suggestion, the factory might be for a drone program rather than for a manned fighter. When Boeing was eliminated from the CCA program it said that it would continue to receive funding from the defence department for work on the MQ-25, MQ-28 and an undisclosed combat drone project. Theyve expanded production facilities in Australia to produce the MQ-28 and the MQ-25 is produced at a facility at St Louis airport but there hasnt been a lot of mention of this other black project combat drone.

Though even if it was a speculative build for NGAD they can still repurpose it for other programs. (besides any bad investment can just be written off as a tax deduction)
 
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Says who?
Its a moving target..Block 4 in the 2020's..block 5 in the 2030's etc. So it will always be chasing a capability upgrade. That will also be the case for the F-15EX though there the upgrades are likely to be more modest given the already high cost and low inventory volumes. First they would need to get back things that should have been standard like a MAWS etc.
 
The U.S. Air Force has not abandoned its program to build an advanced next-generation fighter, but it does need a redesign to get costs under control and better integrate its planned drone wingmen, the service’s secretary told Defense News in an exclusive interview.

Secretary Frank Kendall also said a revamped Next Generation Air Dominance fighter platform could end up with a less complex, smaller engine than originally intended to try to hold down its price...

 
You don't built a 1.6 billion building if you are not sure of the end of the contract.
Unless you negotiated a really good tax break (something Boeing are usually pretty cut-throat about). Did Boeing pay for it, or did state and local government?
 
Unless you negotiated a really good tax break (something Boeing are usually pretty cut-throat about). Did Boeing pay for it, or did state and local government?
They've leased the land and probably have plenty of ways to down (right) size the deal depending on how their fortunes pan out on a few of these programs. Pretty standard really. Not to diminsh their internal investment but its not like they went out and have already sunk $1+ Bn into it in hope of winning.
 

“Do you hand the monopoly on fifth- and sixth-generation fighters to Lockheed? Or do you hope that Boeing, which seems to be trying to decide if rocks are still edible, somehow could execute?” he said, adding that it’s unclear whether the Boeing has a design team capable of developing a new advanced aircraft.
 
“Do you hand the monopoly on fifth- and sixth-generation fighters to Lockheed? Or do you hope that Boeing, which seems to be trying to decide if rocks are still edible, somehow could execute?” he said, adding that it’s unclear whether the Boeing has a design team capable of developing a new advanced aircraft.

Wasn't Boeing's proposal described as the more advanced and somewhat riskier design concept?
 
Interesting article , the mach 2 cruiser could be a game changer...

"A high-altitude supercruiser (Mach 2+) can survive with moderate reduction in radar cross section, combined with speed, altitude, and stand-off launch." in that article,

Sounds like what the MiG-31 is doing in Ukraine with the Kinzhal and R-37M right now.

AFAIK, no MiG-31 has been shot down by the S-300 or Patriot so far?
 

"... Could we use strictly attritable and standoff capability? So CCAs that penetrate the airspace, they didn't call it the CCAs back then, but that was the idea and standoff capabilities like F-15. And they said, well, sort of except for the fact that they're not going to be able to find their targets, we need something inside that airspace to find the targets that are inside that contested bubble. "

I wonder why CCAs operating inside the SAM bubble cannot find targets for standoff weapon carriers outside the SAM bubble.

Perhaps a CCA that can do the job would be as large and expensive as a manned fighter?
 
Been holding off until we hear more, now that we have: this sucks. First kill AETP, now shrinking NGAP. This is the definition of penny wise and pound foolish: possible major capability loss for likely minor cost saving. Get in front of Congress and make your case for the money.
 
What I read under the lines is that NGAP, as being integrated with NGAD airframe to maximize propulsion efficiency, increases volume, mass, complexity and hence cost. By decoupling them, or degrading their integration down to a certain level, NGAD would be minorly less performant but could be "good enough".
 

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