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

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.
Its actually worst. The narrative so far has been "let us divest things we have and buy fewer of what we have in production...shrink the force..because we need to invest in future technologies that are needed around the 2030 timeframe thus needing record RDT&E increases". They are basically asking for a rescoping of the entire air vehicle program and thus probably adding half a decade to the program with no plans to show their work. This 12 months after they issued a NGAD RFP to industry with the progam that must have passed multiple reviews and a formal AOA. The AF doesn't have a lot of equity with Congress but its probably going to take a further beating on that front.
 
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".
There's a couple problems here. One is that the engine is more than propulsion, F-35 is already making hard decisions about future capabilities due to F135 limits. Second is that the pacing threat isn't slowing down or scaling back, I'm not a "zomg China owns us!" alarmist but PLAAF would laugh all the way to the bank on this.
 
"... 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?
Exactly. CCAs would be austere extensions of the PCA/NGAD platform which would have the broad spectrum stealth and sensors to see and coordinate the CCA within the A2/AD bubble. CCAs would carry A2A missile closer to the enemy and provide some targeting data. Passive sensors? Lower cost active ones? If you eliminate NGAD and abandon the manned element in the manned/unmanned teaming strategy, CCAs will need to grow in size and cost. They will need to carry mission systems similar to NGAD and would require total autonomy. That's risky. Not sure if we are ready for that.
 
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.
It makes no sense. So they are blaming the engine for the primary driver of costs? They have invested a lot of money via the AETP program and NGAP. A production ready engine for the F-35A/C was supposedly set for 2027/28.

The assumption is they are more concerned with fly away cost of the engine. NGAP was supposed to have provided greater thrust, range - which is needed in the Pacific, and increased cooling. It also will have provided a technology edge over the Chinese.

What engine do they use instead to reduce costs? Resize the F135 and adapt it for NGAD? Public pronouncements indicated that NGAP would be smaller than the AETP. Possibly relying on 2 engines instead of 1? Or are they thinking about a smaller planform and smaller engine? Less payload, slower, less range?

Kendall's knew about NGAD's cost previously. The AF made a decision not to proceed with an award in the 2021 time frame. They had a lot of time to study the issue. Kendall also previously said that NGAD was in EMD, even though it wasn't officially, indicating the design was at an advanced level of maturity.

This mess gives me the impression that the DAF doesn't know what it is doing.
 
It makes no sense. So they are blaming the engine for the primary driver of costs? They have invested a lot of money via the AETP program and NGAP. A production ready engine for the F-35A/C was supposedly set for 2027/28.

The assumption is they are more concerned with fly away cost of the engine. NGAP was supposed to have provided greater thrust, range - which is needed in the Pacific, and increased cooling. It also will have provided a technology edge over the Chinese.

What engine do they use instead to reduce costs? Resize the F135 and adapt it for NGAD? Public pronouncements indicated that NGAP would be smaller than the AETP. Possibly relying on 2 engines instead of 1? Or are they thinking about a smaller planform and smaller engine? Less payload, slower, less range?

Kendall's knew about NGAD's cost previously. The AF made a decision not to proceed with an award in the 2021 time frame. They had a lot of time to study the issue. Kendall also previously said that NGAD was in EMD, even though it wasn't officially, indicating the design was at an advanced level of maturity.

This mess gives me the impression that the DAF doesn't know what it is doing.
Have we pondered the idea that maybe all of this back and forth theatrics and boeing low-key building advanced aircraft manufacturing sites could just be social media warfare to make everyone (including us) believe that they are struggling?
 
Kendall's knew about NGAD's cost previously. The AF made a decision not to proceed with an award in the 2021 time frame. They had a lot of time to study the issue. Kendall also previously said that NGAD was in EMD, even though it wasn't officially, indicating the design was at an advanced level of maturity.

This mess gives me the impression that the DAF doesn't know what it is doing.

Its actually worst. The narrative so far has been "let us divest things we have and buy fewer of what we have in production...shrink the force..because we need to invest in future technologies that are needed around the 2030 timeframe thus needing record RDT&E increases". They are basically asking for a rescoping of the entire air vehicle program and thus probably adding half a decade to the program with no plans to show their work. This 12 months after they issued a NGAD RFP to industry with the progam that must have passed multiple reviews and a formal AOA. The AF doesn't have a lot of equity with Congress but its probably going to take a further beating on that front.

Good points. Kendall apparently sees NGAD/PCA as his baby, dating back to when he was DoD undersecretary for acquisition and his sponsorship of DARPA's ADI activity. Nevertheless, rescoping the program at this late date is bureaucrat speak for 'back to the drawing board'. If the reports are accurate, this is a FUBAR situation.

My guess is that briefings of Pentagon principals began a few weeks ago, in preparation for the formal Milestone B approval by the current DoD acquisition chief William LaPlante. This is the critical go/no-go period, in part because the CAPE presents their independent cost estimate and the resource officers review the service-wide budget plans and programming. (The CAPE estimate carries significant weight, particularly if the EMD contract is of the cost-plus variety.)

I have to go back to Navy Secretary John Lehman to remember another service secretary who seemed to have taken on the role of birthing and raising an individual aircraft program. And we all know how that baby (the ATA/A-12 program) turned out, Lehman's later denials of his deep involvement to the contrary.
 
One of articles specifically mentioned downsizing the engine. I would think the major driver of cost would be complexity? Also an engine downgrade seems like such a fundamental redesign, it is hard to imagine that this is not a massive delay. Avionics downgrades would probably be a lot more timeline tolerant.
 
"... 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?
Pretty much. Systems account for 30-35% of the cost of an F35. So while not including the cockpit, you're still looking at probably 90% the cost of an F35 for something with all the same systems and just unmanned.
 
One of the engine companies wants to go full commercial/civilian. Pentagon wants it in military for a show of competition. Just a show with back breaking economics. So when the number of engine options fall to one their projections of cost goes out of the window. The new F-35 engine from the company that makes the old F-35 engine. We have no problems with that.
 
Pretty much. Systems account for 30-35% of the cost of an F35. So while not including the cockpit, you're still looking at probably 90% the cost of an F35 for something with all the same systems and just unmanned.

We already know that increment 1 CCA is down to two contractors, and that one is a permutation of the XQ-67 and the other likely therefore the Fury from Blue Force, which is roughly in the same size/performance class. Cost has been estimated as “1/4 - 1/3 of F-35”.

CCAs are on the low end of the performance curve - subsonic, range only marginally greater than F-35, and a payload likely limited to ~1000 lbs. We do not know the avionics requirements but I think it is reasonable to assume they have no radar, since they would lack all of the SWAP requirements of any significant capability. So likely some kind of DAS type system for tracking and all around awareness, likely with some kind of ESM system at least relevant against airborne radars (X band). Disposable countermeasures, probably enough ECM to at least fake being a larger aircraft and maybe a range gate push off. MADL compatible datalink for coms. I think that’s all we are looking at in a CCA, at least this increment.

Several major capabilities clearly get sacrificed compared to the manned system: AESA radar (and associated jamming modes), speed, and distance. The benefit is of course cost, not just of the aircraft, but also in maintenance and training.

As I noted previously, the NGAD was likely envisioned as the sensor/control node of a group of CCAs, along with a long ranged BVR capability, and as a manned platform required a much higher degree of survivability and performance on top. The USAF seems to be questioning just how much survivability and performance they really need from what ideally is an aircraft avoiding direct contact if armed CCAs are still available.

EDIT: Complicating this scenario is the fact that control and sensor nodes are increasingly something that can be offloaded to other specialized CCAs: we already know the XQ-67A is optimized for loiter time and apparently is a dedicated sensor platform (OBSS). High altitude UAVs with laser downlinks might provide low latency communications via the future LEO Transport Layer of satellites, the first ~130 of which will be in orbit this time next year.
 
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We already know that increment 1 CCA is down to two contractors, and that one is a permutation of the XQ-67 and the other likely therefore the Firry from Blue Force, which is roughly in the same size/performance class. Cost has been estimated as “1/4 - 1/3 of F-35”.

CCAs are on the low end of the performance curve - subsonic, range only marginally greater than F-35, and a payload likely limited to ~1000 lbs. we do not know the avionics requirements but I think it is reasonable to assume they have no radar, since they would lack all of the SWAP requirements of any significant capability. So likely some kind of DAS type system for tracking and all around awareness, likely with some kind of ESM system at least relevant against airborne radars (X band). Disposable countermeasures, probably enough ECM to at least fake being a larger aircraft and maybe a range gate push off. MADL compatible datalink for coms. I think that’s all we are looking at in a CCA, at least this increment.

Several major capabilities clearly get sacrificed compared to the manned system: AESA radar (and associated jamming modes), speed, and distance. The benefit is of course cost, not just of the aircraft, but also in maintenance and training.

As I noted previously, the NGAD was likely envisioned as the sensor/control node of a group of CCAs, along with a long ranged BVR capability, and as a manned platform required a much higher degree of survivability and performance on top. The USAF seems to be questioning just how much survivability and performance they really need from what ideally is an aircraft avoiding direct contact if armed CCAs are still available.
So for the NGAD, you're thinking more of a departure from kinetic maneuvering like previous fighters? Maybe emphasis will be put on stealth, DEW, BVR, and rapid sustained acceleration to simply knock off any attempted BFM conflicts and allow pick off by the CCA.
 
So for the NGAD, you're thinking more of a departure from kinetic maneuvering like previous fighters? Maybe emphasis will be put on stealth, DEW, BVR, and rapid sustained acceleration to simply knock off any attempted BFM conflicts and allow pick off by the CCA.

Yes, and/or possibly range and payload as well. The current talk is largely about engines, which makes me think they are questioning the need for raw performance, or else questioning the MTOW that those engines would have to push to get that performance.

EDIT: one of my previous assumptions was that NGAD would have a range sufficient to operate from the second island chain with minimal tanker support, because this range band is safer. But now a days I am not convinced this area is significantly safer than the larger number of airstrips one might find in the first chain. It is possible that range is being slashed, not performance. If your CCAs are first island chained based, having NGAD in the second island chain might not buy you much.
 
Yes, and/or possibly range and payload as well. The current talk is largely about engines, which makes me think they are questioning the need for raw performance, or else questioning the MTOW that those engines would have to push to get that performance.

EDIT: one of my previous assumptions was that NGAD would have a range sufficient to operate from the second island chain with minimal tanker support, because this range band is safer. But now a days I am not convinced this area is significantly safer than the larger number of airstrips one might find in the first chain. It is possible that range is being slashed, not performance. If your CCAs are first island chained based, having NGAD in the second island chain might not buy you much.
My thoughts exactly. Islands will be much more vulnerable given the leaps and bounds we are all taking towards long range strike capabilities. I'm honestly surprised that more emphasis isn't being out on giving this capability to the F/A-XX. But that's a weak point to state given the infancy of the program. My main drive here is I'd rather have my Island move than a sitting duck, granted there are limitations to carrier operations as far as weight goes. I wonder if a CSG running and NGAD-like platform from its decks and amphibs handling some kind of CCA component would be possible. (1st and 2nd island mobile chain).
 
You lose so much capability in a smaller carrier it's not even funny.

...

We are currently at the point where GFE, government furnished equipment (combat systems and engines) account for 60% or more of the cost of the ship (using Burke data), and that number is increasing as more systems get added to the "minimum capability list."

Bluntly, about 2/3rds of the cost of a ship is unchanging regardless of size.
I've been thinking more about this, and I understand the argument that going smaller looses a lot of capability for only a small cost savings - but I think the cost savings is more than just the steel dollars.

If you look at crew sizes for different carriers like the QE, CDG, Vikrant, etc they are all around 1,700 or less including airwing. The wikipedia lists 4,500 for a Ford, but later states 2,600 for crew size. If you built a smaller carrier, you can save almost 1,000 crewmembers when staffing that one carrier which is huge with all the recruiting shortfalls. Even if you had no problem with recruiting everyone, the crew savings per ship could be used to man 2 ships instead of 1, allowing more coverage of the seas. Or you could man more subs, destroyers, etc.

Another item to look at is cost of the airwing. Fords airwing is what around 80? CDG and QE are around 40. With how expensive airframes are getting that is not an insignificant cost to fully fit out. You lose a ton of capability when reducing the airwing that much, but you also gain a more distributed fleet. With CCA's and the like being developed you could probably surge the number of sorties even with a smaller manned airwing - which really helps the appeal of smaller carriers IMO.
 
My thoughts exactly. Islands will be much more vulnerable given the leaps and bounds we are all taking towards long range strike capabilities. I'm honestly surprised that more emphasis isn't being out on giving this capability to the F/A-XX. But that's a weak point to state given the infancy of the program. My main drive here is I'd rather have my Island move than a sitting duck, granted there are limitations to carrier operations as far as weight goes. I wonder if a CSG running and NGAD-like platform from its decks and amphibs handling some kind of CCA component would be possible. (1st and 2nd island mobile chain).

Ship board aircraft are a USN/USMC thing. The airforce is stuck to land. That said, there are still ways of limiting runway dependence and increasing the number of locations you can operate from. NGADs reevaluation might also reflect the fact that an F-111 sized aircraft would have far fewer basing options. It might well be that an FAXX style aircraft with lower stall speeds is better suited to future land based operations as well (despite the range limitations this would impose) due to the much larger number of shorter air strips in the westpac. There would also be economies of scale for a lot items even if the airframes were not identical. Perhaps the USAF should buy some F-35B, or adopt the wider control surfaces of the C but without the structural reinforcement. Or as a simple add on, perhaps adopt the drag chute of the Norwegian models.
 
Ship board aircraft are a USN/USMC thing. The airforce is stuck to land. That said, there are still ways of limiting runway dependence and increasing the number of locations you can operate from. NGADs reevaluation might also reflect the fact that an F-111 sized aircraft would have far fewer basing options. It might well be that an FAXX style aircraft with lower stall speeds is better suited to future land based operations as well (despite the range limitations this would impose) due to the much larger number of shorter air strips in the westpac. There would also be economies of scale for a lot items even if the airframes were not identical. Perhaps the USAF should buy some F-35B, or adopt the wider control surfaces of the C but without the structural reinforcement. Or as a simple add on, perhaps adopt the drag chute of the Norwegian models.
What is the interest for USAF to buy F-35b or C and drag chute ? USAF need NGAD not different F-35 type.
 
What is the interest for USAF to buy F-35b or C and drag chute ? USAF need NGAD not different F-35 type.

I am thinking more short term. NGAD was never expected to enter service before the 2030s. But USAF might also need to put some serious thought into a cost benefit analysis of range verse MTOW and take off distance. If they give it longer range and heavier weight, what airfields does that buy and which ones does it close?
 
We already know that increment 1 CCA is down to two contractors, and that one is a permutation of the XQ-67 and the other likely therefore the Fury from Blue Force, which is roughly in the same size/performance class. Cost has been estimated as “1/4 - 1/3 of F-35”.

CCAs are on the low end of the performance curve - subsonic, range only marginally greater than F-35, and a payload likely limited to ~1000 lbs.
Remember that for air-to-air work, 1000lbs is 3x AMRAAM, or if you can cheat it a little 2x AMRAAM and 2x AIM9s. 10x AMRAAM and 2x AIM9s is only 4000lbs.
 
Remember that for air-to-air work, 1000lbs is 3x AMRAAM, or if you can cheat it a little 2x AMRAAM and 2x AIM9s. 10x AMRAAM and 2x AIM9s is only 4000lbs.

Yes, but I think for practical reasons they will have 2xAIM-120/260 externally. Full size BVR AAMs are over a third of the length of the airframe (~12 feet /3 meters). Creating an internal bay for that on either of the airframes being considered for the role seems like a non starter. At most I would think the Incr 1 CCAs could carry a pair of “half RAMs” internally, presuming the USAF has any intention of developing such. But given the huge existing inventory of AIM-120, that has to be the primary weapon, and I think either platform would be limited to 2x externally.
 
I've been thinking more about this, and I understand the argument that going smaller looses a lot of capability for only a small cost savings - but I think the cost savings is more than just the steel dollars.

If you look at crew sizes for different carriers like the QE, CDG, Vikrant, etc they are all around 1,700 or less including airwing. The wikipedia lists 4,500 for a Ford, but later states 2,600 for crew size. If you built a smaller carrier, you can save almost 1,000 crewmembers when staffing that one carrier which is huge with all the recruiting shortfalls. Even if you had no problem with recruiting everyone, the crew savings per ship could be used to man 2 ships instead of 1, allowing more coverage of the seas. Or you could man more subs, destroyers, etc.
Crew of a Ford-class is about 2600, with about 2000 more in the air wing.

Basically all the ~1000 bodies above the crews of the smaller carriers are there to feed, etc the crew and air wing. Raw crew numbers yes you could man a QE and a couple of DDGs instead of a Ford, but not by the skills they have (or qualify for).
 
Yes, but I think for practical reasons they will have 2xAIM-120/260 externally. Full size BVR AAMs are over a third of the length of the airframe (~12 feet /3 meters). Creating an internal bay for that on either of the airframes being considered for the role seems like a non starter. At most I would think the Incr 1 CCAs could carry a pair of “half RAMs” internally, presuming the USAF has any intention of developing such. But given the huge existing inventory of AIM-120, that has to be the primary weapon, and I think either platform would be limited to 2x externally.
Conformally, I hope, if they're stuck carrying AMRAAMs externally.

I'd need a very convincing RCS study before I approved even conformal AMRAAMs over internal.
 
Conformally, I hope, if they're stuck carrying AMRAAMs externally.

I'd need a very convincing RCS study before I approved even conformal AMRAAMs over internal.

Depends on what range you want to delay detection to. If you can get it down to 60 mi/100 km or less from a fighter sized radar with some low RCS pylons and a pair of AAMs, I would call it good enough. IMO it just needs to get within a reasonably lethal range of its AAMs. I’m not knowledgeable enough to how doable that is. But it is hard to imagine how conventional AAMs could be completely internalized on these small airframes. Conformal might be a good halfway measure; I had not thought of it.
 
When they say downsize the engine they're talking the physical size, which means the physical weight. Weight directly correlates with cost. If the engine they decide to go for is 80% the weight of the demonstrator engines than it should be roughly 80% of the cost. Also, they probably can make the airframe smaller because the original design didn't have CCA's in mind. Which means it was carrying six to eight missiles internally. They can probably pare that down to four missiles internally and put the rest on CCAs. That will give them a smaller lower weight aircraft with smaller engines, lowering the cost of the aircraft. However, with the added capability of the CCAs, it would be just as effective or possibly more effective than the original configuration size they were originally looking at. Makes complete sense to me.
 
Depends on what range you want to delay detection to. If you can get it down to 60 mi/100 km or less from a fighter sized radar with some low RCS pylons and a pair of AAMs, I would call it good enough. IMO it just needs to get within a reasonably lethal range of its AAMs. I’m not knowledgeable enough to how doable that is. But it is hard to imagine how conventional AAMs could be completely internalized on these small airframes. Conformal might be a good halfway measure; I had not thought of it.
If they go the digital century series of CCA designs where they are buying a new version every few years or so, conformal carriage makes a lot sense if they can still get a low RCS out of it. Or some type of conformal carriage with a blow out cover that ejects at launch. With the quicker design and build cycle the missile shape will outlive the airframe so you can afford to design the airframe around the missile. No IWB probably helps reduce costs and complexity and reduces the size of the airframe.
 
We already know that increment 1 CCA is down to two contractors, and that one is a permutation of the XQ-67 and the other likely therefore the Fury from Blue Force, which is roughly in the same size/performance class. Cost has been estimated as “1/4 - 1/3 of F-35”.

CCAs are on the low end of the performance curve - subsonic, range only marginally greater than F-35, and a payload likely limited to ~1000 lbs. We do not know the avionics requirements but I think it is reasonable to assume they have no radar, since they would lack all of the SWAP requirements of any significant capability. So likely some kind of DAS type system for tracking and all around awareness, likely with some kind of ESM system at least relevant against airborne radars (X band). Disposable countermeasures, probably enough ECM to at least fake being a larger aircraft and maybe a range gate push off. MADL compatible datalink for coms. I think that’s all we are looking at in a CCA, at least this increment.

Several major capabilities clearly get sacrificed compared to the manned system: AESA radar (and associated jamming modes), speed, and distance. The benefit is of course cost, not just of the aircraft, but also in maintenance and training.

As I noted previously, the NGAD was likely envisioned as the sensor/control node of a group of CCAs, along with a long ranged BVR capability, and as a manned platform required a much higher degree of survivability and performance on top. The USAF seems to be questioning just how much survivability and performance they really need from what ideally is an aircraft avoiding direct contact if armed CCAs are still available.

EDIT: Complicating this scenario is the fact that control and sensor nodes are increasingly something that can be offloaded to other specialized CCAs: we already know the XQ-67A is optimized for loiter time and apparently is a dedicated sensor platform (OBSS). High altitude UAVs with laser downlinks might provide low latency communications via the future LEO Transport Layer of satellites, the first ~130 of which will be in orbit this time next year.

If F-35s are destroyers of the WW2, NGADs are cruisers, and B-21s are battleships.

Long-range subsonic CCAs are destroyer escorts (whose main job was not torpedo attack), and short-range, forward-deployed supersonic CCAs, if such things emerge eventually, are PT boats.


PT-CCA.png
 
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When they say downsize the engine they're talking the physical size, which means the physical weight. Weight directly correlates with cost. If the engine they decide to go for is 80% the weight of the demonstrator engines than it should be roughly 80% of the cost. Also, they probably can make the airframe smaller because the original design didn't have CCA's in mind. Which means it was carrying six to eight missiles internally. They can probably pare that down to four missiles internally and put the rest on CCAs. That will give them a smaller lower weight aircraft with smaller engines, lowering the cost of the aircraft. However, with the added capability of the CCAs, it would be just as effective or possibly more effective than the original configuration size they were originally looking at. Makes complete sense to me.
They still need a plane that can deal with Pacific Ocean distances unrefueled.

Which quite bluntly means something roughly F111 size and weight, just to carry some 30,000+lbs of fuel. ~100klbs or more.

On an airframe that big, 4000lbs of weapons is a trivial load. And is equivalent to 10x AMRAAMs and 2x AIM9s.
 
They still need a plane that can deal with Pacific Ocean distances unrefueled.

Which quite bluntly means something roughly F111 size and weight, just to carry some 30,000+lbs of fuel. ~100klbs or more.

On an airframe that big, 4000lbs of weapons is a trivial load. And is equivalent to 10x AMRAAMs and 2x AIM9s.

Need is a strong word. Also, it is not clear to me that “unrefueled” is a realistic goal: Guam is 2000 miles from China, so there is your target combat radius. Now, within that radius, how many airfields can support a 100,000 lb airframe with a take off distance of…whatever NGADs notional distance is? I would think we would need to know a lot more about the requirements to judge the effectiveness of range. If Anderson and GUM are the only options in the second chain, then the range/weight increase might be counter productive.

Regarding AAMs, they are more volume limited than weight limited. I doubt any reduction in warload is necessary.
 
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Is this all about looking 20 years in the future and thinking/believing “we can do 95% of this unmanned”?
 
Is this all about looking 20 years in the future and thinking/believing “we can do 95% of this unmanned”?

I do not think USAF is abandoning a 6th gen manned aircraft; I think it is reconsidering what it needs in one given a changing threat environment and flat budget.
 
Maybe the USAF needs to re-think the role and prioritization of fighter aircraft in the Pacific, period. China is plenty fortified in the SCS, however, their southern, western, and northern flanks are pretty vulnerable and would give fighters a better opportunity to perform their traditional roles without major range concerns.
 
This USAF apprehensive view regarding moving forward with NGAD, let the disinformation flow, perfect time for some moderate chaos. Boeing probably and covertly moving forward with USAF NGAD, ADP working other "related" projects, NG is spooling up USN F/A-XX. CCAs are NGAD companions and/or stand-alone strike vehicles. The wonderful world of the USG and with a huge black budget, lots of activity.
 
Maybe the pacing threat changed, or they learned something new about adversary capabilities, doctrine, tactics already coming down the road that caused them to re-assess. Maybe a compelling new capability became available on our end unexpectedly.

Without knowing what the Air Force knows, it's hard to place a value judgment on what's going on right now.
 
Is $300m/aircraft really a lot for 6th gen? At a production rate of 40 aircraft/year, that only works out to ~$12bn/year.
 
Maybe the pacing threat changed, or they learned something new about adversary capabilities, doctrine, tactics already coming down the road that caused them to re-assess. Maybe a compelling new capability became available on our end unexpectedly.
And all of that happened inside the last year? Since the RFP was released last summer. What are the odds of that? More likely that they simply don't have the funds and a rescoping at the 11th hour will lead to lawsuits and a huge set of other problems which make setting this aside and starting on a new program (like NGB?) the only viable next step unless they have funding and walk all this talk back.
 
Hey if they compromise for single engine they can build twice as many for the same price right? /s
 
This USAF apprehensive view regarding moving forward with NGAD, let the disinformation flow, perfect time for some moderate chaos. Boeing probably and covertly moving forward with USAF NGAD, ADP working other "related" projects, NG is spooling up USN F/A-XX. CCAs are NGAD companions and/or stand-alone strike vehicles. The wonderful world of the USG and with a huge black budget, lots of activity.
This is what I'm saying. Let's make our most critical program seem like it's in shambles to keep china's biggest Intel source in the dark (the internet).
 

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