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USAF/US NAVY 6th Generation Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA

Flyaway

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TomcatViP

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I wonder what his departure means for how this project is being pursued and envisioned.
Rumored to replace Ellen Lord
 

bring_it_on

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I wonder what his departure means for how this project is being pursued and envisioned.

Rather than the presence or absence of one man, Congressional support is probably a better barometer of where the program is in terms of shoring up support and confidence in the R&D and other programmatic decisions that influence the next 12-18 months of work on the program. Between the NGAD and the various NG propulsion efforts, the USAF got 90+% of what it had requested so I think they did quite well in FY-21. Whoever replaces him, probably won't get to influence the program until perhaps the FY-23 budget and that is assuming it was *just* Roper (again, just one man in a large organization) who was pushing this and that the broader USAF uniformed and civilian leadership wasn't committed.
 

Josh_TN

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The digital century idea sounds intriguing, but quite honestly a little too good to be true. Presumably members of the appropriate congressional committee have some information about the demonstrator built for NGAD and can make a more informed decision based on a real piece of machinery.
 

sferrin

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marauder2048

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Meh...he plays very fast and loose with the facts.

Example: in his white paper on a future fighter he claims that after 15 years,
AF "planes" exhibit a cumulative annual growth rate in O&S costs of 5 - 7% .

I can find no evidence to substantiate that claimed trend for fighters.

It's similar to his initial claim of "O&S is 70% of life cycle costs."*
It doesn't apply to DOD systems in general and definitely not for fighters.

To understand the origins of the 70:30 ratio, we conducted a literature search.
What was remarkable about this review is how little empirical research appears to
have been conducted on this topic, and how a recurring, authoritative set of
assertions continues to propagate without independent evaluation or confirmation

https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a600495.pdf

Ultimately, a lot of his reasoning comes off as:

"We will attempt to save money through competition no matter how much it costs us"

* He has modified this stance now to include modernization in the 70% LCC
which is also a bit meh since O&S costs can be dependent on modernization
 

trose213

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IMO this guy is a national treasure. (Which means they'll probably show him the door.)

Nah, he's much more of a Democrat than a Republican. I was pretty surprised that Trump's Pentagon kept him around, but then again Mattis was floating hiring Flournoy.
 
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doggedman

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Does anyone think that Lockheed's new facility at Palmdale is related to manufacturing a new 6th generation fighter? Does anyone have any thoughts that could contradict the view that the new facility is to support or prove technology for a new fighter program?
 

bring_it_on

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Apparently there is a restricted program that Lockheed (Palmdale) won that is being acquired by a US customer and is being marketed internationally as well.

From the Q4 earnings call:

We have seen our classified business from an order book standpoint and from a sales standpoint growing faster than the corporation. If you go around the horn, I've mentioned in the past, we won a strategic program in Palmdale, where we're starting to see the benefits of multiple customers starting to -- want that system. In fact, we're also in conversation with international partner of the United States of their interest in that system and back to Mike's question, that's the reason for the capital growth out in Palmdale.
 

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Apparently there is a restricted program that Lockheed (Palmdale) won that is being acquired by a US customer and is being marketed internationally as well.

From the Q4 earnings call:

We have seen our classified business from an order book standpoint and from a sales standpoint growing faster than the corporation. If you go around the horn, I've mentioned in the past, we won a strategic program in Palmdale, where we're starting to see the benefits of multiple customers starting to -- want that system. In fact, we're also in conversation with international partner of the United States of their interest in that system and back to Mike's question, that's the reason for the capital growth out in Palmdale.
How do they define strategic?
 

bring_it_on

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How do they define strategic?

If I were to venture a guess I would say that it is likely referring to the potential impact on sales etc on Lockheed as opposed to the traditional use of the word which reflects the mission etc. So think number of zeros and not mutually assured destruction :)
 

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I'm thinking it's a new UAV/UCAV or possibly a new missile and not a sixth gen fighter. We didn't sell the F-22 to anyone else, we're not going to sell it's replacement to anyone else as well. I also don't think the new LM facility at Palmdale has to do with a new fighter, because it would make Roper's threat about switching over to the new fighter and cancelling the F-35 a hollow threat. That leads me to believe the fighter demo that flew was a Boeing Phantom Works product, since NG is busy with the B-21. Otherwise, why would LM see cancelling a further F-35 buy in lieu of the sixth gen fighter as a threat? OK, make us stop building this airplane (F-35) so you can buy that airplane (6th-gen fighter) which is newer and more expensive.
 

marauder2048

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Does anyone think that Lockheed's new facility at Palmdale is related to manufacturing a new 6th generation fighter? Does anyone have any thoughts that could contradict the view that the new facility is to support or prove technology for a new fighter program?
JATM
Otherwise, why would LM see cancelling a further F-35 buy in lieu of the sixth gen fighter as a threat?
Margins.
 

doggedman

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First off, thanks very much to all for the absolutely terrific color. Just a few thoughts:

1. As I recall, we didn't sell the F-22 internationally because of some rather stupid marketing by the Air Force. The Air Force lobbied Congress for funding stating the technology was so damned sensitive and it couldn't be exported. Then, later on, when the Air Force did want to sell it to other customers, Congress threw that right back in their face.

2. But I'll tell you, I do lean towards your UAV idea. Or a missile? Might be production of one of LMT's Hypersonic missile programs?

3. I was on the earnings call and that was the very reason I posed the question.

4. On the interesting point about a 6th generation fighter being a threat to the F-35 - why do you think this? The F-35 seems to be more of a replacement for the F-16. The USAF has always maintained production of two fighter types -one heavy and one light. The 6th generation fighter seems to be more aimed at replacing the F-15 and eventually the small fleet of F-22s? No?
 

bring_it_on

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4. On the interesting point about a 6th generation fighter being a threat to the F-35 - why do you think this? The F-35 seems to be more of a replacement for the F-16. The USAF has always maintained production of two fighter types -one heavy and one light. The 6th generation fighter seems to be more aimed at replacing the F-15 and eventually the small fleet of F-22s? No?

There is finite money to go around. If you are leading a very high rate of production fighter program then you always have to be worried about your customers diluting that by purchasing other types of aircraft. As Marauder said, even if Lockheed gets the NGAD contract their earnings will still be impacted by scaling back from a relatively higher margin (mature), high rate of production program to something new. Not that it really matters to the USAF beyond a certain degree but it is something that the company will no doubt want to track.

Having said that, it is tough to see NGAD hitting rate production any time before the late 2020's at the earliest (probably more like early 2030's is a more reasonable estimate) which means that there is a decade or so before these two programs have to directly compete for procurement funding.
 

Sundog

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There is finite money to go around. If you are leading a very high rate of production fighter program then you always have to be worried about your customers diluting that by purchasing other types of aircraft. As Marauder said, even if Lockheed gets the NGAD contract their earnings will still be impacted by scaling back from a relatively higher margin (mature), high rate of production program to something new. Not that it really matters to the USAF beyond a certain degree but it is something that the company will no doubt want to track.

Having said that, it is tough to see NGAD hitting rate production any time before the late 2020's at the earliest (probably more like early 2030's is a more reasonable estimate) which means that there is a decade or so before these two programs have to directly compete for procurement funding.

Also, we know the new production engines won't be ready until the 2025 time frame as well.
 

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Do you have a source mentioning the NGAD engine or its timeline? I hadn't seen anything about it.
 

bring_it_on

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Do you have a source mentioning the NGAD engine or its timeline? I hadn't seen anything about it.

Most are going by the budget. The Advanced engine development efforts seem to conclude around FY-25 based on the -21 budget materials. I don't think that, in and of itself, is sufficient to draw the conclusions that AvWeek etc have done..
 

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bring_it_on

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We are developing it in secrecy, potentially producing it in secrecy(if it is indeed the source of Palmdale expansion), planning to store it in secrecy and now even potentially offering it to allies in secrecy. When was the last time something like this happened :) How do you think the Navy will keep it secret assuming that reports of it being integrated on the SH are true?
 

marauder2048

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We are developing it in secrecy, potentially producing it in secrecy(if it is indeed the source of Palmdale expansion), planning to store it in secrecy and now even potentially offering it to allies in secrecy. When was the last time something like this happened :) How do you think the Navy will keep it secret assuming that reports of it being integrated on the SH are true?
Oh it's pure guesswork on my part. Just based on the fact that JATM is SAP and seems to have some
heavy NAWCMD involvement (https://www.navair.navy.mil/news/NAWCWDs-Meagher-named-Civilian-Logistician-Year/Thu-12202018-1554)
and the timeline for Palmdale's facility expansion lines up.
 

rooster

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I'm thinking it's a new UAV/UCAV or possibly a new missile and not a sixth gen fighter. We didn't sell the F-22 to anyone else, we're not going to sell it's replacement to anyone else as well. I also don't think the new LM facility at Palmdale has to do with a new fighter, because it would make Roper's threat about switching over to the new fighter and cancelling the F-35 a hollow threat. That leads me to believe the fighter demo that flew was a Boeing Phantom Works product, since NG is busy with the B-21. Otherwise, why would LM see cancelling a further F-35 buy in lieu of the sixth gen fighter as a threat? OK, make us stop building this airplane (F-35) so you can buy that airplane (6th-gen fighter) which is newer and more expensive.
Why can't NG build a bomber and a fighter demonstator? Boeing is much busier than NG; and isn't NG the builder of the alleged new uav spy drone? NG is smaller but they are big enough to do more than 1 project. Most of the heavy lifting for the raider is done and per the USAF the first one built is production intent.

With the new ultra liberal administration we will be lucky if the demonstrator is followed up with a real article and not canceled in favor of new eagles and vipers. Heck I don't think we will get 100 raiders and a new icbm if he is going to continue going to the left of captain 0. This administration is so liberal the next fighter we get is likely to be the 15x with some LO paint.
 
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In_A_Dream

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Why can't NG build a bomber and a fighter demonstrator? Boeing is much busier than NG; and isn't NG the builder of the alleged new uav spy drone? NG is smaller but they are big enough to do more than 1 project. Most of the heavy lifting for the raider is done and per the USAF the first one built is production intent.

With the new ultra liberal administration we will be lucky if the demonstrator is followed up with a real article and not canceled in favor of new eagles and vipers. Heck I don't think we will get 100 raiders and a new icbm if he is going to continue going to the left of captain 0. This administration is so liberal the next fighter we get is likely to be the 15x with some LO paint.
Unless the US is to become a vassal state to the PRC, the B-21 program will be successful, as will GBSD, & the Columbia Boomers. They will form the backbone of deterrence going into the future. There may be other classified programs that are critical in this regard as well, we did just open up a new branch of the military, meaning we are militarizing another critical war-fighting domain, publicly. I know it's easy to be swept up in political drama but it's not hard to look behind the theatrics and still see there's a competent core of decision makers guiding our country and preparing us for what's over the horizon, even if the political establishment sold out US manufacturing to China decades ago (something we need to get back desperately in some form or fashion).

But let's not get off-topic. Northrop retains engineers for producing fighter aircraft, just like other defense contractors. We may even be surprised and see the defense budget bloom under Biden. Stay hopeful.
 

Josh_TN

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The current administration hasn't indicated any change in defense spending or specific projects. F-15EX and possible F-16 buys are something that the USAF itself is pushing that is not politically driven by any branch of government. I personally think any additional F-16 buys are a bad idea, though the F-15 has a lot of advantages that make it the build worth while. There is aboslutely no way the B-21 gets cancelled. The program is already about to deliver a product and the B-1/2 fleet desperately needs replacement.

As for NGAD, that remains to be seen. Congress seems skeptical of the approach the USAF is taking and the program is too classified to have any sense of how successful it is.
 

bring_it_on

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We are developing it in secrecy, potentially producing it in secrecy(if it is indeed the source of Palmdale expansion), planning to store it in secrecy and now even potentially offering it to allies in secrecy. When was the last time something like this happened :) How do you think the Navy will keep it secret assuming that reports of it being integrated on the SH are true?
Oh it's pure guesswork on my part. Just based on the fact that JATM is SAP and seems to have some
heavy NAWCMD involvement (https://www.navair.navy.mil/news/NAWCWDs-Meagher-named-Civilian-Logistician-Year/Thu-12202018-1554)
and the timeline for Palmdale's facility expansion lines up.

Yes it is logical but I think in the past Lockheed has mentioned that the restricted program was with aeronautics..Wasn't JASSM the last missile the Skunk Works helped out on?
 

bring_it_on

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As for NGAD, that remains to be seen. Congress seems skeptical of the approach the USAF is taking and the program is too classified to have any sense of how successful it is.

How has the Congress expressed its skepticism? By funding 95% of the USAF's ask for the broader effort?
 

Josh_TN

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I meant verbally some of them expressed some skepticism; broadly they seem on board at this juncture. I can't remember who said what but I remember some members being a little leery of the 'digital century series' idea. But it wasn't a political problem; it was the technical aspects.

EDIT: ...and broadly speaking, members of Congress aren't well equipped to judge the technical merits of a program anyway.
 

bring_it_on

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EDIT: ...and broadly speaking, members of Congress aren't well equipped to judge the technical merits of a program anyway.

Well of course. That's why they flood their ranks with a bunch of policy majors as staffers ;)
 
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