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

Dreamfighter

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Also from the previous article;

"the budget request to be presented in the coming weeks will show a “large … commitment” to the NGAD"
"Depending on the threat and hedging against problems in NGAD, the USAF may consider a service-life extension program for the F-22, but Hinote said that seems unlikely because the NGAD is making swift progress."

Sounds to me like they are quite confident, and the flying prototype spoken about is rather something closer to an 'YF-22' or an 'YF-23' (with or without the new engine) then a 'Boeing BOP'.
 
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Deino

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Maybe I missed it, but do we know who built this demonstrator? LM, Boeing or even NG??
 

isayyo2

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Maybe I missed it, but do we know who built this demonstrator? LM, Boeing or even NG??
I just assumed it was a Plant 42 thing, the "Digital Century Series" will probably ensure everyone gets a production run. Besides the drone start-ups, aren't we down to just Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman as the manned combat aircraft builders?
 

Dreamfighter

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Maybe I missed it, but do we know who built this demonstrator? LM, Boeing or even NG??

No clue yet ...

I forgot to quote the first line of that AFMag article:

"The Air Force is preparing to unveil a new 30-year fighter force design that includes at least two all-new fighters."

This article too made reference to a future replacement for the F-16, which would most likely not be some kind of F-35 (*) but rather a clean-sheet design with (much) less emphasis on stealth. The need for this one is muss less urgent and thus further away into the (30-year) future.
So, such a future F-16 replacement, could it be a 'clean-sheet number three/four/five/...' ?
If they already have flown one demonstrator/prototype (from one company or team) for NGAD, then I assume a second demonstrator/prototype (from another company or team) is in the works as well, like with the ATF-program?
With the difference that the 'losing' company (or team) would then get the opportunity to go back to the 'digital drawing board' to improve their 'failed' demonstrator, to later compete again against an updated (and/or unmanned) version of the demonstrator which had won, with perhaps even a third company jumping in at that time with their own proposal / 'digitally developed" demonstrator...

Which clean-sheet demonstrator number the Navy´s F/A-XX then would get, I really don´t know :-D

(*): With F-35 then becoming the F-15E replacement for missions into heavily defended airspace, and having F-15X´s for more permissive and stand-off strike missions (with big/heavy load-outs) that do not require stealth?
 
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Moose

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I generally lean away from the YF-22 comparisons for this as-yet unseen demonstrator. While the ATF flyoff prototypes were still a fair ways from the final product, they were built to meet a fairly well-defined set of requirements. Discussion of NGAD from official sources, however, always seems to indicate that they haven't yet, or haven't until quite recently, defined their requirements that clearly.

I wouldn't be surprised if this demonstrator is closer to Have Blue, which demonstrated specific things the Pentagon was interested in while not being intended to represent an operational combat aircraft's configuration.
 

Deino

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I generally lean away from the YF-22 comparisons for this as-yet unseen demonstrator. While the ATF flyoff prototypes were still a fair ways from the final product, they were built to meet a fairly well-defined set of requirements. Discussion of NGAD from official sources, however, always seems to indicate that they haven't yet, or haven't until quite recently, defined their requirements that clearly.

I wouldn't be surprised if this demonstrator is closer to Have Blue, which demonstrated specific things the Pentagon was interested in while not being intended to represent an operational combat aircraft's configuration.


I fully agree, but if this assumption is correct, service entry for the new type is still years away and the USAF won't already consider the F-22's retirement from 2030 on?!
 

Bhurki

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Apologize if this should be in a separate thread under Speculative but I see a large LM type, two AX100/101 45k thrust class ACE, long range, large internal (12+ AIM-260s) carriage aircraft with an off board “Noble Wingman” under its control.
Talk about overkill.

By the way, here's a higher resolution copy.
Screenshot_20210516-200007.png

Also, is it just me or does someone else also spot the fold-wing joints.
 

sferrin

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How current are the Chinese with these new ways of doing things? Might they actually be more receptive to digital engineering since they're doing so much from scratch? For them, oftentimes there is no status-quo/conservatives to battle against in the first place.
Wouldn't be surprised if they were ahead of the West. (CATIA files wouldn't be much use to them otherwise. ;) )

I’d be a touch surprised if they were ahead of the game. China is making J20s and is the new Cold War competition, no doubt. But how many J20s are deployed and how many f35s are deployed?
Wrong comparison. How many J-20s will they have in ten years and how many F-22s will we have?
 

sferrin

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Apologize if this should be in a separate thread under Speculative but I see a large LM type, two AX100/101 45k thrust class ACE, long range, large internal (12+ AIM-260s) carriage aircraft with an off board “Noble Wingman” under its control.
Except that aircraft would have the Plus-sized 3-stream engines.
 

Dreamfighter

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I generally lean away from the YF-22 comparisons for this as-yet unseen demonstrator. While the ATF flyoff prototypes were still a fair ways from the final product, they were built to meet a fairly well-defined set of requirements. Discussion of NGAD from official sources, however, always seems to indicate that they haven't yet, or haven't until quite recently, defined their requirements that clearly.

I wouldn't be surprised if this demonstrator is closer to Have Blue, which demonstrated specific things the Pentagon was interested in while not being intended to represent an operational combat aircraft's configuration.

That was my point of view too, until quite recently.
The publications mention a 'full-scale prototype', Have Blue was still somewhat sub-scale. I´m not saying NGAD is already on a par development-wise with the YF-22/YF-23 demonstrators, but perhaps closer then we all thought. Maybe it has progressed further then we assumed and it is now somewhere between Have Blue and the ATF demonstrators, and somewhat closer to the latter ...
Also, as NGAD is a family of systems, the 'manned fighter'-part of those systems might be the first and/or the most important one which they want to get developed first, with or without the intended engine from the start. They indeed say they haven´t thought out everything yet about NGAD and much is still to be decided, but perhaps that concerns more the other systems of the family, including decisions with regard to unmanned / optionally manned versions and several complementary systems like lower-cost UCAV´s / loyal wingmen etc.?
But I could be wrong, maybe they just had to unveil it´s existence and first flight to persuade people (politicians) of the path to follow and then you´re probably right and it only is some kind of a 'pre-prototype demonstrator'.
 

Dreamfighter

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I generally lean away from the YF-22 comparisons for this as-yet unseen demonstrator. While the ATF flyoff prototypes were still a fair ways from the final product, they were built to meet a fairly well-defined set of requirements. Discussion of NGAD from official sources, however, always seems to indicate that they haven't yet, or haven't until quite recently, defined their requirements that clearly.

I wouldn't be surprised if this demonstrator is closer to Have Blue, which demonstrated specific things the Pentagon was interested in while not being intended to represent an operational combat aircraft's configuration.


I fully agree, but if this assumption is correct, service entry for the new type is still years away and the USAF won't already consider the F-22's retirement from 2030 on?!

That´s what one of the main reasons I´m now thinking the 'manned fighter part' of NGAD might be (a bit) further along the road then assumed until recently; NGAD is to be an entire family of systems to be fielded by - apparently - the end of the decade, not just 'a manned fighter'...
Edit:
Also, they speak about life-cycles of about 5 to 8 years, much shorter then we are used to for such advanced and complex aircraft, and low production-batches to be quickly followed/complemented by production batches of new iterations/updated variants. So, the 'final product' they envisage to go into production first might not have to be as 'defined' as e.g. the F-22A prototype was, they might go ahead with a small batch of 'YF-F22/23'-style NGAD-aircraft ... The new 'Century Series', right?
Still assuming it is correct they want the NGAD family of systems to be operationally fielded and proven by 2030, so the first steps of the F-22´s phasing-out could begin (or at least be considered seriously) at that time. On the other hand, I´m not exactly sure what to think about the 'plus'-sized advanced adaptive cycle engine status and what the 'prototype'/'demonstrator was then flying with. Could they use something else for the prototype and possibly for early batches? Some kind of altered F-135´s or the derivatives used on the B-21?
 
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Moose

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I'm fairly sceptical the next piloted fighter goes into LRIP without the advanced engines. A drone/wingman possibly, but not the centerpiece aircraft. At the very least, getting Congress to pay for it gets a lot harder if you're pitching the initial blocks as being significantly handicapped right out the gate.

Part of our handicap when discussing this is that we don't know what the focus of the demonstration program is. Have Blue was demonstrating that Lockheed's Hopeless Diamond could fly, like a tactical aircraft, and be hard to see on radar while doing it. The NGAD demonstrator(s) could be focused on a few different things and we could probably make cases for and against each of those fairly easily.
 

TomcatViP

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It's could probably be also a multitude of airframe each testing a specific domain with the results merged on a simulation flown by the pilots. I do not believe that there isn't a flying demonstrator but that is part of my opinion among what's possible.
 

DrRansom

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How current are the Chinese with these new ways of doing things? Might they actually be more receptive to digital engineering since they're doing so much from scratch? For them, oftentimes there is no status-quo/conservatives to battle against in the first place.
Wouldn't be surprised if they were ahead of the West. (CATIA files wouldn't be much use to them otherwise. ;) )

I’d be a touch surprised if they were ahead of the game. China is making J20s and is the new Cold War competition, no doubt. But how many J20s are deployed and how many f35s are deployed?

If I understand the situation correctly, China still doesn't have a fighter (or bomber) jet engine that it really likes. I suspect that China will not commit to J-20 mass production until it has an engine it likes. Until then, there'll be spiral upgrades to stealth, system design, avionics, tactics, etc. Once there's a good engine, though, all bets are off.

It is like their ship production, they spent 15(?) years getting to a point in the shipbuilding industry where they liked what they saw, then it is mass production far beyond the US capabilities.
 

Dreamfighter

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I'm fairly sceptical the next piloted fighter goes into LRIP without the advanced engines. A drone/wingman possibly, but not the centerpiece aircraft.

I agree they would most certainly use some form of advanced engines even for early production batches / LRIP.
Doesn´t the AETP-program have two parts, with GE XA100 & PW XA101 being 'white world' and with focus on future F-35s, and a classified part which focuses on advanced engines for NGAD?
 

Firefinder

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I'm fairly sceptical the next piloted fighter goes into LRIP without the advanced engines.
The only way I can see it happening is if the engines they are using is similar thrust, weight, and size to the Advance Engines but far less efficient.

Cause for testing out the airframe, weapon deployment, and the like you dont need the hypercruiser for 500 miles or what ever the new engines does. And those are the major time sinks.

Kinda like how the Russians did with the SU57.

They had everythin else ready but the engine they really wanted but they did have one that was good enough that was used until the proper one was flight ready, at least thats how I understand it. Or like the Chinese J-20 is going as well.

WOuld also fit with the DIGITAL CENTURY SERIES(tm) thing they have going on. Many different but similar planes with minor changes. So we may be looking at at F-102 verse F-106 type of deal...
 

Bhurki

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I'm fairly sceptical the next piloted fighter goes into LRIP without the advanced engines.
They've had 14 years of time and research money between F135 and whatever flew the NGAD prototype. LRIP is still farther away. I wouldn't doubt it if they fly the initial units with final design copy of a three stream motor. Something like the F135 GO-2.
 

Dragon029

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Doesn´t the AETP-program have two parts, with GE XA100 & PW XA101 being 'white world' and with focus on future F-35s, and a classified part which focuses on advanced engines for NGAD?
As I understand it, the adaptive cycle engine efforts branch after AETP; the XA100 and XA101 designs will be 'slightly' modified to become F135 replacements / upgrades, while another program will adapt the concepts and designs into even more powerful (and almost certainly larger) engines for at least the USAF's NGAD program. The Navy's NGAD is a bit more of an unknown - my expectation is that they'd want a twin-engine design, but I'm not sure they want as large a jet as the USAF due to deck spot factor and cost concerns, in which case they might just go for F135-replacement engines and try to leverage that larger potential for economy of scale. That said, they've been talking about having a considerable percentage of jets in the deck be unmanned, so maybe they're looking to have roughly half the airframes on deck be considerably smaller.
 

Skunknotworks

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Sorry if this should fall under another subject but I think before we head into a Sixth generation fighter we need to develop new missiles the aim-120 is nearly 30 years old and is outranged by most foreign missiles in the 250-450km range is there a new missile in development along with the NGAD program?.or is the DEWs and cyber electronic warfare capabilities make it to where the US doesn't need a Next generation missile?
 

isayyo2

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Sorry if this should fall under another subject but I think before we head into a Sixth generation fighter we need to develop new missiles the aim-120 is nearly 30 years old and is outranged by most foreign missiles in the 250-450km range is there a new missile in development along with the NGAD program?.or is the DEWs and cyber electronic warfare capabilities make it to where the US doesn't need a Next generation missile?
Aim-260 is in development friend, read up here: https://www.airforcemag.com/air-force-seeking-faster-longer-range-air-to-air-missiles/
 

Dragon029

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In addition to the AIM-260 there's also the SACM (Small Advanced Capabilities Missile) and MSDM (Miniature Self Defense Missile) efforts under the CAST (Counter Air Science & Technology) program.

You can find more about them in the links below, but SACM aims to produce a <2m long missile with the range comparable to an AIM-120C, with the intent of stacking them end-to-end anywhere that an AMRAAM fits, thereby doubling the internal MRAAM payload of stealth fighters. Lockheed's CUDA and Raytheon's Peregrine missiles match the intent of SACM but have seen little if any testing.

MSDM is a ~1m long interceptor for incoming hostile AAMs, operating as an advanced countermeasure but theoretically having utility as a SRAAM for engaging general air targets within visual range. Not much is known about Raytheon's MSDM-related projects, but Lockheed did name its MSDM proposal KICM, and I suspect it's related to or just an air-launched version of their ground-launched MHTK missile, like how Lockheed is proposing a ground-launched CUDA for M-SHORAD.


It's worth noting that while there hasn't been a lot of talk about SACM or MSDM in a while, in this article from last week, Lt Gen Hinote mentioned that "You will see in our budget submissions that we are pursuing advanced air to air missiles" - note that he says the plural "missiles"; my feeling is that we'll soon see these smaller missiles enter their next phases of competition or development, although it is possible that something like AIM-9X Block III will get put back on the table.
 

Dragon029

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https://www.artstation.com/artwork/J9JdVa what do you think about this design is it something real or just art station ? It look a lot like the Amarillo 2014 sighting.... And the USAF 73th birthday logo.
It's unofficial concept art, although the USAF (and I think at some point also Lockheed) did license Rodrigo's work. He's from Argentina though, so the chances of him having some secret insight to what NGAD looks like is nil.
 

Dreamfighter

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Doesn´t the AETP-program have two parts, with GE XA100 & PW XA101 being 'white world' and with focus on future F-35s, and a classified part which focuses on advanced engines for NGAD?
As I understand it, the adaptive cycle engine efforts branch after AETP; the XA100 and XA101 designs will be 'slightly' modified to become F135 replacements / upgrades, while another program will adapt the concepts and designs into even more powerful (and almost certainly larger) engines for at least the USAF's NGAD program.

If I now understand correctly, the GE XA100 and PW XA101 are the (only) main results of the AETP program (which started in 2016), which is the successor-program to AETD (which started in 2012) and of ADVENT (which started in 2007), and the NGAD engines will be derived from (one of) those through a 'classified' program, as well as a 'white world' derivative for use on future F-35s, which both will fall under the NGAP program effort (which was first mentioned in 2014)?


Going back for a sec to an AVweek article from July 2020:

"The NGAP was first referenced in testimony by Alan Shaffer before House Armed Services Committee in March 2014. Shaffer is now the deputy to Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Six years ago, he was the principal deputy to the director for research and engineering. In that role, Shaffer introduced the NGAP as an enabler to the NGAD program, along with another, complementary initiative focused on new airframes."
"This program will develop and fly two X-plane prototypes that demonstrate advanced technologies for future aircraft,” Shaffer said in 2014. “Teams will compete to produce the X-plane prototypes, one focused on future Navy operational capabilities, and the other on future Air Force operational capabilities.”
"a 2015 presentation by the Air Force Research Laboratory showed a notional schedule for the NGAD program; a contract award to launch the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase is set for fiscal 2023. As late as the Air Force’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the financial resources devoted to the NGAD appeared to support that schedule: A significant increase in funding starts in fiscal 2023, and $13 billion is set aside overall between fiscal 2019 and 2023. Last year, however, as the results of the AoA study became available, the Air Force appeared to defer the launch of the EMD by at least a few years. The fiscal 2020 budget request included only $6.6 billion for the NGAD from fiscal 2020-24."


I don´t take anything that Aviation Week writes for granted, but have not much doubts about this article´s (main) content.
It contributed to my thinking that the 'full-scale prototype/demonstrator' that has already flown, could well be an YF-22/YF-23/X-32/X-35-style demonstrator/prototype and (almost) ready to move on to EMD when the budget (and the advanced engine?) is ready, then being a more truly experimental X-type aircraft like e.g. X-29 or X-31 back in the day.

Now going back again to the AFmagazine article from a week ago:

"One of the reasons senior leadership is talking about the F-22 and NGAD is because the budget request to be presented in the coming weeks will show a “large … commitment” to the NGAD, Hinote said."
...
The NGAD timetable will be “event driven,” but Hinote doubts it will be 10 years before it is in operational service.
The “long pole in the tent” right now is integrating “the most important things onto that platform with a government reference architecture. "
 

Dragon029

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I missed that article last year; if I read correctly it sounds like NGAP will be one of those branches I mentioned that goes off to provide the engine for NGAD, while the F-35's engine replacement program will likely now have to wait for a program of record and/or gap in the modernisation schedule to aim for.

As for the X-planes, if the comments made back in 2014 / 2015 about the Aerospace Innovation Initiative did end up getting followed through on, then it might be a reasonable assumption that the NGAD demonstrator was the USAF AII X-plane. It'd be interesting to know what it was testing (being an X-plane and not just a YF-XX demonstrator); my guess would probably be something to do with stealth, like a validation of some manned tailless airframe with some fancy control system.
 

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In one of the latest articles on the new engines, such as the GE XA100, they discussed how they were sized to fit within the F-35.
 

Dragon029

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In one of the latest articles on the new engines, such as the GE XA100, they discussed how they were sized to fit within the F-35.
If that's in reply to me, that's been known for years now, but my "now have to wait for a program of record" statement was in regards to them having to go through the final development phase of taking them from X demonstrators to production-ready engines, and performing integration and flight testing on the F-35. That latter part could be slightly problematic with fitting testing into schedule, but I'm sure it'd be possible.
 

TomcatViP

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My understanding is that there would be two versions: one for the NGAD (mandatory) and one adapted to fit inside the F-35. That would make since since the third stream outter diameter casing could then be adapted to fit that platform.
 
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sferrin

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Doesn´t the AETP-program have two parts, with GE XA100 & PW XA101 being 'white world' and with focus on future F-35s, and a classified part which focuses on advanced engines for NGAD?
As I understand it, the adaptive cycle engine efforts branch after AETP; the XA100 and XA101 designs will be 'slightly' modified to become F135 replacements / upgrades, while another program will adapt the concepts and designs into even more powerful (and almost certainly larger) engines for at least the USAF's NGAD program. The Navy's NGAD is a bit more of an unknown - my expectation is that they'd want a twin-engine design, but I'm not sure they want as large a jet as the USAF due to deck spot factor and cost concerns, in which case they might just go for F135-replacement engines and try to leverage that larger potential for economy of scale. That said, they've been talking about having a considerable percentage of jets in the deck be unmanned, so maybe they're looking to have roughly half the airframes on deck be considerably smaller.
IIRC the branching is specifically size related. One constrained to the F-35 engine bay the other (NGAD) not.

 
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Sundog

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What I'm interested in is seeing which two defense contractors have the advanced (NGAD) fighter demonstrators (one almost) flying for this DARPA program. Skunk Works, Phantom Works, and Northrop ADP? I think one is almost definitely the Phantom Works, because they need it more than the other two, since LM has the F-35 and Northrop has the B-21.
 

bring_it_on

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B/w the F-35 and NGAD they a have comfortable margin (the NGAD is said to be flying already).
Don't know how it could be. They haven't even run the engines yet (or likely even started building them).
It could be using current generation engines for the demonstrators and they could well decouple engine development and fielding from the overall program. For example, they could field NGAD 1.0 with whatever existing engine they are using, and then have an adaptive scaled core sized for the platform fielded later. If there is one lesson the F-22/F-35 have taught them, it is to not pursue several different technology development programs within the same overall platform (engine, platform, helmet, lift-fan, ALIS etc) so it is quite possible that NGAD blends some next generation elements, with some current generation elements with the aim of considerably shortening the time to field the capability. The need of the hour is to get something to do what the F-22's do but with considerably greater range and persistence, and likely a larger magazine and more connectivity (so we aren't using tankers as communication bridges). If NGAD 1.0 can deliver that by the early 2030's then they can probably field NGAD 2.0 which includes more modern propulsion later that decade. Again, just a WAG but I think the USAF is done with a 15+ year EMD program. And Congress is probably not to keen on something like that either.
 
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bring_it_on

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What I'm interested in is seeing which two defense contractors have the advanced (NGAD) fighter demonstrators (one almost) flying for this DARPA program. Skunk Works, Phantom Works, and Northrop ADP? I think one is almost definitely the Phantom Works, because they need it more than the other two, since LM has the F-35 and Northrop has the B-21.

AII was set up sometime in FY-15 or FY-16 somewhere around the time that the LRS-B selection was announced. Quite possible, that the Boeing-Lockheed design team was kept alive and began focusing on the NGAD systems. Just a guess.
 

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When something you know is mundane, ordinary, and clearly unclassified is all of a sudden stamped with a classification, your first reaction should be, “What are they hiding?”, not, "What neat things are they doing!"
Unless some dipsh!t has marked a fire extinguisher bracket as 'ITAR' just because it goes on a military aircraft.
 
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