The US Navy has set up a program office to develop a sixth generation fighter jet to operate from aircraft carriers as a replacement to the F/A-18 super hornet and the EA-18G electronic attack jets.
The program office will oversee the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) initiative , according to the US Navy acquisition chief James Geurts who told reporters last week. “We’re working to outline that program and the acquisition approach and all that as we speak,” Geurts was quoted as saying in various US media reports.
Separately, USNI News reported that the Navy has started holding early discussions with industry to develop the all-new fighter jet.
The new manned fighter aircraft would include many of the capabilities on the F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter, but with updated technology and expanded range, USNI News reported quoting Bryan Clark, a naval analyst and senior fellow with the Hudson Institute. “So even more so than with the F-35, you’d end up with an aircraft where the pilot is really operating a computer that is flying the airplane and operating its systems, more so than today.”
Some of the key features of the new jet would be a range of about 1000 nautical miles as compared to 700 nautical miles of the F-35C. The target for the NGAD is to enter service by 2030 around the time when the F/A-18s would reach the end of their service life.
The NGAD would be the first all-new aircraft developed by the US after the F-35 and compete with the likes of upcoming European sixth generation jets such as the Anglo-Italian Tempest and the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS). Though the Tempest and the FCAS are not carrier borne jets, they will compete with the NGAD in terms of sixth generation technologies.
The NGAD would compete with the F-35C for space aboard aircraft carriers. It is not known if it will be a short take off, vertical landing jet similar to the F-35 or conventional take-off and landing like such as the F/A-18.