[Another possibility is that this is all just propaganda and that there is no plane, but everyone is talking about the plane. Maybe there is no plane? Why would the USAF do this? Well, it could be to keep the enemy busy looking for all sorts of clues and things. It can easily be that they are merely playing some games and messing with the heads of America's enemies for reasons we are not aware of. This is entirely possible in the world of the military. I like military stuff, and these things are necessary. If they did do something really quickly, then I would say the following, contrary to the article below that (a) They must be using proven technology (b) It might not need a pilot – because humans present a lot of additional complications in terms of safety, size, etc. But if you have an autonomous vehicle, which, if it crashes, is not important, then you can rush it into battle. So, if it is an actual plane, then I would say (a) and (b) above are important. The fact that the media are all talking in mysterious terms about this plane suggests strongly to me that the military WANTS IT TO. If the military wanted to do things secretly and for this to be kept quiet, I assure you, you wouldn't have heard a word about this. So that has me suspicious. Jan]
The Air Force recently announced it secretly designed, built, and flew a new fighter jet.
The mysterious fighter falls under the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program.
The aircraft, says one defense blog, may be much different than the traditional expectation of a high-performance, crewed fighter.
The world continues to search for clues surrounding the mysterious new fighter jet that the U.S. Air Force secretly designed, built, and flew in just one year. We’re still debating whether or not the Air Force already showed us what the new fighter looks like, and now, one defense blog raises an even more intriguing question: What if the Air Force’s new fighter jet isn’t actually a fighter jet at all?
As The War Zone points out, the pace of technological innovation means the Air Force’s secret new fighter may not be what most people envision when they think of fighter jets, and the aircraft could be something totally new for the same mission: sweeping enemy planes from the skies.
EVERYTHING WE KNOW SO FAR
Look Out, World: America Has a New Fighter Jet
Did the Air Force Already Show Us Its New Fighter?
The Air Force Debuts New ‘e’ Aircraft Designation
Last week, the Air Force’s chief of acquisition, Will Roper, revealed to Defense News that the service had developed the new fighter jet under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) project. That project, designed to produce a peer and possible successor to the F-22 Raptor, has been in the works for several years, but aviation experts pegged an actual flyable fighter jet to be at least 5 to 10 years away.
Yet Roper announced that instead of the traditional years of development, the new fighter took merely a single year to produce—a staggering, inconceivably short period of time in anyone’s air force.
Given that astonishing time frame, The War Zone raises an interesting theory: With the new fighter jet, the Air Force didn’t just do away with the traditional aircraft design process—it also ripped up the traditional idea of what a fighter could look like. Perhaps the new Air Force is now doing things in a fundamentally different way than it has in the past, by virtue of necessity.
The new fighter, says The War Zone, is merely one part of the NGAD program. Over the past year, the Air Force has referred to NGAD as not as a single plane, but a “family of systems” that could well include both crewed and uncrewed aircraft. This was apparently the conclusion the Air Force came to after it studied an analysis of alternatives for the new air dominance program.
Crewed aircraft could be accompanied by uncrewed aircraft into battle, with the pilotless drones acting as decoys, wingmen, flying magazines, or sensor platforms. All of these aircraft would collaborate with the help of AI and battlefield networking to shoot down enemy planes and claim the skies. From The War Zone:
The ‘demonstrator’ could actually be an entire family of rapidly prototyped and already developed systems, with the networking and command and control architecture, shared sensors, and weapons being far more of a focus than the airframes themselves.
The Air Force has embraced new digital design and manufacturing techniques in building this new fighter. But it might have also embraced new ideas in how to achieve air dominance.
One idea is a much larger “fighter,” even using parts of the B-21 Raider program, designed for long range and endurance. (The B-21 is the coolest plane we’ve never seen.) The Air Force wants a fighter that can fly long distances over the vast Indo-Pacific region, using the handful of bases that are available, and that can fly escort missions for manned bombers into enemy territory.
It would be difficult to design a traditional fighter of a traditional size with the range to do this. A larger platform would allow the Air Force to stuff more weapons and crucially, fuel, into the “fighter.”
For now, we continue to play the waiting game.