US Air Force is looking at improving stealth of existing fighters and bombers and boosting range with sneakier and tougher aerial refueling planes

The US Air Force’s next-generation air dominance (NGAD) [aka what was the sixth generation fighter project] project is still moving forward and will include improvements to low-observable capability and aircraft range, according to the service’s top scientific research and technology official.

The USAF in May released its “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan” announcing that it would rapidly develop a programme that mates cyber warfare, electronic warfare, and even space capabilities to advance the state of the art in air-to-air and air-to-ground warfare. While the new programme is expected to harness disparate capabilities, NGAD is defined by improvements in two key areas – stealth and range – according to USAF chief scientist Greg Zacharias.

Artist’s conception of sea-based version of Northrop Grumman’s NGAD aircraft. The technology, expected as a follow-on for USAF and USN legacy combat aircraft, will emphasise stealth and range. Source: Northrop Grumman

  • Next generation aircraft work will include improvements to legacy combat aircrafts’ low-observable capability [stealth] and range
  • Stealth would be improved by reducing observability of aircraft at more frequencies, while greater range could be achieved with penetrating aerial refuelling capability

The Air Force is looking at using stealth or protective systems to enable a refueling vehicle to reach deeper into dangerous airspace.

Earlier this year, the US Air Force announced a change of course to pursue “a network of integrated systems disaggregated across multiple platforms” rather than a “sixth generation fighter” in its Air Superiority 2030 plan.

SOURCES- IHS Janes, Wikipedia