The Air Force’s Next-Gen Fighter Is Getting Its Own Drone Army

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says that the Next Generation Air Dominance “family of systems” will likely control as many as five drones at one time.

The U.S. Air Force is building manned variants of the emerging sixth-generation fighter jet as part of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says that the family of systems will likely control as many as five drones at one time, a development that will introduce new tactics, expand the mission scope of a stealth fighter jet, and enable dispersed yet networked weapons and surveillance nodes to increase attack and reconnaissance options.

Many of the details and exact configurations of this small family of manned and unmanned platforms are either not available for security reasons or still evolving. The unmanned systems being built to support sixth-generation manned aircraft are likely to emerge much sooner than an operational manned variant. Of course, the requirements for the unmanned systems, called Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), are still in flux. Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters that the drones are being built according to key operational imperatives.

“We need an aircraft that can perform operations in denied airspace and make sure we have the ability to establish freedom of maneuver. We’ve had successful uncrewed platforms going back decades. It’s challenging to have a platform able to operate in denied air space,” Hunter said.

The drones will come in various sizes and operate as surveillance “nodes” and attack drones for offensive missions.

“We need a platform that is affordable so we can get some mass and not something too expensive that we can’t afford to lose. We are doing design trades. It needs to be able to assist the mission of the NGAD system, and it will involve a weapons carrying capacity to work with a piloted aircraft,” Hunter added.

While the manned NGAD is expected to be ready for operations around the end of the decade, the CCAs could arrive “soon,” Hunter said. “Industry is expanding [Research and Design] and [is] ready for an acquisition program.”

The prospect of multiple networked CCAs working in close coordination with a manned host plane introduces new tactical possibilities, largely because the CCAs will be networked to one another while also being connected to a manned aircraft performing command and control. Controlling drones from the air will reduce latency because it will not require data to be sent through a ground station, which will streamline the transmission of time-sensitive data and massively shorten the sensor-to-shooter time. An armed drone could autonomously identify a target, use onboard computer processing systems, and enable a human decisionmaker to find and destroy enemy targets from safe stand-off distances. Advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence-enabled data processing will be able to analyze a host of mission variables from otherwise disparate streams of incoming sensor information.

Related Posts

A large US espionage plane meticulously prepares for takeoff at an extraordinarily high altitude, outside the range of modern radar

Welcome back to Military Innovation for a feature on the U-2 aerial reconnaissance aircraft, which was built in the 1950s to climb above 60,000ft to avoid detection…

The Gatling Gun on the MiG-27 was so potent that it destroyed the fighter jet

Indeed, the two-meter long cannon produced a whopping 6 tons of recoil that produced vibrations powerful enough to crack fuel tanks, break avionics systems, and reliably cause…

The New France Sixth-Generation Fighter Jet Astounds the World

The new terms say the first flight of a next generation fighter jet demonstrator will take place by the end of 2027. Florence Parly, Minister of the…

Look! The US’s multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier is now prepared for use

US Bilɩіoпs $ Aircraft саrrier Is Finally Ready For Action At $13 bilɩіoп, the USS Geгаld Ford ѕᴜрeгсаrrier is the most exрeпѕіⱱe aircraft саrrier ever built. The…

Unusual US Method for Loading Its Biggest Plane: C-5 Galaxy

Welcome back to The Daily Aviation for a feature on the largest military cargo plane in the US inventory, the C-5M Super Galaxy, and its massive nose…

US tests the new Super A-10 Warthog, causing panic in Russia

The United States has always been able to design deadly aircraft. But sometimes engineers have managed to exceed even the wildest expectations by practically designing an impenetrable…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *