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B-21 Raider is a Sixth Generation Aircraft under Next Generation Air Dominance Program..?


The B-21 Raider is a Sixth Generation Aircraft
under Next Generation Air Dominance Program, with Air to Air Missile, “loyal wingman”
drones and more. The U.S. Air Force’s ongoing Next Generation
Air Dominance program. The service is exploring a wide array of manned, unmanned, and pilot-optional
concepts, as well as advanced associated technologies, including increased network connectivity and
autonomous capabilities. At the same time, however, it has steadily moved away from plans
for a once much-touted sixth-generation fighter jet.
This could include manned aircraft networked together with “loyal wingman” drones,
fully autonomous unmanned combat air vehicles, swarms of low-cost unmanned aircraft, and
more. “If we were to characterize it Next Generation
Air Dominance as a fighter, we would be… thinking too narrowly about what kind of airplane
we need in a highly contested environment,” U.S. Air Force Major General Scott Pleus,
who is currently Director of Air and Cyber Operations for Pacific Air Forces, recently
told Air Force Magazine. “The B-21 Raider stealth aircraft that also has air-to-air
capabilities” and can “work with the family of systems “loyal wingman” drones to defend
itself, utilizing stealth – maybe that’s where the sixth-generation airplane comes
from.” It’s not clear if he literally meant an
aircraft as large as a B-21 Raider itself, acting as a manned component of the Air Force’s
future air-to-air combat ecosystem or if he was simply referring to repackaging the stealth
bombers state-of-the-art features and capabilities in something like a very stealthy unmanned
combat air vehicle. A tailless, stealthy, comparatively long-range
tactical jet that many had labeled a sixth-generation fighter had been the focus of the Air Force’s
plans for dominating the air-to-air realm through the middle of the century up until
recently. Regardless, the Air Force is still very much
working out what it wants from Next Generation Air Dominance sixth-generation airplane, which
traces its immediate roots back to at least 2015 with the start of an “F-X Development
Plan.” The next year, the service published a study titled “Air Superiority 2030 Flight
Plan,” which initially to a program called Penetration Counter Air (PCA).
This would have brought it in line with parallel U.S. Navy efforts, which had also evolved
from a future fighter jet concept, known as F/A X-X.
The Air Force’s latest budget request for 2020 Fiscal Year asks for more than $1 billion
to conduct additional studies into both aircraft and weapon systems sixth-generation airplane
under Next Generation Air Dominance. In the future, manned aircraft may still act
as limited, centralized forward controllers for the Air Force’s unmanned air combat
fleets. At the same time, the Air Force is actively exploring systems that could potentially
rapidly turn any aircraft into an autonomous platform as part of its Skyborg program. Though
the Air Force has declined to confirm if this remains the case, the service had previously
decided that the B-21 Raider itself would be pilot optional, as well.
The prime example of such a system is Kratos’ XQ-58A Valkyrie drone, which the Air Force
is now experimenting with manned aircraft networked together.
At the same time, Trimble noted that Next Generation Air Dominance present form may
not be its last and those changes in leadership and budgets could impact how it continues
to evolve as time goes on. Regardless, the picture that is emerging is of a cocktail
of systems, many of which are unmanned from extremely stealthy, B-21 to attritable drones
and the complex networks that will enable them, not of one single extremely high-cost
program or aircraft type. It remains very much to be seen what combination
of platforms and capabilities the Air Force will determine it needs to “dominate”
with future sixth-generation super fighters. “It’s a concept that implies turning the
aerospace industry upside down. Thank You For Watching. Please Like, Share,
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