Recent reports suggest that the sixth-generation fighter jet from the United States Air Force might cost hundreds of millions of dollars per plane, according to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.
The F-22 Raptor from the United States was the first fifth-generation fighter jet to be shipped to the United States, yet other nations, such as Russia, the United Kingdom, and Japan, have revealed more about their designs, if not program advancements. The US Air Force Secretary''s statements during a committee hearing on the fiscal budget released some information.
Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) Program
The NGAD program will include a sixth-generation fighter, which will replace the aging F-22s. While anticipated upgrades will see the F-22s flying for more than a decade, the NGAD will include an array of capabilities that haven''t been seen in a fighter aircraft before.
Key techniques such as propulsion, stealth, advanced weapons, and thermal management of aircraft signature are all expected to make significant upgrades in this aircraft. Some believe the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) will not be a fit for the next-generation aircraft.
The National Geographic Agency (NGAD) is being labeled as a "family of systems" that could see a slew of unmanned aircraft equipped with a wide range of sensors and payloads being deployed alongside the manned aircraft. In high-risk situations, the unmanned aircraft would be designated to perform tasks, keeping the aircraft and its pilot out of harm''s way.
How much would it cost?
The F-22s were the most expensive airplanes the US Air Force developed. In comparison, the F-35s cost $80 million per tail. Over the years, however, the program''s service costs have increased to over $1.25 trillion in a lifetime, according to Air Force Mag.
The US Air Force is aware of this evolution and is taking a lot of care to avoid a repeat of this scenario with the NGAD. Kendall said that the Air Force was meticulously monitoring the aircraft''s development to ensure that while the initial manufacturing costs were high, upgrades and maintenance may be completed in a cost-effective manner.
Kendall stated that the unmanned components of the National Geographic NGAD would be comparatively cheaper to produce, while these aircraft would be attributable to risky tasks, but they would not be cheap enough to be paid during these missions.