New views of Northrop Grumman’s long-range stealth fighter

Northrop Grumman has once again incorporated what appears to be a Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform concept in its recent announcements. This comes on the heels of another ad from 2021 that teased the same determination, though this one didn’t offer a wide-angle view of it.

The main video itself, which is just 15 seconds long, plays over the company’s former “hangarium” setup. In it, we see three Northrop Grumman employees discussing women’s contribution to the history of military aviation in the company’s “advanced hangar.” Referring to the all-female crew at Grand Forks Air Force Base—which in 2014 recorded the longest full-size drone flight by a military aircraft without air-to-air refueling (34.3 hours)—the trio continues to reflect on the potential contributions each can make to history. Aviation in the future in the company.

What we can only assume is a hypothetical concept of the NGAD-like manned tactical aircraft that can be seen to the left in the video. Unlike Northrop’s 2021 ad, which shows the nose of what appears to be the same concept in more detail, the new ad provides a better view of the airframe as a whole. As mentioned in our previous article, the aircraft certainly seems to fit the bill for NGAD – Being very large with an assumed premium on range and payload and low observability (stealth) without vertical tails. The top-mounted air intakes are also noticeable low. The design also features a very long spine line around the airframe as well as a B-2-like nose and single pilot cockpit.

Two other videos from the same series give us a partial head-to-head view featuring the B-21 Raider’s strong sense and wider view at a distance of the design in question.

How accurate the concept shown in the announcement is to Northrop Grumman’s design for the manned NGAD platform is unknown. While there will obviously be differences due to the delicacy of such a design, it’s still interesting to see what they stick even as a placeholder. It is also possible that the concept seen in the videos is loosely based on elements of a real-life NGAD demonstrator who has been flying with the Air Force for several years now. However, we still don’t know who built this experimental aircraft. It could belong to Boeing or Lockheed Martin. And just because a demonstrator belongs to any of these companies doesn’t mean that the production version now being contested will do so, too.

While Northrop’s current workload to produce the next-generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber is certainly high, producing the manned component of the NGAD would be a huge win for the company, and certainly has an advantage with the work it has done on the B-21. This program also, By most accounts, relatively on time and budget, an astounding feat. It is likely that the manned NGAD aircraft will have as much in common with the next-generation bomber, with many shared technologies, as well as potential efficiencies, carried over directly. There will also be other significant opportunities beyond the inhabited component surrounding NGAD as the program rotates, which Northrop may also want to be involved with.

Comprised of what is called the “Family of Systems,” NGAD refers to the multifaceted US effort to field next-generation tactical air combat capabilities. While the purchase of a new crewed aircraft, currently under development, remains at the heart of the NGAD program, it also includes the development and production of thousands of Cooperative Combat Aircraft (CCAs), new weapons, sensors, networking and battle management capabilities, lasers, advanced jet engines, And more. What’s more is that NGAD will fit together, at least to a large extent, with the obscure Long Range Strike Systems (LRS) family of which the B-21 is the centerpiece.

The Air Force and Navy also have parallel initiatives in developing their NGAD programs, including the components listed above. The Air Force recently indicated that it envisions a hypothetical fleet of about 200 NGAD combat aircraft, which would cost “hundreds of millions” per aircraft. While the size of the Navy’s comparable aircraft fleet remains unclear, the service’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 saw nearly $1.53 billion allocated to support development of the next-generation fighter jet, or F/A-XX, under its NGAD. program. This was a huge boost indicating how quickly the program has matured.

Still, the latest announcement certainly contributes to the conspiracy surrounding the NGAD program and Northrop Grumman’s potential involvement in it, or at least its ambitions to build the manned component of it.

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