Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command (ACC), on Sept. 22 said that he would like to see a sense of urgency in a “whole of nation” effort to ensure the U.S. fields a sixth-generation fighter before U.S. adversaries.

“I’d like us to go faster,” Gen. Kelly said of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program at a media roundtable at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference. “I’d like to have more of a sense of urgency and a whole of nation effort toward it along the lines we’ve seen in our history, whole of nation, like in a Manhattan Project.”

Yet, Air Force Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, the service’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, said earlier this week that on NGAD, “we’re on about as fast a path as we can” (Defense Daily, Sept. 20).

“There’s probably some margin here and there where we can take advantage so it’s possible we could push it forward in the months range, but we’re not talking about a five years range, an acceleration we have that could get us to that level,” Hinote said.

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) recently suggested that an acceleration of NGAD, swarms of small drones, and Boeing [BA] F-15EXs could help replace the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35, if the latter does not see significant sustainment cost reductions (Defense Daily, Sept. 1).

NGAD is to rely on digital engineering to iron out design kinks before the fielding of operational platforms.

While the Air Force fiscal 2022 budget requests $1.5 billion for that service’s NGAD program–a $623 million increase from the fiscal 2021 funded amount, the Navy, for the second consecutive year, said that its NGAD program was classified and did not release a dollar amount. In fiscal 2020, the Navy budgeted $20.7 million for NGAD and, in that year, projected spending nearly $256 million on it in fiscal 2022.

As the Air Force looks to neck down its seven fighter types, the service has said it wants the stealthy NGAD to be a “family of systems” with longer range, more weapons, and possibly multi-role.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown told the House Armed Services Committee in June that “ideally, I’d like to have it [NGAD] be multi-role, but the primary aspect for NGAD is air superiority.” (Defense Daily, June 17).