NATIONAL HARBOR, Md–The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy technology programs for Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) are collaborating, as the Navy NGAD program office focuses on the “enabling technologies” for its NGAD effort, a top Navy official said on Aug. 2.

“Although the program is different than the Air Force, there is a very tight integration between the Air Force and the Navy on what this platform is going to be,” Vice Adm. Dean Peters, the commander of Naval Air Systems Command, told an audience at the Sea Air Space Conference 2021 here. “I think the most important thing that’s going to happen with Next-Generation [Air Dominance] is that we’re going to take all of those enabling technologies that we’ve developed, instead of picking a platform and figuring out how to wedge those enabling technologies into it, or not be able to wedge those into it, we’re going to start with the enabling technologies and make that part of the criteria for what the aircraft looks like on the other end.”

“In my mind, that is critical,” Peters said. “We have a lot of tremendous work going on on the technology side. It has to be the enabler before you even start talking about what does the platform look like. It’s going to be more about how do we start with these enabling technologies and the operational architecture.”

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 to “four plus one”- the F-35, the F-15EX, the A-10, a possible F-16 replacement, and NGAD–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 last month that “ideally, I’d like to have it be multi-role, but the primary aspect for NGAD is air superiority.” (Defense Daily, June 17).

“With air superiority, it’s increased weapons load, increased range–particularly when you look at operating in the Indo-Pacific. For the future, what I look at for all of our fighters is to have multi-role capability to be able to go from a high-end conflict all the way down to homeland defense, but NGAD is really focused more so on a hotly contested environment to have the weapons load–both air-to-air, primarily, but some air-to-ground capability to ensure it can survive, but also provide options for our air component commanders and the joint force.”

The Navy has said the replacement for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet will likely be a manned fighter working with unmanned systems under NGAD while the service is pushing for the future airwing to ultimately reach over 50 percent unmanned aircraft (Defense Daily, March 30).

Like the Air Force, the Navy views NGAD as a family of systems with the F/A-XX manned or unmanned replacement for the Super Hornet as the centerpiece. The Navy is likely to decide in the next three years whether F/A-XX will be manned or unmanned. Increment one of the Navy’s NGAD will be a replacement for the Super Hornets, and increment two will replace the EA-18G Growler jammer.