In September last year, Dr. Will Roper, the then Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, made it public that the U.S. Air Force had secretly designed, built and flown at least one full-scale prototype of a new generation fighter aircraft, as part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.
Few days after the digitally-engineered advanced sixth-generation full-scale flight demonstrator was announced, the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs published on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service an interesting graphic for the Air Force’s 73rd birthday featuring an unknown new aircraft.
While the aircraft in the image could be completely fictional, its shape could also be a loose hint at the design chosen for the first prototype build for the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.
Here’s what we wrote commenting that artwork:
Even if a graphic motive has been superimposed over the aircraft, making it difficult to discern some of the details, the design looks based on a unique triangular shape from the nose to the tail, with an angle of about 50° at the nose. If correct, this feature already differentiates this design from the concept proposed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the NGAD program. However, the “masking graphic” could hide a more classic design with two different angles, one for the front and one for the wings, that could be exposed by a darker coloration of the aircraft and another grey “No Step” area inside the aircraft perimeter.
The next generation aircraft has a cockpit, sign of the aircraft being manned or optionally manned. Two engines are positioned beside the dorsal spine, with exhaust nozzles similar to the ones found on the YF-23, with the lower surface longer than the upper one to mask the engine’s infrared signature from below. We can’t see any kind of tail planes, hence the aircraft is based on the flying wing concept. The absence of vertical tail planes could be dictated by a further reduction of the Radar Cross Section, especially from the sides. An air-to-air refueling receptacle is also present on the dorsal spine.
Let’s keep in mind that all of this could just be speculation, at least until the first photos of the NGAD demonstrator will be available to the public because, as we said earlier, the aircraft in the graphic could be entirely fictional.
The one published by the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs was not the only hint at the shape of a new generation aircraft. An Instagram story published on the very same day by the U.S. Air Force featured a sort of “easter egg” in another 73rd birthday graphic.
Remarkably, the U.S. Air Force continues to allude to the NGAD.
As Alert5 reported, the Department of the Air Force Acquisition Biennial Report includes a description of the NGAD (page 55) with an interesting new concept artwork, that shows yet another futuristic shape for the next generation aircraft.
We can’t but repeat what we have said last year commenting the other graphics: the Air Force may have simply picked a random, stylized, fictional aircraft that has nothing to do with the real thing; may be releasing artworks as part of a deception operation; or may be gradually teasing an existing type (even though this seems to be less likely). Whatever, a bit intriguing isn’t it?
To read more about the NGAD and the entire Digital Century Series, read this article we published earlier this year.
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