The mysterious silhouette of a next generation aircraft featured in an Instagram story earlier this month is associated with a new logo also teased online recently.
As we have reported in details, on Jul. 1, 2023, Lockheed Martin’s official Instagram account posted a story to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its famous Skunk Works advanced projects division that included the silhouette of an unknown, manned next generation aircraft.
This is what this author wrote about the previously unseen sixth generation aircraft teased online:
In May this year, the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs announced that the Department of the Air Force has begun to solicit proposals for the 6th generation NGAD fighter that will replace the F-22 with the intent to award a contract in 2024. The NGAD Platform is one of many critical combat capabilities that will enable counter-air missions with the ability to strike both airborne and ground-based threats to achieve air superiority and support the Joint Force. The next generation aircraft will also cooperate with autonomous unmanned aircraft, being developed as part of the dedicated Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program.
According to Secretary Kendall, the U.S. Air Force should procure 200 NGAD fighters along with 1,000 CCA, autonomous drones that will cooperate in the “loyal wingman” role with the sixth-generation combat aircraft within a “system of systems” that see the fighters cooperating and interconnected with other assets (including F-35s), satellites, a secure combat cloud network, air defense nodes and so on.
All that being said and considering also that Northrop Grumman also teased the shape of their notional NGAD-like concept in a recent video, it seems reasonable to believe that the one shared on social media is, if not the shape of the LM’s submission, at least something related to it. However, it’s important to highlight that the aircraft might still be something else.
In terms of planform and shape, this 6th-gen design is similar to previous designs released by Lockheed Martin, showing a tailless design (considered ideal to obtain very low observability) with a diamond-shaped wing planform with straight leading and trailing edges. The engines are fully contained in the fuselage, with only two bulges denoting their position on the upper fuselage. As many low-observable designs, the exhaust is located on the upper surface of the rear fuselage, shielding almost completely the infrared signature of the two-dimensional diamond-shaped nozzles. The air intakes are not visible, as they are mounted below the fuselage, flush with the joint between wing root and fuselage, as it could be seen in an older frontal rendering of the almost identical design.
Along with the commentary on the silhouette shared by Lockheed Martin on social media, we also published the notional rendering created by our follower video creator and DCS World gamer AD_FOX2 (@aviationdesigns_mg).
Interestingly, thanks to another reader, who’s also a long time trusted source of ours, we are now able to show you the logo associated to the mysterious LM’s program. You can actually find it online, on the LM shop, at the bottom of the page, hidden more or less in plain sight here: Lockheedmartingear.com.
The name of the file uploaded to the site is “Bird Of Prey Logo Cat” and the page you get if you click on the logo is also title “Bird of Prey” suggesting (but here we are just speculating), the name Skunk Works uses to refer to the next generation fighter program might be Bird of Prey. Provided this is the case, it would be a bit weird, considering that Boeing Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s to demonstrate stealth technology.
The first flight of the technology demonstrator, which was given the cover designation “YF-118G”, was in 1996, and 39 more flights were performed through the program’s conclusion in 1999. The program was made public only a few years later, in 2002. The aircraft can be found on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
It must also be said that Lockheed usually gives several names for different parts of the project/program, so Bird of Prey might be a reference to just a part of the sixth generation program. And, by the way, the content of the Bird of Prey landing page, is password protected, so you can’t buy any merchandise related to the next generation aircraft, at least, not yet…