NGAD: The Expensive $300 Million Fighter Jet The Air Force Wants

NGAD
January 30, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: NGADU.S. MilitaryMilitaryStealth6th Generation Fighter

NGAD: The Expensive $300 Million Fighter Jet The Air Force Wants

This year is big for America’s next fighter jet. In 2024, the U.S. Air Force expects to decide who will build the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter jet. 

This year is big for America’s next fighter jet. In 2024, the U.S. Air Force expects to decide who will build the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter jet. 

Right now, it’s a close, classified race between two aerospace giants. With a potential price tag of $300 million per aircraft, we are talking about a significant contract that can change the balance of power within the industry. 

Lockheed Martin versus Boeing 

Back in May, the Air Force sent out to a select number of defense companies a classified solicitation for the engineering and manufacturing development of the NGAD fighter jet. In July, Northrup Grumman dropped out from the race as a prime contractor, though it left the door open for the U.S. Navy’s version of the NGAD, the F/A-XX.  

Northrup Grumman’s decision left Lockheed Martin and Boeing as the two horses left in the race. Sometime this year, the Air Force is expected to award a contract to one of the two aerospace giants. The Pentagon is also setting aside increasingly more money for the development of the futuristic aircraft. 

Besides the merits of each prototype, the Pentagon will have to make a decision based on more than the capabilities and costs of each design. The U.S. defense and aerospace industry benefits from competition. Healthy rivalry between defense companies adds an incentive for better and more cost-effective designs. If a company keeps winning big programs, then the whole industry loses. 

Historically, the Pentagon has sought a balance among the big companies, which still exists to a certain extent. For example, Lockheed Martin designed and built the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jet. On the other hand, Boeing has the F-15EX Eagle II, B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber, as well as several attack and transport helicopters. Meanwhile, Northrup Grumman owns the futuristic B-21 Raider strategic bomber, which is under production. 

The NGAD Fighter Jet 

Although not much is known about the NGAD, we know that it will be a sixth-generation stealth fighter jet with manned and unmanned capabilities. The Air Force plans to acquire about 200 aircraft.

NGAD

When it comes to costs, the Pentagon expects the new stealth fighter jet to cost as much as $300 million per aircraft. But as we have discussed previously here in the National Interest, $300 million per fighter jet might not be that expensive after all. This is particularly the case if we consider the capabilities of the NGAD fighter jet and the aircraft it will be replacing. 

The NGAD fighter jet will be replacing the F-22 Raptor, which, adjusted to 2024 dollars, carries a price tag of approximately $255 million per aircraft. So, the cost per aircraft itself isn’t that much different between the two aircraft. 

F-22 Raptor

Moreover, the NGAD fighter jet is expected to be comprised of several manned and unmanned aerial systems that will operate jointly. As such, each futuristic fighter jet is expected to replace several older aircraft, thus saving the Air Force money in maintenance and operation.

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].