The United State Air Force (USAF) is getting closer to selecting its next generation fighter jet, the service’s top official explained. 

“It’s not imminent but it’s not all that far away,” USAF Secretary Frank Kendall said in an interview to Breaking Defense. He refused to provide any more details of the timeline, Breaking Defense added. 

Consisting of a new manned combat aircraft, as well as a line of drones and missiles that would perform as a part of the same system, the program, called Next Generation Air Defense (NGAD), is intended to replace the Lockheed Martin F-22, as well as some fourth-generation fighter jets in the USAF service. 

In 2019, USAF had said that the NGAD program was going to be reminiscent of the Century Series, a development program from the 1950s that resulted in ten different aircraft developed with high level of experimentation and at a very rapid pace. Under those plans, the NGAD core platform would have resulted in a new cutting-edge aircraft approximately every five years, with the next one being designed as soon as the previous one went into production. 

The service planned to contract different companies for designing, building and supporting various aspects of the jet, as well as other components of the program, such as drones and weapon systems. 

However, in June 2022 Kendall revealed at an event that he did not believe this approach was suitable for the manned fighter jet portion of the program because it was too complicated to develop a fighter jet in this way. He therefore said that the NGAD would take longer. While the participants of the competition have not been revealed, several companies, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, have published concept art of the aircraft and revealed limited information about some aspects of its design. 

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