How The US Stealth Aircraft Will Keep Its Superiority
In the vaults of Lockheed Martin's secretive Skunk Works, engineers toiled for decades on an innovative aircraft that would shock the world when it was first unveiled in the late-1980s. Called the F1117-A "Nighthawk," this alien-looking aircraft proved incredibly effective during the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
A flying set of angles, the "Nighthawk" looked like no other aircraft ever produced. But its strange shape was not the brainchild of some insane impressionist artist; it had a purpose.
Able to reduce its radar signature until it got close to the enemy, the "Nighthawk" ushered in a new age of aircraft design.
The F117A was quickly followed by the famous B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber, cementing America's air dominance for many decades and culminating in the development of some of the most advanced flying machines ever seen, the F-35 and F-22.
But in the true spirit of war, new air defense systems were developed to help level the playing field. Some countries, like the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, are said to have made systems like the HQ-9 and S-400 that can find and shoot down even the most advanced stealth aircraft, like the F-35.
While such claims could be "hot air," the United States has taken them seriously. To maintain its dominance in the air, they are looking at the next generation of stealth to stay ahead of the game.
And so, in 2020, the U.S. announced its intentions to develop the newest stealth aircraft they've been brewing for several years, the NGAD fighter and B-21 "Raider."
Little is known about the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter beyond some leaked renderings, but the B-21 "Raider" has been an open secret for several years.
In development by Northrop Grumman, the planned successor to the "Spirit," the "Raider," will be able to deal with death from a distance long before the enemy even knows they are in trouble. The new B-21 is supposed to be able to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. Over the next few years, it is expected to replace the old B-20, which is getting old.
As for the NGAD fighter, if renderings are accurate, it appears to push the boundaries of what we understand as an aircraft, just like the F117A did. The new fighter would only look out of place in a science fiction film with vertical stabilizers.
But it is not just innovative in its airframe design. The NGAD will come with a set of systems that will increase its effectiveness, operational range, and ability to work with other military assets.
Autonomous wingmen drones will also fly with the pilots as part of the package. And all this while still being stealthy as hell.
Once deployed, the B-2 "Spirit" and NGAD fighters are shaping up to be superb replacements for America's already impressive fleet of stealth fighters and bombers.
Undoubtedly, they will also refine, once again, how nations design their future aircraft and air defense systems.