Northrop, Boeing, and Lockheed compete for F/A-XX program

All three defense companies are allegedly vying to win the prestigious contract to develop the U.S. Navy's "Super Hornet" replacement.
Christopher McFadden
An early rendering of a proposed Boeing F/A-XX design.

Boeing/Wikimedia Commons 

Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin are reported as competing for the U.S. Navy's next-generation strike fighter program, Aviation Week reports. Two other contractors, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, are also battling to supply the new aircraft's engines. Dubbed the F/A-XX, the new aircraft will replace the Navy's venerable but now aging fleet of  F/A-18 "Super Hornet" airframes.

Next-generation strike fighter

"F/A-XX has recently completed the Concept Refinement Phase and has entered Design Maturation. Navy confirms that Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, GE Aerospace, and Pratt & Whitney are industry participants in the F/A-XX Program," a Navy spokesman told Breaking Defense when pressed for comment.

The Navy “has identified operational reach, capacity, long-range kill chains, autonomy, and next-generation survivability as key enablers in the Air Wing of the Future and supporting Family of System,” the spokesperson added.

For its part, Boeing has reportedly not explicitly acknowledged participating in the competition. But, Breaking Defense reports, Steve Nordlund, the Vice President and General Manager at Boeing Air Dominance, stated that their fighters "are the foundation of current carrier air wings."

He also mentioned that they are utilizing their knowledge to guide their investment in advanced open mission systems and state-of-the-art digital factories worth billions of dollars. “We are fully committed to helping the US Navy achieve its future vision,” he added.

Northrop Grumman, however, has confirmed its involvement in the Navy's F/A-XX project, according to Breaking Defense. The third of the competitor triad, Northrop Grumman, also refused to confirm its involvement, but they have previously expressed their interest in it. President of Northrop’s Aeronautics Systems, Tom Jones, told Aviation Week, “Our focus and investment in digital engineering, advanced manufacturing, and legacy in designing and fielding aircraft with advanced mission systems allow us to rapidly design, execute, and sustain current and future systems.”

A representative from Pratt & Whitney confirmed their involvement in the program, while spokespeople from Lockheed Martin and GE Aerospace did not respond to requests for comment.

The Navy's upcoming strike fighter development program, officially called "Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD)," is the same name used by the Air Force for their next-gen fighter project. However, little else is known about the Navy's program remains. However, in recent budget requests, the Navy has expressed a desire to prioritize funding NGAD's research and development instead of continuing the production of F/A-18 "Super Hornets."

The F/A-XX must be equipped with advanced weapons and data links, with planners prioritizing the placement of apertures for sensing and communications. This is likely to be a very costly affair.

Pricier than F-35

While information is pretty sparse, and if the United States Air Force's planned NGAD is anything to go by, it could be more expensive than the F-35 program. According to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the upcoming NGAD fighter is expected to cost "multiples" of the F-35 fighter jet. Plans are currently in place to purchase 200 units of the new, costlier fighter, which is set to replace the F-22 starting in the 2030s.

The White House, Aviation Week reports, linked the F/A-XX program to a classified program called Link Plumeria in July. This program is the Pentagon's fourth-largest research and development program and has been allocated $11.5 billion in the Defense Department's budget request for fiscal years 2023-27.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board