The US Navy and Airforce are both developing sixth-generation future fighter aircraft to replace the Super Hornet and F-22 and F-15 Eagle aircraft.

Verdict has conducted a poll to assess whether the economic fallout due to COVID-19 will impact the timeline for fielding of the sixth-generation aircraft.

A majority 51% of the respondents opined that COVID-19 will impact the timeline for fielding of the sixth-generation aircraft.

While 24% of the respondents voted that COVID-19 will not impact the timeline, 25% opined that the pandemic may impact the timeline for fielding of the sixth-generation aircraft.

COVID-19 to impact the timeline for fielding of sixth-generation aircraft

The analysis is based on 325 responses received from the readers of Verdict’s defence sites, Airforce Technology, Army Technology, and Naval Technology, for a poll conducted between 27 January and 01 March.

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Development of sixth-generation aircraft

The US Navy is developing sixth-generation aircraft or F/A-XX, under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme. The new aircraft will replace the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet models, with an in-service date planned for 2030. The aircraft is expected to be manned, unmanned or both and capable of countering land, air, and sea threats equally.

The US Airforce (USAF) is developing the sixth-generation aircraft under the F-X programme or Penetrating Counter Air. It will be designed to counter threats that cannot be addressed by the current F-22 and F-15 Eagle aircraft. The new jet fighter is expected to feature advancements in a number of areas including communications, surveillance and reconnaissance, and command and control. It will also feature advanced electronic warfare and weapons platforms.

The sixth-generation aircraft is currently in the design phase although William B. Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, announced in September 2020 that a full-scale flight demonstrator was flown under the NGAD programme. The details of the prototype, however, were not released.

The final draft of the FY21 defence bill, however, has cut $70m from the NGAD programme. Roper noted that he was unable to discuss the details of the programme with lawmakers due to the restrictions imposed amid COVID -19 pandemic hoping that the pandemic does not impact the programme.