Editor’s Note: If anyone has an appreciation for how difficult it can be to develop a next-generation aircraft, it would be the folks at Lockheed-Martin’s Advanced Development Programs division, better known as the Skunk Works. The next generation of air dominance, better known as NGAD or 6th-Gen, promises to be a difficult task. Because of that, designers at the Skunk Works urge the DoD not to rush into NGAD when two capable 5th-Generation platforms exist. Greater is the need for the airplane(s) to be done correctly, versus the need to have them expediently.

Lockheed-Martin has warned against rushing into a sixth-generation fighter program without first boosting F-35 Lightning II numbers and implementing a “robust” modernization program to keep fifth-generation F-22s and F-35s capable against new counter-air threats.

The Pentagon has plans to buy 2,443 F-35s, but the program has been delayed by six years and almost doubled in cost compared to projections in 2001 because of problems during development.

However, Lockheed’s Skunk Works chief says once fully fielded, the combination of F-22s and F-35s will achieve the air dominance that America desires for the next 30 to 40 years.

Skunk Works: Invest In F-22 And F-35
An F-35C Lightning II aboard the Mighty Ike during DTII. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

“The quicker we can get a force structure that’s heavily populated by fifth-generation airplanes the better,” says Rob Weiss, who has led Lockheed’s Advanced Development programs office since 2013. “We should minimize the investment in fourth-generation airplanes: nothing beyond what is needed to maintain the force structure because obviously fourth-generation airplanes aren’t leaving the force structure immediately.”

The two services are working together on common components, like propulsion systems and defensive suites, but will likely press forward with separate fighter platforms tailored to their different needs.

The original article in its entirety can be viewed at Flight Global right here.

(Featured photo by Scott Wolff)