The crown jewel of American airpower, the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, is facing a potential identity crisis. Soaring costs threaten to clip the wings of this ambitious project, raising questions about the future of US air superiority.

Dream Jet, Nightmarish Price Tag

NGAD was envisioned as the crown jewel of American airpower, a technological marvel surpassing anything currently in existence.

Imagine a sixth-generation fighter – a pilot’s dream with unmatched stealth capabilities, next-gen sensors, and powerful weaponry. However, this dream is turning into a budgetary nightmare.

Initial estimates suggest a price tag of a staggering $300 million per jet, three times that of the F-35 Lightning II. This hefty price tag throws a wrench into the initial plan of deploying 200 NGAD fighters, forcing the USAF to re-evaluate the entire program.

Redesigning for Affordability, but at What Cost?

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall insists the program isn’t dead, but a redesign is on the horizon.

The goal? Affordability. This likely translates to a simpler, less powerful engine, potentially sacrificing some of the cutting-edge features envisioned.

While this might make the program more budget-friendly, questions arise about whether a less-capable NGAD can truly maintain America’s edge against rapidly advancing adversaries like China.

“The family of systems concept of Next Generation Air Dominance is alive and well,” Kendall told Defense News in an exclusive interview on June 28. “I can tell you that we are looking at the NGAD platform design concept to see if it’s the right concept or not. … We’re looking at whether we can do something that’s less expensive and do some trade-offs there.”