A sixth-generation fighter platform is being discreetly developed by the US Air Force. Although fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 continue to be cutting-edge and world-leading platforms, the US remains apprehensive of rival nations’ developing fighter technology, particularly that of China and Russia.
It is controversial whether the US requires a sixth-generation fighter. In terms of current aerospace platforms, the US still leads the world. The US is unparalleled in both quality and quantity. Although China is actively increasing domestic aircraft production, having already built more than 200 Chengdu J-20s, a fifth-generation fighter that is genetically similar to both US and Russian designs. Additionally, China is attempting to create its own sixth-generation fighter. China is projected to be the US’s main competitor and the only other superpower in the world, hence the US is reluctant to allow the Chinese to gain any apparent edge in fighter technology. Accordingly, regardless of the resources needed, the US will pursue a sixth-generation fighter. However, all discussion is still centered on the NGAD’s expected operational date and the platform’s actual capabilities. The narrow focus on advancing and creating newer, superior military technology is nothing new, and this is especially true in the aerospace industry. Since around World War II, the US has been “pedal to the medal” in terms of producing cutting-edge aerospace concepts.