Most ads aren’t designed to break big news, but Northrop Grumman has been in the habit of using dramatic commercials to bring us surprise details on its vision for America’s air combat future. The company’s latest one gives us one of the best looks yet at their evolving sixth-generation fighter concept.
The new video features Hollywood-quality footage of a trio of wedge-shaped tailless stealth fighters rocketing through the air. This is a clear extrapolation of what the company have already shown us regarding their sixth generation fighter ambitions.
Make sure to read the article linked below for full context:
The fighter aircraft in the video looks very similar to the cartoon-like renderings we have seen, but the high-sweep of the its wings is much more evident in the ad. This is a logical and necessary departure from the company’s “cranked kite” layout that is optimized more for subsonic flight. In fact, the aircraft’s basic planform looks more like an F-117 Nighthawk than anything else.
The video also shows these aircraft being highly maneuverable, a debatable feature on sixth generation fighter aircraft. The air intakes sit atop the fighter’s fuselage to maximize low-observability and the nose section is similar to the YF-23, with a bubble canopy, pointed radome and a chine-line along the nose leading edge.
Underneath, bulging weapons bays can be made out, as well as apertures possibly for optical targeting systems or even a laser. The exhausts are pushed forward along the jet’s upper fuselage to mask their heat signatures from lower viewing angles, similar to Tacit Blue, the B-2 and the YF-23. All-in-all, it looks like an incredibly logical design.
Whether developing a sixth generation fighter is economically feasible, or tactically relevant is a whole other story, but it is not as if the the company is pursuing this on their own. Both the Navy and the Air Force are already pushing for a new fighter program even though their last future-fighter is still mired in developmental difficulties. Still, Northrop Grumman’s concept is intriguing, and it looks pretty damn awesome too.
The ad goes on to show us the strides Northrop Grumman has made in the unmanned aircraft space, principally displaying the carrier capable X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator, which is now a truly historic flying machine. And it teases the big reveal of what will almost certainly be the result of the Long Range Strike Bomber contract that the company won just a few months ago—a contract that is now being formally protested by the losing consortium made up of Boeing and Lockheed.
As for when will we actually see the bomber in question, or even a pre-runner, that remains unclear, though it does not seem like the Pentagon has any interest in showing it to us in the near-term.
The ambiguous nature of disclosing the details and the configuration of the LRS-B was once again highlighted by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter during remarks he made last Tuesday while visiting Nellis Air Force Base during a Red Flag training exercise. From the Las Vegas Review Journal:
“We’re doing all of this at the same time that we’re modernizing the Air Force that you’ll see in the future,” he said, noting there’ll be “new aircraft here on the ramps... You’ll see the F-35, you’ll see shortly the KC-46, the new tanker. And one day maybe you’ll see, but maybe we won’t show, a new bomber.”
In the mean time we’ll just have to keep looking up at the sky.