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Skunk Works Teases Tailless NGAD Fighter Design in New Commercial


Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works celebrates its 80th anniversary. A marketing campaign around this milestone is underway and today we received a new advert that includes a preview of an intriguing tailless manned tactical aircraft concept. This aligns with what we’ve seen recently from a leading design firm around the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) initiative.

While it would be wrong to think that Lockheed is abandoning its highly classified design for a critical aircraft procurement initiative in an online promotional video, it is certainly indicative of what the company sees as a solution to the challenges of aerial domination of the new generation, at least in its broad outlines. .

The design has a very similar wing shape and overall shape to what we’ve seen in cryptic NGAD-related articles from Skunk Works in the past. In fact, the ad design shares many cues from the design that the company abandoned without explanation in July.

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<p><span class=Lockheed Martin Skunk works

The “stinger” tail is also interesting because it indicates a unique engine design with a 2D exhaust, similar to the one seen on the F-22, albeit with a lower lip extension. This would make sense from a design perspective, as this is a common attribute of low-observable aircraft, as it reduces/masks the aircraft’s infrared signature from most perspectives the sensors would observe it from , and this can provide a surface for spreading out and actively cooling. the exhaust after it exits the nozzle. It is not yet known whether this concept aircraft, or NGAD in general, will have thrust steering, but it is possible that it will, although extreme maneuverability would not really be the main factor justifying the inclusion of such a system. You can read more about the intriguing questions surrounding NGAD manned aircraft performance goals in this previous article.

Un rendu montrant un avion tactique habité de nouvelle génération d'il y a des années qui partage de nombreuses caractéristiques avec les images de base publiées depuis par Lockheed Martin.  <em>Lockheed Martin</em>” src=”https://www.thedrive.com/uploads/2023/11/20/Screenshot-2023-11-20-at-3.34.50%E2%80%AFPM.png?auto=webp&optimize=high&quality= 70&width=1440″ style=”object-fit:cover;object-position:center;position:absolute;inset:0;width:100%;height:100%;max-width:100%”/></div>
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<p><span class=A rendering showing a next-generation manned tactical aircraft from years ago that shares many features with basic images since released by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin

The large faceted bulges on either side of the interior fuselage are a nice addition, although we really don’t know what to do with them. Beyond that, they could simply be a stylistic choice for the artist and also a way to modify the rendering sufficiently for this. not to represent the actual design. On the other hand, these features could provide greater internal volume without significantly affecting the aircraft’s performance or low-observable characteristics. We just don’t know.

The most intriguing part of the rendering is the huge glass roof. This is new compared to other illustrations we’ve seen from Lockheed in that they would look to accommodate two crews instead of one. While NGAD overall is heavily focused on automation, with the infusion of artificial intelligence (AI) into piloted aircraft and its drone wingmen being key features, there is only so much a pilot can do. These aircraft will be as much advanced combat management nodes and flying “quarterbacks” of the fight as traditional fighters, so having another crew member to help manage this would be an interesting and potentially very relevant requirement. This comes at a cost, however, both in terms of fuel reduction and payload, both of which are considered absolutely essential factors for NGAD.

It’s also worth noting that the NGAD canopy will likely feel strained, even for a single-pilot configuration, compared to the traditional bubble types we’re used to on today’s fighters. This will be done to make the design as low-observable (stealthy) and streamlined as possible.

Again, it’s fun to examine this concept for what it has to offer, but that doesn’t mean it accurately represents Lockheed’s NGAD entrant or any of the many design iterations that resulted in this finalized product.

Another interesting part of the video shows a faceted flying-wing unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)-like design. NGAD’s CCA drones have leaned more toward more capable fighter-type designs, but Lockheed has made a very thoughtful case that a family of drones, with disparate capabilities, will be needed to conquer the future battlefield. These include more transitional flying-wing UCAVs, smaller attritable designs, and more fighter-type CCAs. The concept shown in the ad appears to fall somewhere between a flying wing, a high-endurance UCAV, and a tailless type that looks more like a fighter. Regardless, it’s clearly representative of the design house’s focus on next-generation unmanned systems above all else.

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<p><span class=Lockheed Martin Skunk works
Lockheed Martin envisage une « équipe distribuée » de drones combattant côte à côte et seuls à la pointe du futur champ de bataille.  <em>Lockheed Martin</em>” src=”https://www.thedrive.com/uploads/2023/11/20/Distributed-Teaming-Skunk-Works-copy.jpg?auto=webp&optimize=high&quality=70&width=1440″ style=”object-fit :cover;object-position:center;position:absolute;inset:0;width:100%;height:100%;max-width:100%”/></div>
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<p><span class=Lockheed Martin envisions a “distributed team” of drones fighting side-by-side and alone at the forefront of the future battlefield. Lockheed Martin

The stylized art shows the single-tail concept of the fictional SR-72, something we’ve seen for years now, so it’s not really new, but it does remind us that it’s still a priority for Skunk Works. This also fits with many indications that this program is making progress.

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<p><span class=Lockheed Martin Skunk works
L'une des nombreuses versions antérieures de l'art conceptuel du SR-72.<em> Lockheed Martin Skunk Works </em>” src=”https://www.thedrive.com/uploads/2023/11/20/landscape-1506607573-dk0biquw4aejmdx.jpg?auto=webp&optimize=high&quality=70&width=1440″ style=”object-fit:cover;object -position:center;position:absolute;inset:0;width:100%;height:100%;max-width:100%”/></div>
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<p><span class=One of several early versions of SR-72 concept art. Lockheed Martin Skunk works

Of course, this is just a little stylized information about potential programs Skunk Works is involved in. Many other initiatives exist deep within the classified domain and many other initiatives that the company has been working on for 80 years remain classified.

The Skunk Works story is incredible and has impacted many facets of society beyond its direct advancements in aerospace, from influencing macroeconomic practices to general science to pop culture. Kelly Johnson’s creation remains a jewel of the American military-industrial complex 80 years after its creation and these concepts are just a reminder of how Skunk Works envisions the future, with the three examples shown here likely being much closer to the future. horizon of achievement than some of the other things they do behind closed doors.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

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Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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