The F-22 Raptor is being used to test next-generation air dominance technology

The F-22 Raptor is being used to test next-generation air dominance technology

The F-22 Raptor is being used to test next-generation air dominance technology.

The Pentagon’s budget request documents for Fiscal Year 2023 include some interesting facts that may help explain the abrupt increase in unannounced testing of new features on the F-22 Raptor, which The War Zone was first to report on.

The documents detail how the F-22 is being used as a testbed for technologies being developed as part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, as well as adopting technology that was created for NGAD but can be launched early on the F-22 to address new threats.

NGAD is more than just a “new fighter.” In fact, referring to whatever it produces as a fighter is probably inaccurate. It’s a multi-pronged effort aimed at developing a “system of systems” that will ensure US tactical air dominance for decades to come. It comes with a highly versatile and optionally manned platform with long-range, improved survivability, and next-generation modular sensor capabilities.

It’s also rumored to be working on companion unmanned aircraft and weaponry, as well as a high-end networking infrastructure to link them all up. Aside from these high-end products, NGAD contains a series of studies and development efforts that are required to validate and bring to life the technologies that will underlie the NGAD ecosystem as a whole. For some time now, some form of NGAD demonstration has been flying, albeit it’s unclear what it entails.

The F-22 Raptor is being used to test next-generation air dominance technology
The F-22 Raptor is being used to test next-generation air dominance technology

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The classified F-22 development initiatives include technology maturation, risk reduction, research, demonstrations, and prototypes. The F-22 Advanced Technology Development (ATD) program follows a rapid acquisition model that incorporates commercial best practices like agile and lean. This enables the F-22 Raptor organization to develop, test, and field software/hardware from a variety of programs (product lines) on a regular basis as capabilities mature.

The F-22 program tries to maximize efficiency by transferring technology to and from the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) portfolio based on evolving threats, Air Force priorities, and development pipeline capacity. NGAD-developed technology will be included in the F-22 armament system through creating, integration, and testing capabilities.

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