Counterintuitive Jointness

The Air Force isn’t rushing to set up a joint program with the Navy for the next generation of fighter aircraft, according to Air Combat Command’s requirements chief. Maj. Gen. Thomas Andersen, in an interview Monday, said the Air Force’s F-22 replacement—provisionally named the Next Generation Tactical Aircraft—will probably take until about 2032 to field, but the Navy needs a replacement for the F/A-18 sooner. The Navy is “about a year ahead of us on this process” for a sixth generation fighter and “we’re going to try to catch up to them,” said Andersen. The two services recently committed to sharing costs and capabilities as much as possible, but as for a joint program, “what sounds like an intuitive solution with commonality ends up being expensive, and so we have not made a determination on that,” he said. In the 1980s, the Air Force and Navy partnered on the Advanced Tactical Fighter and Advanced Tactical Aircraft—the F-22 and A-12 programs, respectively—but the Navy’s swing-wing F-22 was canceled, and neither service got an A-12, which cost and schedule overruns doomed. (See also Looking Towards the Next Generation)