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While the notion of “manned” hypersonic flight is considered to be very far away, hypersonic weapons - to be followed by hypersonic drones - are moving closer to operational status. And they could be the weapons carried by the successor to the F-35.

Drone fighter jets, hypersonic attack planes, artificial intelligence, lasers, electronic warfare and sensors woven into the fuselage of an aircraft - are all areas of current technological exploration for the Air Force as it begins early prototyping for a new, 6th-Generation fighter jet to emerge in the 2030s and 2040s.

While the initiative, called Next Generation Air Dominance(NGAD), has been largely conceptual for years, Air Force officials say current “prototyping” and “demonstrations” are informing which technologies the service will invest in for the future.

“We have completed an analysis of alternatives and our acquisition team is working on the requirements. We are pretty deep into experimenting with hardware and software technologies that will help us control and exploit air power into the future,” Gen. James Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command, told reporters at the Association of the Air Force Air, Space and Cyber Conference.

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Category: Science