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Aiming high: USAF plans for Collaborative Combat Aircraft and Next-Generation Air Dominance platforms

Boeing NGAD conceptual art. The USAF's NGAD programme is run in parallel to its CCA programme. (Boeing)

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning for a fleet of 1,000 Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCAs) and 200 Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighters, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a speech on 7 March at the Air Forces Association's Air Warfare conference.

“I have recently given our planners a nominal quantity of Collaborative Combat Aircraft to assume for planning purposes. That planning assumption is 1,000 CCAs,” said Kendall. “This figure was derived from assuming two CCAs for [each of] 200 NGAD platforms and [an] additional two for each of 300 [Lockheed Martin] F-35s for a total of 1,000.”

“This isn't an inventory objective, but a planning assumption to use for analysis of things such as basic organisational structures, training and range requirements, and sustainment concepts,” Kendall added. “The CCAs will complement and enhance performance of our crewed fighter force structure. They will not impact the planned crewed fighter inventory.”

“It's [a] somewhat arbitrary [number],” Kendall told reporters later. “I don't know what the ultimate inventory of CCAs would be or exactly what the ratio would be. We're starting out with the intent to have at least two per fighter working together. But it could be more than that, it's going to be a question of what the technology will support and what works out best … We put that on the table as a way to structure planning around what we think is a reasonable first tranche [of CCAs] and a reasonable ratio,” he said.

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