411th Flight Test Squadron to flight test the NGAD: F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB has transformed into Air Dominance Combined Test Force to test NGAD Family of Systems

411th Flight Test Squadron to flight test the NGAD: F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB has transformed into Air Dominance Combined Test Force to test NGAD Family of Systems

By Dario Leone
Jul 1 2023
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411th Flight Test Squadron to flight test the NGAD

Lt. Col. Michael Coleman formally assumed command of the 411th Flight Test Squadron from Lt. Col. David Schmitt, during a change of command ceremony on Edwards AFB on Jun. 9, 2023. The transition showcased another milestone for Edwards AFB.

According to a USAF news release, the F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force has formally transitioned into the Air Dominance Combined Test Force and will be tasked with flight testing the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) Family of Systems.

While the Air Dominance CTF will continue to test enhancements for the F-22 to maintain lethality against immediate threats, work will also include planning and execution of integrated flight test campaigns for the NGAD Family of Systems.

Air Dominance Combined Test Force

“The establishment of the Air Dominance CTF shows that we are becoming more integrated and more lethal, while also shaping the future of air combat. We do not fight as individual platforms, but rather we leverage a system of systems approach across the entire kill chain. We will be an integral part of fielding a family of innovative platforms and systems through NGAD that will enable the Air Force to control the skies in a highly contested environment,” Coleman said.

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The mission will utilize Edwards’ established ability to leverage shared resources across the test enterprise to ensure safe and cutting-edge capability for the warfighter. “In April, we celebrated 70 years of having zero combat loses due to an aerial attack,” Coleman said. “This CTF is laser focused on ensuring that legacy continues”.

NGAD Combined Test Force

The Air Dominance CTF is comprised of representatives from Developmental Test (DT), Operational Test (OT), the program offices, and support contractors. The convergence of DT and OT allows the CTF to test systems against contracted design, while simultaneously testing for real-world operational environments. This combined test environment allows capability delivery at the speed of relevance for the warfighter.

1,000 CCA and 200 NGAD

As already reported, Secretary of the US Air Force (USAF) Frank Kendall said in his keynote address at the Air Force Association (AFA) Warfare Symposium on Mar. 7, 2023 that the USAF will field 200 NGAD aircraft and notionally 1,000 Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), and will request funds in the fiscal 2024 budget to develop these new systems.

Kendall said that the next generation of air dominance will include both the Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter platform “and the introduction of uncrewed collaborative aircraft to provide affordable mass and dramatically increased cost effectiveness.”

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall reveals that the USAF Plans to buy 200 NGAD Fighter Jets and 1,000 Collaborative Combat Aircraft

Kendall explained that the “notional” 1,000 CCA figure was derived from “an assumed two CCAs for 200 NGAD platforms, and an additional two for each of 300 F-35s.”

Exactly how many NGAD platforms the USAF is planning to buy has been a closely-held secret, and even if it is “notional,” the 200 figure is revealing in that it is greater than the current inventory of F-22 Raptor fighter jets which the NGAD will eventually succeed circa 2030.

Moreover, in May the Department of the Air Force (DAF) released a classified solicitation to industry for an engineering and manufacturing development contract for the NGAD Platform with the intent to award a contract in 2024.


“The NGAD Platform is a vital element of the Air Dominance family of systems which represents a generational leap in technology over the F-22, which it will replace,” said Kendall. “NGAD will include attributes such as enhanced lethality and the ability to survive, persist, interoperate, and adapt in the air domain, all within highly contested operational environments. No one does this better than the U.S. Air Force, but we will lose that edge if we don’t move forward now.”

USAF releases new concept art and details on Next Generation Air Dominance

This solicitation release formally began the source selection process providing industry with the requirements the DAF expects for NGAD, as the future replacement of the F-22 Raptor.

The strategy incorporates lessons learned from recent Air Force acquisition programs and will leverage open architecture standards. This approach will enable the government to maximize competition throughout the life cycle, provide a larger, more responsive industry base and drastically reduce maintenance and sustainment costs.

The NGAD Platform is one of many critical combat capabilities that will enable counter-air missions with the ability to strike both airborne and ground-based threats to achieve air superiority and support the Joint Force.

Further information on the NGAD Platform’s technical and programmatic details are classified to protect operational and technological advantages.

Photo credit: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway / U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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