An artist’s impression of an Next Generation Air Dominance fighter NGAD concept.

According to a DoD contract notification, the US military may field this or another ‘next generation’ combat aircraft by the end of FY 2029. The United States may field a new fighter aircraft type by fiscal year (FY) 2029, according to a related contract notification posted on 4 March.

The contract awarded to Raytheon for AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) aircraft integration support lists several aircraft types that carry the system, before expanding its remit to potentially include those existing types that do not, as well as a type or types that have yet to enter into service.

“This contract will provide the necessary aircraft lab, flight test, flight clearance, and simulation support during all integration requirements in AMRAAM for F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22, F-35, and other current inventory or next-generation platforms that may join the air force or navy inventory before the end of fiscal year 2029,” the Department of Defence (DoD) said in its contract notification.

With the notification listing all US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy (USN) aircraft types (or their derivatives, such as the EA-18G Growler) cleared to carry the AMRAAM, it is not immediately apparent to which platform or platforms the DoD might be referring in its notification.

The only other tactical air (TacAir) platform in the US inventory that does not already carry the missile and which is not a derivative of the types listed is the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. However, while the A-10 does carry the short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder, this is purely for self-defence, and as such it would be highly unlikely that it would ever be equipped with the longer ranged AMRAAM for offensive aerial combat.