Amid signs of growing U.S. Air Force and Navy interest in a sixth-generation combat aircraft, Northrop Grumman is accelerating studies of key technologies for directed-energy weapons and thermal management. Not only is the effort integral to positioning for the next-generation fighter contract, it is also part of its aerospace division’s larger emphasis on targeted innovation. The company, whose last venture into the air-dominance arena in the 1980s, the YF-23, lost out to Lockheed ...

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