Next Generation bomber a top priority for the US Air force

The US “Long-Range Strike-B” (LRS-B) heavy bomber program is estimated to cost $55 billion to $80 billion for as many as 100 planes. The NGB was originally projected to enter service around 2018 as a stealthy, subsonic, medium range, medium payload “B-3” type system to augment and possibly—to a limited degree—replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging bomber fleet. A target delivery is now in the mid-2020s. Boeing and Lockheed Martin announced they would be teaming up for the Long Range Strike Bomber program. Boeing will be the prime contractor.

The price tag is an issue, however, not least because the Pentagon says it also needs to modernize the two other elements of the strategic nuclear force: the Navy’s fleet of Ohio-class strategic submarines and the Air Force’s Minuteman 3 land-based nuclear missiles.

The combined cost would exceed $300 billion, by current estimates.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday vigorously endorsed an Air Force plan to build a next-generation strategic bomber, arguing that it would help deter nuclear war and preserve America’s global pre-eminence.

The design goals in January 2011 were:

Fleet size of 175 aircraft: 120 for ten combat squadrons, plus 55 for training and reserves.
Subsonic maximum speed.
Range: 5,000+ nautical miles (9,260+ km).
“Optionally manned” (for non-nuclear missions).
Total mission durations of 50 to 100 hours (when unmanned).
A weapons load of 14,000–28,000 lb (6,350–12,700 kg).
Ability to “survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory”.
Ability to carry nuclear weapons.
Designed to use off-the-shelf propulsion, C4ISTAR, and radar technologies.
Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance along with command and control gear to enable the crew to direct other aircraft and force

The Long-Range Strike Bomber is supposed to be stealthy, like the current batwinged B-2, but faster and significantly cheaper, at $550 million per system. We have to say “system” instead of “plane” because the LRS-B may actually be a collective of several aircraft, manned and unmanned, networked together into a single tactical unit.

Congressional Research Service analyst Jeremiah Gertler looked at planned funding trendlines in a recent report and inferred the Air Force must have already done most of the development work on the bomber already, even building prototypes, in the classified “black” budget.

SOURCES – wikipedia, Times Argus, Breaking defense

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