Next Generation Bomber Survives Budget Tightening

The U.S. Air Force continues work on designs for a stealthy, high-tech, next-generation Long Range Strike-Bomber ready for initial operating capability sometime during the 2020s and able to replace portions of the aging fleet of  B-2s and B-52s, service officials confirmed.

The Air Force acquisition strategy for the next generation bomber, for which the service requested approximately $400 million in the President’s FY14 budget, is to achieve a leap-ahead in long-range strike capability, stealth characteristics, communications gear and weaponry, service officials explained.

While much of the program details and its desired capabilities remain secret, there are a few available or known attributes sought after for the system. Extended range to potentially counter Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) challenges, fuel efficiency and an ability to operate in a more challenging or contested electro-magnetic or “jamming” environment are among the key attributes.

The service is hoping for the next generation bomber to be able to fly farther, have more robust abilities against enemy air defenses and carry advanced, next-generation weaponry to improve strike capabilities. An Initial Capabilities Document has been drafted for the LRS-B, the details of which are classified, service officials said.

However, long-range strike capability, which brings the ability to attack or destroy enemy air defenses and ballistic missile launch sites while eluding detection, is considered to be a key element of the Pentagon’s much-discussed Air-Sea Battle operating concept.

The Air Force plans to build 100 LRS-B aircraft, at a per unit price of about $550 million per plane. The LRS-B will be nuclear-capable and potentially have the technological capability to be unmanned, said Ed Gulick, Air Force spokesman.

“The baseline LRS-B aircraft will be delivered with the features and components necessary for the nuclear mission and ensure nuclear certification is complete within two years after Initial Operating Capability,” Gulick said in written responses to Military.com questions.

At the same time, the Air Force is hoping to leverage the best available industry technologies in order to keep costs down. The idea with this approach, naturally, is to avoid the kind of cost and schedule overruns which can accompany these kinds of acquisition efforts.

“The LRS-B program is leveraging mature technologies and existing systems to reduce development risk and minimize concurrency in integration and test. In addition, the Air Force is constraining requirements to enable stable, efficient, and affordable development and production efforts parameters,” Gulick added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Davis

    Good to see this survived budget cuts. Our strategic bomber fleet is one of our best and most irreplaceable parts of our power projection capabilities. Can’t wait to actually see what the prototype will look like too. Its hard to imagine something being more bad@$$ than the B-2. Whatever it will be, hopefully the procurement will go smoother than the F-35.

    • jumper297

      I’d like to see Lockheed banned from even entering any major contract bids until their current programs are meeting their projections they used to win the contract in the first place. Good luck getting that legislation started though.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Ha ha. No. No matter how much we wish…..

        • Dfens

          Yeah, because Lockheed Martin is the only company that has noticed you pay them more to fail. I can tell you for absolute certain, that is not the case. In fact, if I were to compare how well Boeing plays that game as opposed to LockMart, I’d say Boeing does a much better job of screwing the US taxpayer. It’s your government, if you’re not going to fix the problem, then quit complaining.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I didn’t say if Boeing is any better or worse, just saying that you can dream on.

          • Dfens

            True, speaking more to everyone than you for the most part.

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    US about to crank out new bombers? Hey, means Boeing is going to have a field day. Only thing that concerns me is the clause that is at the beginning of this article, that says that this Next Gen will replace the B-2. This sets off warning bells for me. 2020 is only seven years from now. The B-2 will barely have lived. I mean, it was an expensive project, how are you going to just replace it with a plane that is bound to be more, in fact, substantially more, than the projected price of 550 Million? Now, I can understand retiring the B-52. Honestly, I always loved the B-52, a great investment, all the airframes are paid for, and it is still very much serving its role quite brilliantly, but once again, it is form the sixties. It is time to slowly put the BUFFs to rest. Don’t scrap them in the god-forsaken bone yards; preserve them. Of course, the B-1B’s excellent payload, pretty good speed, and service record rightfully keeps it in the fleet. Last thing: don’t make the bomber look like the picture. That is one ugly aircraft. Boeing, you will most likely win the contract, don’t design another X-32. Oh, and just thought of this. Funny how the government starts to give out more information on the progress of this plane after Russia’s announcement of its hypersonic bomber. Coincidence?

    • Defense Tech Fan

      Boeing recently cut 30% of their defense management from their company, earns a very very small portion of their profit from defense compared to their peers, and is busy with their tanker contract (among other things). What could possibly make you think they are going to win this next-gen stealth bomber contract?

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Ever looked at the pedigree of Boeing’s bomber history? B-17, B-29, B-47, B-52, and, thanks to mergers, they have control over the B-1. The government has given its fighter contracts to Lockheed, and after (or rather the current) F-35 program, I doubt officials will buy in. Also, Lockheed is best at Surveillance and Fighters. Leave them to the F-35; they are already stretched thin. Northrop Grumman did make the B-2, and they would be second choice for the contract. But once again, I don’t know if they can sustain such a project, with newer ships and subs that are soon to be requested. (Zumwalt comes to mind). That kinda leaves Boeing. Boeing is on the tanker plane, and they are selling the F-15 and F-18, which are proven and relatively easy to modify/build. They are the logical choice; they have the best schedule, they have the knowledge, they have the pedigree, and every single bomber they have made looks dangerous ;-). That was my thought process, anyways.

        • A. Nonymous

          It is dangerous to use pedigree as a guide. two of the three JSF variants are carrier-based and the McDonnell Douglas/Northrop Grumman team had built (with a few exceptions – S-3, A-7/F-8, A-5 ) virtually EVERY carrier-based aircraft for the USN since the Korean War. And they didn’t even make it to the JSF fly-off competition.
          LM and NG are both more than capable to build a bomber. I don’t believe Boeing are a shoo-in for this one.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            No. No other defense contractor out there has the schedule that allows them to make a multi-billion dollar bomber program.

          • blight_

            Disregard pedigree, because it’s unlikely any of the Grumman guys are left after Grumman got absorbed into Northrop.

        • Restore Palestine

          BS ENTERPRISE loony, the meds!!

          • Free America

            All you have are put downs, must be your culture…

          • STemplar

            Arabian Gulf.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Uh, Pathfinder!

        • Guest

          The problem with Lockheed is that someone in the procurement office really believed them when they said “concurrent R&D/production will be easy”!

        • Snurdlatch

          Boeing made the bomb bay section & MLG on the B-2 as well as the wiring harnesses for Northrop. NG won the Tanker Program first time around, then the GAO gave it to Boeing. NG has been passed over with F-22/F-23 Program, the F-17/F-18 Program, & they were lucky enough to partner with LM for JSF. NG is due for a contract major contract. My opinion.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Eh, its not as simple as that. But I do think we will either see Boeing and Northrop Grumman fight over this, or they will partner up and gang up against who ever else is dumb enough to challenge them. Personally, I think a NG and Boeing collaboration would be the best option.

    • Defense Tech Fan

      Oh, and B-2 is contracted to fly through 2058. I wouldn’t worry about that disappearing anytime soon. B-52, on the other hand, doesn’t have as long a life remaining, understandably so.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Wrong again. The B-52 is suppose to last till 2045. Long time from now. B-52 was a great investment. It has a great payload, it is versatile, it has survived numerous replacements of its own, and could outlive all of the US bomber fleet. BUFF has the acronym BUFF because it is so.

        • Musson

          Maybe we should have the Chinese build us some brand new copies of the B-52 airframes? Then, we can add the engines and the avionics.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Chinese metallurgy ain’t the best, and the Chinese are good at copying the Russians. Besides, hate to see the USAF have planes with the words “Made In China” stuck on the bottom.

            /sarc

          • tiger

            They read the same text books we did. At last check Our quality control in On projects is not exactly job # 1.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Uhm, there is a difference between welding steel plates, and riveting stealth parts. China’s defense sector is yet to make an advanced RAM surface.

          • chimput

            How much ram does a bomb truck like B-52 have?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            How much does a B-2 have? A B-52 isn’t meant to be a first striker.

        • tiger

          I just hope there is Social Security for the people in 2045, Instead a bomber. the people need money & not bombs.

          • blight_

            Who needs SS when Darwin takes care of business?

          • Free America

            We need to ensure our civilization through deterrence. Who cares if there is money in SS if we cant defend or sustain our country…go hug a tree.

          • blight_

            There’s a big gradient between how much military power you need to defend up to the point where there is no civilization beyond the military.

            The North Korean “civilization” is certainly not worth its million-man army to defend, especially to the people living on grass noodles and extorted foreign aid (or Chinese “relief”).

            Conversely, going Europe and forfeiting continental defense is pretty sad. The armies of Europe have sacrificed much in power projection; and if they’d wanted to slash so deeply would have been better served in at least consolidating command structures across Europe to maximize force assets at the bottom and then eliminate redundancy at the top.

            But hey, that’s what sugar daddy America is for…

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I think this bomber is to signal both China and Russia to halt advancements into American strong points. Though, the current bomber force can do service that role excellently.

          • blight_

            Why would it? They will buy what they need to buy, regardless of America’s lead.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Not talking about buying. Rather, they might try and signal Russia and China to be careful with where they put their missile systems.

          • blight_

            You missed my point. The Russians and Chinese will buy what systems they feel they need to preserve strategic deterrence. However:

            For the US, we stick to bombers because we have stealth bombers that can penetrate enemy airspace to start the war, then follow up with nukes.

            We also use bombers with ALCM to penetrate airspace from afar with nuclear payloads.

            For Russia, they cannot penetrate American airspace without detection. Same for the Chinese. If it’s first strike, it’s best done with mobile TEL’s (which we don’t have).

            Since nobody else has stealth bombers, the advantages of conventional bombers are:

            -Dual use product
            -Can be called back
            -Can be kept in the air and dispersed much more readily than land TELs or static siloes (however, so can SSBN’s!)

            Not sure if the Chinese and Russians would really follow us into new bomberland, unless they are assured of products capable of penetrating American airspace on the big day.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I agree with you, except for this quote “..then follow up with nukes” WHAT? Did I miss something in all the new nuclear talks? I don’t think anyone (except NK) would be willing to use a nuclear weapon, especially the big three: China, USA, and Russia.

          • blight_

            We have weapons because we have a plan to use them. We pledged no-first-use, and I think the Russians and Chinese too, but it’s foolhardy to assume that there will be no nukes for the rest of eternity. Until then, the stealth bomber’s original role as an abortable nuclear first-strike platform remains.

            Of course, all strategic bombers have conventional roles, but I find it difficult to imagine the US letting go of aircraft-delivered nukes. The Russians and the PRC might, because there may be better alternatives in terms of delivery platforms.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I think its safe to say that the US won’t be the one to start a nuclear conflict. I wouldn’t say that the Russians, and especially the PRC have better nuclear delivery systems. In terms of bomber fleets, nobody beat America. ICBMs might be debatable.

          • tiger

            I do not need a $500 Million plane to stop a guy with a pressure cooker.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            But we need one to stop a crazy dictatorship.

          • blight_

            500M aircraft don’t defend the homeland, but cops can, ergo no more aircraft? Let’s not kick that dead horse for fun.

          • Restore Palestine

            Free America, one good way to “ensure our civilization” (whatever that means) would be to eliminate mentally ill / incompetent / inferior individuals such as BS ENTERPRISE and yourself.

            See if you can think of a way to speed up the process on your own.

          • Free America

            Ensure the survival of America RP. It isnt any fun to have to define everything for you in these debates, try to think for yourself moving forward. And again with the insults…is that all you know?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Gemini

          • Restore Palestine

            The way things are going, you are not going to have SS in 2020, let alone 2045. Your “hope” shows just how little you know about the crimes the US government has been committing.

          • Free America

            What crimes RP? Be specific if you can…

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Mercury (the missions, not the planet)

          • Musson

            Surprisingly – it’s the Chinese that will be under a mushroom cap of elderly. Their one child policy will mean a crushing demographic wave will break over them.

          • oblatt1

            How lucky for us that the Chinese have such self defeating policies and small town America can just sit back and take the win.

            Except that is not the case. They have boosted their growth by controlling their population and now the are relaxing their one child policy as they become richer. They in fact optimized their population dynamic.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Absolutely, 100%. Their population growth is too slow to support their elderly. I think that before China can completely become a superpower, it needs to fix its laws and freedoms (which are limited).

    • STemplar
      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Maybe so. Maybe not so. The problem is this: What is wrong with the B-2? Operating costs can be mitigated more and more as the plane becomes more familiar. The B-2 does its job, does it well, and is relatively young. Why replace the American UFO?

        • blight_

          The aircraft’s costs won’t go down. That’s a common feature of low RCS aircraft.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, there is point where cost overruns and savings intersect. The reason why low RSC aircraft are expensive are the same reasons why the original fighter jets using, well, jets. That is, it is new technology. This next-gen bomber, and its successor, will start to SLOWLY, but surely, make RCS technology cheaper and cheaper. And then, we will have aircraft invisible to the visible spectrum, and the process will once again happen.

          • Dr. Horrible

            Difference being that as soon as a given RCS technology isn’t a *new* technology, it stops being altogether meaninfgul. I go with Blight on this one.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, stealth tech is new, at least, relatively new. I mean, I am not talking about the F-117, but rather, the B-2. Reason is because we have to make a large aircraft stealthy. Only plane that has been “completely” stealthy is the B-2. Rate of progress will make the planes cheaper.

        • STemplar

          It’s very expensive per flight hour, has little room left for upgrade, and for every one you keep you have less budget justification for buying a new, most likely, more capable aircraft.

          • STemplar

            In addition we are treaty limited by the number of bombers we can have. Keeping B2’s will mean less B3s and drive the program unit cost up.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, by then, we will slowly be phasing out the B-52 in a nice, half-life curve that will end up with the last bomber retired in the 2040’s. We have only 20 B-2s, why would we dwindle an already low number? Also, I think that when it comes to bombers, the US has is sorted. So long as we can keep out current logic in 2020, we will be alright.

          • STemplar

            The B2s also have a very low availability %.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            20 is plenty. Even if only one is completely active, you have a 40,000 pound payload of bombs that can go almost anywhere on Earth.

          • STemplar

            Yes but on a good week we can only put a dozen in the air. The simple fact is B2s cost about 3x as much per flight hour compared with B1s and B52s and when it comes time to make a cost analysis they simply don’t make financial or tactical sense. For the price of a B2 flight you can fly 3 B1s on a mission.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Yes. I see your point. But this is what I am trying to say. I love the B-1B, don’t get me wrong. Same with the B-52 (I feel a lot of times my comments are downrated because people think I don’t like these airplanes, which is far from true). But the B-1B isn’t a stealth bomber. It can’t, say, stealthily sneak into a heavy SAM/radar mission area. Its more of a CAS or low penetration bomber. B-52 is carpet bombing. Now, the B-2 is in a class of its own; name another plane that can do the same things the B-2 does. It is expensive, as it has its RAM coatings, and other “top secret” tech no board, so obviously it will be more expensive. But replacing it? I mean its like saying back in WW2 that we shouldn’t use the B-29, because it is so expensive. Obviously, it was expensive, especially compared to other contemporary bombers, but in the end, the B-29 was in a class of its own.

          • STemplar

            You don’t seem to get the point of this article, the B2s will be stood down when the B3s are brought online. B3s will be better stealth bombers. The missions the B1 and B52s can carry out won’t require stealth bombers and they will be 3x cheaper to fly.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Look, I can see that. But I am saying that the B-2 and its mission capability are already good. We don’t need to retire them. In the future, yes. But I think that this bomber should supplement its “inferior” little brother, or the B-2.

          • STemplar

            OK you win, I surrender, they can’t afford to keep them and I do not have the literary skills to convey that to you.

          • blight_

            In terms of niches, the stealth bomber niche will undergo some displacement. The B-2 will be superseded by the NGB.

            Until we know for sure that NGB is seriously deficient somewhere, the NGB is intended to supercede the B-2. It’s similar to how the B-52 superceded B-47’s. The -47’s were new, but the advantages of the new platform and going all-new vs a mix of old/new were too much to resist, even if it costs more to make more news to replace olds.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Precisely my point. I am not completely convinced that this new bomber can take over the role that the B-2 has, that is, a stealth bomber. It will hopefully be better, but it shouldn’t replace the B-2 immediately, rather, supplement it.

          • blight_

            “I am not completely convinced that this new bomber can take over the role that the B-2 has, that is, a stealth bomber.”

            Why not? Asides from numbers, of course. It really depends on how many NGB can be fielded. If a lot, then B-2 is toast. If NGB fizzles, B-2 lives.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, the B-2 can’t live if its taken out of service when the NGB is brought in, which is my point. In the event that the NGB doesn’t live up to expectations, the B-2 can cover for it until its fixed. Supplement the B-2. Don’t retire the fleet. But of course, everyone misses the point and refers to cheap insults.

    • Prodozul

      “Funny how the government starts to give out more information on the progress of this plane after Russia’s announcement of its hypersonic bomber. Coincidence?”

      It’s not just the US and Russia that have announced next gen bombers, after so many years China has finally confirmed they’re working on some sort of B-2 like bomber.

    • robertabbott

      The drawing does look futuristic. Of course the final product rarely resembles the drawings. In so much as Star Wars got associated with the Reagan Administration. This drawing does have a “Star Trek” feel to it.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        I don’t know about that. The Enterprise-E looks WAY better than that, thing.

    • Robert Triplett

      Remember the B36 hype,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it worked until we could produce the B50, and B47,which led to the B52. The cold war will never end, and the US will always be way ahead of all aeronautical threats. The present Phoenix and air sampling WB 57 F were light years ahead, and still Top Secret with present modifacations.. We rule the skies.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Pretty accurate, actually. Also, who knows what is happening in Skunk works and Phantom Works. (Who here actually knew about stealth Blackhawk?)

      • tiger

        Yet 19 guys with box cutters get through. That is the threat, not a guy in a TU-95.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          I don’t know about you, but I think iron bombs are slightly more dangerous than a few box cutters.

  • Lance

    While the services may make a hopeful budget the full weight of cuts are not being taken into account . So these projects will be delayed further. I dont see any new USAF bomber till 2025 at the earliest.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Sadly, you speak truth. I mean, if the government can’t keep the Blue Angels in for this year, how do you expect them to bring about a new bomber. Maybe with some luck, though, we will find the “next Ronald Reagan” or the “next John F. Kennedy” in the 2016 election. Maybe something to look forward to.

      • http://twitter.com/Ashton1776 @Ashton1776

        Of course we could have kept the blue angels, that was just Obama doing what he can to effect the general public the best he can. There’s a few things he can do to irritate us Americans, like not funding the Blue Angels & Thunderbirds, and white house tours, to name a few.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          How un-American, though. Can’t go to the people’s house (the White House). And you can’t see the people’s flight demonstration teams (Thunderbirds and Blue Angels). Why not cut the bigger bits of the budget, like the “help” programs given by the gov’t?

      • JoeSovereign

        80 billion in budget growth was cut. The budget is still larger than last year. 80 billion cut out of a 3000 billion dollar budget.

        The Obama FAA screwing the public this week by cutting air traffic controllers instead of the tens of thousands obureaucratsts is just an example of the games Obama is playing with the American people.

        We should all panic because we can’t live without the massive bloated government we have today.

        If we were currently paying our bills we could debate what size of government we want as a nation but to be going into debt 1 trillion dollars a year and to play these crazy political games over a tiny cdespicableiciple.

        • blight_

          Always easier to fire the working joes than the CEOs, or other executives. They have nobody fighting for them.

          Same is true in any organization. Cut the members that are the least powerful, instead of the least useful.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Because this makes so much sense during sequestration…

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Sequestration never made sense, BlackOwl18E..

      • Ben

        Sequestration made too much sense… Unfortunately, I’m probably one of the only pro-military people around here to admit that.

        We don’t need an army to play world police. We only need an army to defend ourselves and invest to keep our technological superiority. The only problem with the budget is that the DoD decided to keep pouring its money into failing programs rather than maintain our current capabilities.

        • BlackOwl18E

          I think cutting military spending makes sense. That’s why I’m questioning why this bomber is getting funded when we are cutting back and sequestration is in effect.

          • Free America

            Black Owl thinks we should stop making new equipment altogether. Sorry buddy, the B-29 doesnt work anymore. We need “new” equipment to keep our deterrence.

          • riceball

            No, he thinks that the Air Force should just replace its bomber fleet with either Super Bugs or International Road Map Hornets because they’re the best planes we’ve ever fielded. LOL

          • BlackOwl18E

            Wrong on both accounts. What I think is that the United States armed forces should only buy equipment that has completed its tested process and that they should only buy systems if their capability is directly proportional to their cost. I also think that wise fiscal decisions lead to a winning strategy and dominance of all competition.

            My God, it seems if anyone says anything against the F-35 every retard thinks they’re against technological advancement.

          • blight_

            One alternative is to aggressively fund NASA to explore aerodynamic brainstorms, instead of paying Lockmart to do it for us. We’ve forgotten that Aeronautics precedes Space, and NASA did push through the X-series aircraft to do a great deal of testing for us. NASA’s mission seems more space these days, so it’s easy to forget NASA’s early role in things.

            Accordingly, NASA should be given extra funding to fulfill this part of the aeronautical mission. NASA’s role should be to protect the government from buying aerial turkeys, and to help industry deliver products for the American war machine.

            Theoretically, an objective NASA would look at the JSF design and go “woah, it can’t be done that easily!” and cut through the military-industrial complex’s powerpoint bedazzle-attack.

            Of course, we all know that NASA is too afraid to inject itself into conflict against Congress (which it depends on to survive) and the aerospace industry (which is still a critical part of NASA, and without which NASA would suffer terribly).

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            NASA wouldn’t stand a chance in a conflict in Congress, because the “politicians” think that NASA is a waste. When really, of course, it isn’t. Now, if I made the budget, 25% for NASA, 35% for Budget, and the rest can be given to whatever else the government needs to fund. Job done.

          • Free America

            Retard huh? Poor choice of words. You can do better.

          • BlackOwl18E

            I wasn’t trying to sound pretty. I was going for accuracy. ;)

          • crackedlenses

            His point still stands, retard or not.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Let me put it this way. The trillion dollars that will be saved won’t be just saved this year. Its over a period of time, more like into the next presidency’s term. Sequestration cuts important bits, and keeps non essential things. It was a bit like a ransom for Congress, and should be lifted when a new budget is made. Though, that is unlikely.

        • Guest

          They had no choice. The way sequestration works is they cut an equal percentage from every program, no exceptions, mandated by law. SecNav said he would love to stop work on the new golf course in Annapolis and use the money for ship maintenance, but he isn’t allowed to. Your congress and president at work…

          • BlackOwl18E

            The F-35 is shielded from sequestration by law.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Sadly yes. It should be at the forefront of things being hit.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Sequestration, Ben, cut much out of the military and NASA, but those two areas aren’t even the highest spending. Both Defense and NASA are the hardest hit sections of the gov’t. You wanna cut spending? Figure out medicare and medicaid. And then slowly trim it to about half its size. Bring back the Blue Angels, and White House Tours!

    • Davis

      Sequestration didn’t make much sense to begin with. Giving money for R&D towards state-of-the-art weapons and systems is the normal that sequestration disrupted.

  • C-Low

    What makes aircraft and programs expensive is politics cutting the numbers built. The B-2 was offered In 1995 at $566 mill each. The cost in today’s tech is the development cost, that is why I trump paying the development cost separate. Doing such would end the politic trick of cutting numbers driving up per plane cost which ends up supporting cutting more numbers which drives up etc…. Pay the development cost up front then the opposite reaction is natural were the public demands more numbers to get a bang from all that development cost.

    500 million range is doable if the air force stays with large numbers and don’t fall for the trick.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Trouble is that if the government “pays up front” there is no guarantee that they money paid is enough to finance the entire R & D bit. For instance, when the government paid for the F-35 (formally the X-35) it paid for the planes and R&D. Now look. We underestimated the price, and we are left with the much hated F-35. If the government gave, say, 30 Billion for research and development (which is pretty high), and it wasn’t enough, Congress might step in, say that the project was doomed, and stop funding, leaving 30 billion wasted. In theory, your idea should work. But with escalating costs and trouble with keeping Area 51 functional (SARCASM), the amount of money required to keep a project can’t be predicted, or paid up front.

    • blight_

      You can’t pay for unpredictable costs up front as if they were predictable. They’ll overrun and come back for more. And you’re still at zero aircraft.

      And the pols will kill the R&D to stop the bleeding.

  • tiger

    Half billion dollar bomb dropper? Time for The Navy to fight the bombers again.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      B-2. ’nuff said.

      • tiger

        Not doing anything the Navy’s Sub force can not already do. Without the long flight time, refueling or air threats. The Navy fought the B-36 back in the day.
        They need to fight the USAF over this toy.

        • Free America

          It has been proven time and time again, if you own the air space you own the battlefield. Unless your subs become amphibious we will always need top of the line airpower.

          • blight_

            Or the air force’s large strategic bombers versus navy aviation, which can theoretically strike without unpredictable bases that are targets for a day zero attack.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I HIGHLY doubt that Russia can send over a strike package that could take out Whitman or Barksdale. Just sayin’.

          • tiger

            The rest of the worlds Air forces have ditched the heavy bomber.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            No they haven’t. Russia and China still operate them for sure, and I think that some “light” bombers are in service with several other countries, I will have to check on that. But Russia for sure uses heavy bombers (Blackjack and Bear)

        • SW614

          You are assuming a sub will be close by and able to respond. Why should the USN fight this? It is not impacting their ability to pay $7 – 9 billion for a carrier is it?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            It might, with sequestration strangling everything good.

          • tiger

            3/4 of the planet is water. Try finding friendly 20,000 ft runways over most of it?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Uhm, on that 25% of land on Earth, we have 20,000ft runways. And contrary to popular belief, USAF aircraft can fly over water.

          • tiger

            It makes no sense to fly from the mid west 19+ hours just to justify a New bomber. Upgrade what you have? Fine. New class of them? No.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Guam isn’t 19+ hours form NK.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Uh, can subs launch bunker busters from their silos?

          • tiger

            A D-5 will bust any bunker. They will not need 10 + hours to get there either.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            How much does a D-5 cost?

          • STemplar

            And does it start ww3?

        • 5096

          Tiger…

          Look up the statistics for bombers and percentage of weapons delivered in EVERY WAR since WWII. And then let us all know which submarines provided deep strike, close air support, and so on in OIF & OEF.

          When it comes to nuclear deterrence, subs are an absolutely vital part of the TRIAD…like the other parts of the TRIAD…but if you really think subs can do the same things that bombers can do, you may need to consider therapy for cognitive dissonance. Does that mean the Navy can provide ALL the air for the MAGTF, too, in your world…?!

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I agree with you wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, tiger is referring to the time when the Navy and the Air Force were pushing for larger portions of the budget to accommodate their latest carriers or bombers. The same thing could happen again in this case.

          • tiger

            The SSGN force can send the same payload as your bomber & stay on station. $500 million plane to fly 10,000 miles then leave makes no sense. Close support? That is what Naval / Marine air are for.

          • STemplar

            But it can’t be on target in 18 hours after a phone call, bombers can.

          • tiger

            This is not the glory days of SAC. Up grade the b-1 force with a Slep program. Upgrade the remaining b-2’s. Let the buffs retire. The DOD has other needs. A new heavy is not it…..

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Wow, hang on. RETIRE THE BUFF? Why? Its cheap, reliable, and a heavy bomb cart. B-1s are already being upgraded (LANTIRN pods, etc.) and the B-2 is still relatively new.

          • STemplar

            Like?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Man, you have it in for the USAF. Look, we have forward air bases that cover all the “hot spots” around the world. We have runways in Japan and Saudi Arabia, as well as Germany, just to name a few. Also, $500 Million bomber? How much does a Sub cost? How about its ICBMs? There you go.

          • tiger

            Wrong…… damn you misread me badly. Those runways are only there as long as they are friends & it is in their interests. Japan for example can always call neutral in a Pacific fight with enemy X. Saudi’s can do the same vs. Iran ( for domestic reasons). Our ssgn force can hit the same targets, have better reaction time, face no air or SAM threats. the stealth is built in. Your landing spots & refueling units are known or are trackable. The USAF has other budget needs. So does the nation. $17 triilion & climbing. We have enough toys to kill people. How about the State dept. earn their keep & actually talk things out for once?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Guam, my friend, belongs to the Stars and Stripes. Also, flying out from a base in Missouri might be distant from, say, Iran, but really. What are you going to launch from you ever so loved Subs? I like the submarine fleet, but it will never, ever, ever take the role of the bomber. 17 trillion? How much for those fancy-smanshy missiles you want to launch from those Subs?

          • STemplar

            For starters bombers aren’t going to land to refuel, that’s what tankers are for. Guam is there and there are also ideas being kicked around about some of the other US Pacific holdings, although again, that doesn’t apply to bombers. That’s why we bought 800 KC135s.

  • PolicyWonk

    Well, $550M/airframe in today’s dollars is downright cheap compared to the B-2, which cost over $1B each (more each, than their weight in gold at the time).

    If the Chair Force is going to make this number (100), they’re going to have to meet that budget and offer something incredibly capable. Given their record, and the acquisition system, if they make that number (+/- 10%) I will personally be astonished. I think one can safely bet the mortgage that this paltry (?) $550M is going to increase significantly.

    And I take note, that there was zero mention of the B-1.

    • SW614

      But yet the other services do so well with acquisition….

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Bet you ten bucks it won’t be 550 million per airframe.

    • William_C1

      Well one of the reasons the B-2A is so incredibly expensive per unit was because they cut the purchase from 132 aircraft to 21.

    • johnvarry

      USAF to my knowledge currently has 63 B-1B Lancers in operational service. These have received upgrades such as better radars, digital data links, a B-1B has been equipped with a SNIPER XL targeting pod and used for operational testing in Afghanistan. B-1B has also received improved defensive countermeasures.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        And, of course, the B-1 has been modified to be able to carry the latest US weapons.

    • blight_

      Re the B-2:
      http://www.fas.org/man/gao/nsiad97181.htm

      Looks like ~23B in R&D (see Appendix I) + 18B in procurement as of ’96. That 18B was probably for 18 combat ready B-2’s, plus the spare development model.

      “Air vehicle” is 15B (call it the 21 B-2’s), equipment/data/training 1.4B, spares at 0.9B plus change. Assuming no economies of scale, the total procurement in 1996 was 18.5B. Going 5x to 100 aircraft would be ~90B, which would be 110B for 100 aircraft. However, a 5x scaleout is usually pretty favorable. Exceedingly optimistic would be 20->100 at 50B, which makes it ~20+50-> 70B for 100 B-2’s. 700 million per airframe?

      As it is, it’s ~23B+15B procurement, so ~40B for 20 aircraft.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        I was thinking each aircraft was more like 2-4 Billion per plane, avionics and all. In that case, it would be close to 60-80 Billion.

        • blight_

          2B is the peak cost of the B-2/aircraft. Where are you getting 4 billion per from?

          The 2B number is commonly cited, and I went ahead and derived its source. Did you just add a “government correction factor” by arbitrarily doubling the GAO number?

          The flyaway per aircraft is cited as 500-700M, but my best guess at the actual flyaway is taking the 18B procurement total (which includes spares and initial costs) and dividing it over the first 20+1 aircraft.

          That said, 500M-700M per aircraft in flyaway is quite considerable.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well, under upgrades and what not, I guess its would be close to 3B. But I did some more research, and I lean more to the 2 Billion number myself. And the flyway cost would have to be 1B, no way it could be cheaper, considering its “small” numbers and extensive computer systems and RAM coatings.

          • blight_

            And we’re not even doing annual maintenance costs.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            True. But imagine the same costs, across the board of a fifty or so of these Next Gen bombers. Makes me shudder.

          • tiger
  • Snafuperman

    I remember reading something in AvWeek a while back about the operating costs (the real driver, not the purchase cost). The B-52 was about $1k/flight hour, the B-1 was about $3k, and the B-2 was about $8k. That was due to a sea of desert spares for the B-52, and the problematic coatings of the B-2. The B-52 is a great bomb truck in most situations where there is little or no air defense, and with a dirt cheap operating cost, that thing lives on forever. The B-2 is the only stealth aircraft, which leaves the B-1 in a bit of a lurch being not cheap and not stealthy.

    Also, the picture is not a bomber, so it won’t look anything like that.

    • blight_

      In the long run the spares at Davis Monathan will run out. And if the parts aren’t manufactured and no replacements are found, they will have to be “refurbished” or equivalent/better replacements sourced.

      Makes you wonder about those B-52’s that we were forced to cut in half in the name of world peace. We had to, and thought that the B-52 would be replaced soon, but…

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Worse job on Earth is cutting up aircraft. Also, if necessary, the US can just go to, say, Boeing, and ask them, with a few billion in their pockets, to open up the lines again, if it came to a such a thing. But Davis Monathan and Home Depot aren’t exactly drying up.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      B-1 isn’t in a lurch at all. Actually, the B-1 serves as the backbone of the bomber fleet. It can do CAS, as well as low level penetration, and can do a little carpet bombing. Let me put it this way: the B-1B has the largest payload of any bomber in, not just the US fleet, but in all of NATO (which is kinda the same as the US fleet). Very important. All our bombers are important. We need all of them.

    • Pat

      That’s why the B-52’s use standoff weapons.

  • blight_

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2014-BUD/pdf/

    8 billion for JSF, 5 billion for the Virginias.

    And:

    “As one of the largest organizations in the world, DOD consumes almost
    three-fourths of all energy used by the Federal Government. Consuming that much energy—whether fuel for planes, ships, and tanks, or electricity for bases, commissaries, and schools—has budgetary and strategic impacts.”

    If true, that is pretty scary. Solar pixie dust panels in Afghanistan won’t make a dent in it.

    Nuclear generators, anyone? Though I suppose an ATGM into a small nuclear power station would have dire consequences for the people nearby.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      I say fund something into matter-anti matter fuel sources.

  • LO Train

    Incredible, the comments are creating political problems before the program even has a good beginning. The contractor doesn’t have a chance. He is going to get kicked around from several sides. What contractor has the means and will to take the beating and still deliver a good product for America.

    • blight_

      It’s more a cost problem than a political problem.

      When your market is no longer free and the “competition” symbolic, the product suffers.

      • TrueBlood

        I couldn’t agree more. However, with open source competition our less than secure security measures have created an altogether emerging need to protect the data being gathered in production competitions. Otherwise, open source can keep costs down to analytical tolerable levels. Look back to the fifties and sixties to understand this concept w/ one notable difference. We took our country’s security a lot more serious than today. Security overrode greed back then.

    • TrueBlood

      Funny thing – its the past political problems that have created the comments and from my view point, they are pretty accurate comments. No upfront budget analysis can withstand the history of developmental overuns. Chief “trick” hee is to solidy a platform that can be modified to meet the future comabt role w/o giving up our forward capability posture. Convert B2’s into needed platform and incorporate new gen tech to meet the demand and quit the “Pixar” movement to develope a altogether new craft. Budget streams are tight, while real people are being sent home with no pay!

  • William_C1

    Well this is one bit of positive news among the usual insanity in Washington.

    There are a lot aspects to consider. Subsonic or supersonic? How large? What level of stealth? Combining high supersonic speeds and VLO stealth is a high risk option so that will probably be avoided in this current budgetary environment.

  • Tony C.

    This will be interesting, the Air Force wants hypersonic capability for this airframe.
    Maybe new propulsion technologies will be developed in this program.

    • blight_

      NO.

      New bomber to replace the B-2 and potentially some B-1B or B-52 units as they age out. Let the hypersonic stuff mature before we sink more billions into putting hypersonic carts before the horse.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        I didn’t read anywhere about a hypersonic bomber anyways, so. But do we really need a hypersonic bomber? I mean, with the number of bases around the world, the US can deploy a bomber in hours, if not minutes.

        • blight_

          I didn’t either, but I strongly disagree with feature creep. Advanced research programs are for research, not final procurement programs.

  • Special Ops Pops

    Unmanned bomber carrying nukes, wow. Don’t like that idea at all considering Iran skyjacked one pf our drones.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well you could say the same thing about man-bombers carrying nukes, as they can be hijacked.

    • blight_

      Indeed, let’s stick to nuclear cruise missiles. One-way trip, nothing to hijack but a mushroom cloud.

  • scott

    this thing looks very cool.HOOAH

  • Rob c.

    Hope things works out for the LRS-Bs. I just hope they keep things on budget this time and Dod doesn’t try mess around with it while its in development which sometimes causes these projects to balloon. They need high-tech bombers and low-tech ones. Manned has its place in Air Force, unmanned technology is still growing and developing. UCASS hasn’t even matured into a functional combat aircraft yet. Why get ahead our selves with tech we haven’t gotten used too..specially how fast we obsolete old technology. Pilots easier to maintain from obsoletion than expensive AI equipment.

  • Russell1969

    We have billions invested in the B-2 and the talk of retireing them or even the thought of retiring them is repulsive! Check the flying hours on the air frames and the cost for flying hour this aircraft was touted as the best bomber ever built. If the B-2 gets retired the tax payers will have thrown away billions on the B-2 program not just air frames but look at the cost of spare parts that will be useless.This asset need to be flying for years to come.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      My point exactly.

      • Dfens

        We only built 20 B-2s. If the defense contractors have their way (and they usually do) we won’t build any of these bombers.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          That I hope won’t happen. But like I said, these Next Gen bomber will SUPPLEMENT the B-2.

          • Dfens

            Don’t worry, by the time the defense contractor puts on their “this program sucks” campaign, you’ll be happy to have it killed.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Oh because they always end like that.

  • Matt.A

    Looks like more potential activity will happen at Plant 42…

  • SFP

    500 million range is doable if the air force stays with large numbers and don’t fall for the trick.

  • lance

    As long as it is a manned bomber its ok ENOUGH DRONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!