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The US has announced a tender for the development of a new strategic bomber
Material posted: Publication date: 27-07-2014

The Ministry of defence and the command of the U.S. air force announced a tender for the development of future strategic long-range bomber aircraft, which in the future will completely replace the obsolete B-52 Stratofortress and partially B-1B Lancer. The feature of this program was that for the first time the military decided not to require participating companies to create new technologies. On the contrary, companies need to develop a new aircraft based on existing systems. Terminate the contest and select the developer company is planned in spring 2015.

The Pentagon draft a prospective aircraft received the designation LRS-B (Long Range Strike-Bomber), although in previous years and wore other names: NGB (Next Generation Bomber) and Bomber 2018. Initially it was a rather ambitious project, involving the creation of supersonic aircraft with long flight range, considerable bomb load and extensive use of technologies of stealth. However, by the mid-2000s, the U.S. military decided to save money by revising the requirements for the prospective bomber.

In particular, the U.S. air force offered to make LRS-B subsonic because the flight at subsonic speeds to help maximize fuel economy. In addition, the development of bombers capable of flying no faster than one Mach number, could reduce the costs of additional studies that would be required to carry out when creating a supersonic aircraft. The U.S. military also decided that the future machine will relate to the class of medium bombers that would also save on research.

Later the U.S. government began to demand from the Ministry of defence a significant reduction of the military budget, which the air force again revised the requirements for LRS-B. In particular, the air force decided to firmly fix the project budget and the cost of one single aircraft. So, it is expected that the programme of developing LRS-B will be spent no more than 40-50 billion dollars. The cost per aircraft must not exceed 550 million dollars. For comparison, long-range bombers B-2 Spirit with the account of spare parts and equipment the military cost of 980 million us dollars and 2.1 billion dollars with regard to research and development activities.

Image: Northrop Grumman

To reduce the cost of the finished aircraft are scheduled in several ways. First, the LRS-B will be created in a modular scheme, which allows no major changes in the design to expand the capabilities of aircraft through the installation of additional equipment. Secondly, the bombers will be purchased in a simplified basic configuration with a minimum set of equipment. Later aircraft will be equipped depending on their assignments. However, the military has already recognized that the cost of fully ready bombers will be higher.

In March 2014 the head of programmes procurement of U.S. air force Lieutenant General Charles Davis said: "We receive many questions regarding the value of the [bomber]. Will it be worth $ 550 million per unit? No, of course it won't cost 550 million after full equipment with all the options". However, according to the Lieutenant General, the military will try to keep the cost of the fully staffed version of the LRS-B is close to $ 550 million.

Formal requirements for the prospective bomber contained in announced in early July 2014 the tender is not disclosed. However, some of them U.S. military has already been announced and we can assume that in the competitive documentation requirements have changed only slightly. About LRS-B while it is known that it will be subsonic with a range of more than 9.3 thousand kilometers. The bomber should be optionally manned; unmanned it is to be used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

The flight duration for unmanned aircraft must be no less than 100 hours. Maximum bomb load LRS-B is defined at the level of 13 tons; the bomber should be equipped with both conventional munitions and nuclear weapons. The plane must use technology to reduce visibility and protection from the effects of a nuclear explosion. In addition, the bomber should be equipped with equipment for collecting and processing information from other aircraft and communications systems; this is necessary because sometimes the aircraft is planned to be used as a flying command post.

Image: Boeing

Under the terms of a tender, promising the bomber should be part of a "system of systems". What we have in mind, the us military is not yet clarified. In 2012, the Pentagon announced that the long range aircraft of the U.S. in the future will be a whole family of systems, which would include unmanned aerial vehicles, ground weapons and bombers. The military described it this way: some components of the family "will not go in the enemy zone", while others will "act on the territory of" the enemy, some of them "can be reused", while the other will become "expendable".

Finally, a promising bomber will be relatively free during the day time to operate in so-called areas with restriction and denial of access and maneuver (anti-access/area denied environment, zone A2/AD). Assessment of the Pentagon, such areas in the world every year becomes more and more. The concept of A2/AD, the U.S. military lay not only the opposition of the defense systems of the enemy and his aircraft, as well as constant satellite surveillance, but also the conditions under which spare parts and provisions would be considerably more difficult or even impossible. To the conditions of the A2/AD also includes the lack of American political and financial influence in the region.

Of its intention to participate in the competition to develop the advanced bomber was announced by the American company Northrop Grumman and the consortium Lockheed Martin/Boeing. The first intends in the development of LRS-B to use the experience gained in creating the current long-range bombers B-2 Spirit. While the military will be offered a certain family resemblance: in the project LRS-B Northrop Grumman decided to turn and perspective unmanned aerial vehicle for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

B-2 Spirit
B-2 Spirit
Photo: U.S. air force

Lockheed Martin and Boeing had originally planned to create a new far plane for the U.S. air force alone, but at the end of 2013 decided to join forces. Any details about the project are still unknown. Presumably, the bomber will be created under the scheme "flying wing".

The first new bomber is planned to adopt in 2020. According to the plans of the U.S. air force, LRS-B will apply in parallel with the existing B-2 so the plane will get likened Spirit communication, intelligence, electronic warfare and weapons. In total, the military intends to buy 80-100 new aircraft, which for several years after the adoption will not have strategic status. This is also one of austerity measures: in the first stage the aircraft will carry conventional bombs and missiles that will greatly simplify the placement of airbases and maintenance.

Tags: USA , AME , aviation

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