Print 24 comment(s) - last by inperfectdarkn.. on Nov 11 at 5:46 PM

A 2012 artist rendering of the LRS-B  (Source: Erik Simonsen)
Working with a decreased budget, the U.S. Air Force will push on with the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program

The United States military is tasked with developing new and ground breaking technologies, but budget issues are causing problems for numerous programs on the chopping block. 

Don’t expect that to happen to the U.S. Air Force Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B), an important step in modernizing the military’s combat aircraft program.

Much of the LRS-B program is classified, so exact details of the aircraft’s maximum range, design, and weapons payload haven’t been publicly disclosed. It is expected to have a similar range as the B-2 around 6,000 nautical miles, but anything else is currently speculation.

A flying prototype hasn’t been created, and just $600 million in funds has been used for research - $8.7 billion will be spent through 2018.

Even with additional budget scrutiny of the program, the LRS-B program continues to have support from military officials at the Pentagon.

Here is what Major Gen. Steve Kwast told the Wall Street Journal, “In the future, what our president is going to need is options, options to project power anywhere in the world within hours. This Long-Range Strike Bomber is going to be that option the president can use when there are no other options.”

There is increased collaboration between private government contractors, with Boeing and Lockheed Martin recently joined forces to secure the lucrative $100+ billion LRS-B contract. Since the U.S. military budget faces additional scrutiny, both Boeing and Lockheed Martin are expected to contribute “to bridge” until the federal government funding opens up again.

Boeing is taking the lead serving as the number one contractor, while Lockheed Martin is going to be in a support role.  The two companies are tasked with producing 80-100 LRS-B aircraft for the Air Force, publicly launching in 2024-2026.

Luxuries such as a more comfortable crew lounge and expensive kitchenette have drawn criticism from some military officials.  Previous long-range B-2 missions from the United States to Afghanistan, 40-hour runs, pilots didn’t have much beyond a cot to sleep on and a small cooler for food storage.

Beyond long-range strike capabilities, there is a global political posturing battle among several nations trying to develop new aircraft.

Russia approved plans for a next-generation bomber while military experts believe China is developing a new long-range stealth bomber.  There is unspoken anxiety in Washington if the US doesn’t work to develop its own next-generation military technologies as other countries ramp up research and development.

Furthermore, the aging B-1 and B-52 bombers are heading towards retirement, while the only 16 B-2 aircraft are combat ready – and cost $135,000 per hour for flight missions.
Critics of the program believe the Air Force would be better served in developing more sophisticated unmanned drones.  Beyond the Middle East, UAVs have been used in Africa and a number of nations are developing drones for surveillance and national defense. Government contractor Northrop Grumman is already working on a long-endurance stealthy unmanned air system (UAS) and next-generation drones are being considered.   

Source: AviationWeek

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Can it be done??
By sorry dog on 11/7/2013 12:04:47 PM , Rating: 2
Don't think any of the U.S.'s large bomber programs have ever not blown the budget and deadlines. Only way I don't see a repeat is if the program goals aren't too lofty such as sub-sonic speed, gross weight under 400k, and not designing it do too many kinds of missions.... But then all the same folks that are poo-pooing the F35 today will say the LRS-B is a failure because it isn't good enough.

Of course, by 2025 the B52's will be 65 years old and the B2's will be 35, and probably being a maintenance nightmare at the same time, so there won't be much room for the program to slide before the Air Force is down to picking up bones in Arizona. The other issue is there will probably only be one serious bidder here in the Boeing/LM joint venture.

It's kinda sad to see the state of military aeronautics today....there's not whole lot exciting things to look forward too compared to 30 years ago, unless you count all the drone cheerleaders who think they will take over in the next 10 years and be the solution.
When you see drones flying airliners then maybe drone tech is ready...but that ain't gonnna happen in at least the next 30 years of not my lifetime.

RE: Can it be done??
By name99 on 11/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: Can it be done??
By Reclaimer77 on 11/7/2013 12:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
This reminds me way too much of the F35 program justification. Where the F-22 was deemed "too expensive" and we spend magnitudes more money on an inferior replacement.

The B2 bomber should be milked like we've milked the B52. Its way too soon to be talking replacement. Its still the most advanced thing in the air!

RE: Can it be done??
By Jeffk464 on 11/7/2013 3:00:01 PM , Rating: 2
I know, what is wrong with the B2 that they are talking about retirement already? Based on its shape it has to be about the most efficient bomber design possible. The only shape that might be more efficient is boeing's X-48 concept.

RE: Can it be done??
By Reclaimer77 on 11/7/2013 3:12:15 PM , Rating: 2
The B2 is also battle tested. We KNOW it can do it's job and do it damn well. So well it's never been shot down.

Okay so the maintenance costs are high. Big deal! Better to spend that then trillions on a new bomber design.

RE: Can it be done??
By Jeffk464 on 11/7/2013 4:42:30 PM , Rating: 2
The high maintenance cost is stealth coating isn't it.

RE: Can it be done??
By CubicleDilbert on 11/8/2013 5:39:03 AM , Rating: 2
Sure the B2 has never been shot down.
In Afghanistan (vs. Talibans on donkeys and Toyotas) and in Iraq (vs. old Mig21 from the 60'ies).

RE: Can it be done??
By Reclaimer77 on 11/8/2013 10:41:55 AM , Rating: 2
Internet FUD. 21 B2'2 were delivered to the Air Force and 21 are in service today.

RE: Can it be done??
By tony78ta on 11/8/2013 2:30:30 PM , Rating: 2
Actually 21 were delivered. 1 crashed in Guam in 2008. And the others are not "Combat ready" which means they're broke. No Air Force fleet is ever 100% mission/combat ready.

RE: Can it be done??
By ianweck on 11/8/2013 6:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
Re-read his post. He's saying they were unlikely to be shot down versus those two countries.

RE: Can it be done??
By CubicleDilbert on 11/8/2013 5:36:43 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with the B-2 is that there are only 16 in the world and spare parts are scarce and expensive.

I am quite sure that in 2025 we will still have our ol' trusty work horse: the B-52.
There are still endless fields of mothballed B-52's in the Arizona desert for spare parts. Never change a winning airplane. ;-)

And I am quite sure that the new LRS-B will blow up any budget projections and introduction deadlines easily. Never change a winning production strategy (for the military industrial complex).

It is pretty sure it will be the most expensive plane ever. Maybe (again) only a handfull of planes built.

RE: Can it be done??
By JediJeb on 11/8/2013 1:58:11 PM , Rating: 2
Why can't the military just write into a contract the same clause that used to kill us in the lab when working for the EPA, namely if you miss the deadline for delivery, they dock you a portion of the price each day until you deliver for free?

If Boeing doesn't deliver the new bomber up to two years late they just have to eat the cost. Nothing like the expectation of losing your company to motivate success.

RE: Can it be done??
By nafhan on 11/8/2013 1:04:23 PM , Rating: 2
The B2's major advantage over the B52 is stealth, and the stealthiness will likely be compromised soon (expectations are that China will be able to work around it by 2020). At that point, it makes sense to decommission the B2 and continue "milking" the inexpensive to operate B52 - which is what the USAF plans to do.

By corduroygt on 11/7/2013 6:22:36 PM , Rating: 2
B-2 is good enough for the next 30 years, next B-2 replacement should be unmanned, these aren't fighter planes, we already have the tech to make a plane fly through waypoints, evade defenses if necessary, bomb, and return. You can have more range/bomb payload without having life support on board.

By CubicleDilbert on 11/8/2013 3:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
The B-52 will still be flying when the B-2 is known only from history books.
Everyone will hate this, but that's the way it'll be.
That's my prediction. ;-)

By Nfarce on 11/9/2013 12:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
That's a fact.

The '52 was concepted and designed right after WWII (initially as as a six-engine turboprop) and is expected to continue through service into the 2040s. Nearly a century for an aircraft that has seen many wars, and many generations of pilots. Absolutely remarkable. No other nation has come close to having anything like that.

Since its inception, the B-52 has seen five generations of front line USAF air superiority fighters, four of which have come and gone, the fifth of which is nearly 30 years old in design (F-86, F-100, F-4, F-15, and the F-22).

And let's not forget the Skunkwork's SR-71 (some records which still stand, and true top speed and altitude still classified) and F-117 both of which blew the world away which are now retired.

It's a remarkable achievement of design and engineering, the B-52 is.

By sorry dog on 11/10/2013 7:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
....and here it is...another drones can do it all opinion.

When you (and most of the flying public) feel safe enough that a drone 737 can fly you and your family on to your next vacation, then a drone can replace the B2's mission. Til then, it they ain't good enough.

By AssBall on 11/7/2013 9:48:48 AM , Rating: 2
What about Lockheed's own SR-72 won't make this immediately obsolete? More air time is all I can think of.

By gamerk2 on 11/7/13, Rating: -1
By AssBall on 11/7/2013 12:50:46 PM , Rating: 2
The SR 72 IS being developed to have payload though. Mach 6+ reconnaissance with strike ability. And as far as nuclear payload is concerned, hell you can put that on a artillery shell or hand held rocket launcher, let alone any airplane.

I thought the days of dropping thousands of tons of dumb bombs was long passed. A couple laser or GPS guided bombs is the new, more surgical doctrine.

By Jeffk464 on 11/7/2013 4:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the large bomb payload of the B52 has been useful in afganistan and Iraq. The B52 can loiter for a long time in contested areas and drop a laser or gps guided bomb when requested by troops on the ground. They can also fire cruise missiles.

By drycrust3 on 11/11/2013 1:34:53 PM , Rating: 2
And as far as nuclear payload is concerned, ... you can put that on a artillery shell or hand held rocket launcher, let alone any airplane.

I just can't see how anyone would feel comfortable using a hand held rocket launched nuclear weapon. Maybe it's the thought of all the side effects, e.g being blinded if you see it explode, possibility of not being able to produce normal kids later on in life, etc.

Build more B2s...
By SAN-Man on 11/7/2013 2:15:55 PM , Rating: 2

No need for an entire new platform.

The new B-52
By inperfectdarkness on 11/11/2013 5:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
This is what the USAF is looking for. The B-2 will remain in service as a first-strike weapon (along with the F-22). What the USAF needs is a long-range bomb-truck that will replace the aging B-52's (although all the buffs currently in service are relatively newer models).

Something with B-1 style internal payload, gas-sipping economy, huge loiter time, sniper pod & GPS capable. Doesn't need to be "stealthy". Doesn't need to be supersonic (like the B-1). Just cheap. That's it.

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