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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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By gamerk2 on 11/7/2013 11:11:53 AM , Rating: -1
Lack of carrying sufficient heavy weapons and nuclear payload. Not what the USAF wants; they want a heavy bomber to replace the B52/B1B, with nuclear capability and heavy payload.

The SR72 is just a glorified movable spy satellite that has no purpose whatsoever; UAVs perform the same function at the fraction of the cost.

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.

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