The service certainly hopes to get this program–its major combat aircraft one after the F-35A–seriously taking off very smartly. Will the money be there over time? And will the cost per plane be met? Not to mention desired capabilities:
Air Force Plans Major Step in Long Range Strike Bomber Program
The Air Force plans to award a contract to build its new bomber to a single vendor by next spring or summer as part of its ongoing effort to engineer a stealthy long range bomber that can evade advanced air defenses, service leaders said Sept. 15 at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland.
“We’re about ready to enter into the next phase of the bomber. We’ve spent the last couple of years refining the requirements and maturing the technology. Within the next year we will down-select to one contractor and then start the heavy lifting of building the first bomber and testing,” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy for Air Force acquisition, told Military.com in an interview.
The new Long-Range Strike Bomber program, or LRS-B, plans to have new planes in the fleet by the mid-2020s. The Air Force ultimately plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane, she added.
The Air Force has made the Long Range Strike Bomber one of its top priorities and successfully protected it from the cuts other weapons programs have sustained..
Although much of the details of the LRS-B development are not publicly available, Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned and manned missions. Air Force officials also want it to be nuclear capable and have the ability to cross the globe in hours [emphasis added]…
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as emerging and future weapons, Pawlikowski explained…
Opinion: Bomber Secrecy Should Be ReviewedOnly mushrooms thrive in the dark…Public information on LRS-B comprises three basic numbers: a $550 million unit acquisition cost, an 80-100 aircraft fleet and a 2025 in-service date—and a budget profile out to 2019.Congressional Research Service analyst Jeremiah Gertler concludes from that profile that the next step is full-scale development, founded on secret demonstration programs that survived the 2009 cancellation of the 2018-delivery Next Generation Bomber (NGB). That would place the competitors—a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team and Northrop Grumman—in a direct contest for a source selection next year.If Gertler is right, the secrecy surrounding LRS-B is more expansive than for any aircraft program of its size since the 1980s...…there has been a good deal of sensible work on the LRS-B requirement. From all accounts, it represents a step back from the NGB requirements, with less payload and persistence, and designed as part of a family of systems rather than an all-capable “Battlestar Galactica.” It exploits new developments in stealth technology that make it more robust across wavebands, aspect angles and time.For a downsized aircraft, $550 million is, at least, not unrealistically low and it appears that not only is the cost capped, but that major physical characteristics (such as payload) have been constrained as well. Keeping technical details secret can be defended……some Pentagon leaders and airpower philosophers are in favor of more long-range aircraft and missiles, which, absent fiscal miracles, mean fewer fighters. Whatever the merits of this argument, it will go precisely nowhere so long as its advocates can show nothing except a generic black-draped shape labeled “trust me.”..
As we saw when the B-2 came under attack the moment that it was unveiled, secrecy strangles the pro-bomber case. After you have spent many years and billions of dollars keeping secrets, it looks opportunistic at best to lift the veil when the program is threatened…
The Russians have their own plans for a new bomber (first flight 2019 with service delivery 2023?), of much interest to NORAD if things proceed–and very relevant to the capabilities of the new RCAF fighter for which continental air defence is the primary mission.