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Pentagon Picks Northrop Grumman For Next Gen Bomber ( 237

retroworks writes: The B-52s currently in use have been flown by three generations of American Air Force pilots. B1s and B-2 Bombers are also long in the tooth. The Pentagon has been looking for a new model to replace them, and Northrop Grumman has won for the next half-century with a major new order for state-of-the-art bomber aircraft. The bomber will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and the contract is worth almost $60 billion. The Atlantic reports, "While the current fleet remains useful, the Air Force wants a bomber that can evade the advancing air defenses of Russia and China—if ever the need arises. The long-range bomber would act as a deterrent against actions designed to keep U.S. forces out of a designated area—what the military calls 'anti-access aerial denial.'"
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Pentagon Picks Northrop Grumman For Next Gen Bomber

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  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @05:30AM (#50815507)

    Here we have 100 bombers delivered under contract for the cost of developing the F-35 with no aircraft delivered. I wonder if it will actually happen tho...

    • Re: How about (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Instead of building fighter planes, we spend that money on feeding the poor, educating people with no options for education, and providing infrastructure to help those who lack even running water, let alone electricity, internet, or other amenities of modern life?

      • Right, because the history of countries which ignore their defense has been so positive.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @07:32AM (#50815797) Journal
      They padded it out with a bunch of paperwork just so everyone could save face; but I'm told that the actual bidding process was "We need a new bomber. Which one of our military aircraft oligopolies isn't responsible for the F-35? Ok, them then."
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Don't worry, there is still plenty of time for it to go over budget. Spec changes, unforeseen problems that somehow the government gets to pay for... I'm sure they will find something to pay for the CEO's 3rd yacht*.

      • Spec changes, unforeseen problems that somehow the government gets to pay for...

        So, you advocate for the engineers to work for free to fix issues with the requirements?
        Who else would be expected to pay when the requirements change and therefore "unforseen problems" are found?

  • Evade air defense? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @05:34AM (#50815513) Homepage Journal

    I'd say it was easily doable if it was a B-52 style 'bomb truck', perhaps even being supersonic like the B-1.

    But if it has to survive against modern air defenses that means stealth AND speed. I'm thinking of something like a supersized F-22 or 35.

    As such, I'm with Richard - 100 craft delivered for less than the cost of F-35 development? Even if it's just scaling up a F-35, I don't see it happening.

    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @05:45AM (#50815525)

      The current understanding of the contract within the military aviation industry and community is that the bomber is not supersonic, doesn't even have supersonic dash capabilities, and is intended to have better stealth characteristics than anything currently developed - looks like they are going for mainly stealth as a defensive measure, with a good dose of active and passive ECM capabilities to make up the difference.

      • Isn't stealth technology ineffective against the kinds of radars found in dedicated anti-air defense systems such as S-300?
        • No, because stealth technology isn't a single thing and radar technology isn't a single thing - both evolve over time. Older stealth technology may be defeated, but improved technologies become available, just the same as detection technologies evolve in attempts to defeat stealth.

          • Still laws of physics don't change and land based radars have inherent advantage, simply because they can have an order of magnitude more power at their disposal due to being connected to the power grid. And puny planes don't even have nuclear power plants installed..
            • Those high powered ground based radars will be long gone by the time a bomber gets there.

              • No, the power is spread across radio and tv transmitters, cell towers, and the like. The radar sites can be largely passive as long as they are synchronized.

                • How long do you think those transmitters will be around? They are all valid military targets to begin with doublely so if the detection system is using them.

                  They are fixed well known locations gone in the opening salvo's. Any new sources will be on the receiving end of AMG-88 and similar in short order.

            • Antenna size also makes a difference. High end fighter radars are packed to the gills with clever RF tricks; but you can only do so much to overcome the limitations of not having the antenna you want.
            • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @08:01AM (#50815887)

              Even with older stealth technologies in the F-117 and the B-2, the tactics involved in deploying them recognised they did not eliminate chances of detection but rather reduced the effectiveness of fixed position radar installations to the point where their coverage no longer overlapped, so the entry route into the denied area was planned around those gaps between radar sites which weren't supposed to be there. It wasn't a case of the B-2 could simply fly straight at the defenders radar grid without detection, as there is always a point where the radar energy is enough that you will get a detectable return off of the aircraft regardless, even if its only a few miles out.

              So the problem you are describing is not new, and has always been part of the cat and mouse game that is stealth and radar.

              • Indeed it's not new and it's very hard to do much new development here. Trying to sneak past enemy radars will be always a hard task which could be confounded by intelligence being obsolete or mobile defenses being in unanticipated places. Besides, actual high value targets will be always well covered by radar thus only undefended places will be civilian locales making this bomber basically a weapon of terrorism. I think only sane approach to dealing with properly constructed anti-air grid would be to destr
            • After experiencing first hand what armed forces radars can do I don't think land-based has the edge you think it does.
          • You can not improve stealth beyond a certain point.
            After all: the plane has to fly, it has an engine, it has exhaust, and worst of all it causes turbulences. At night it is covering the stars etc. p.p.
            At night if there are either no clouds or the plane is below the clouds you spot every plane with a simple IR camera.
            The turbulences a stealth fighter causes are visible on weather radar.

        • Not really. Very low wavelength radar can "defeat" stealth, but can't be used to guide missiles, chances are good the new plane will have some new trick to help with that as well.
    • Even if it's just scaling up a F-35

      Scale it up to a bomber? It barely scales up to a fighter!

    • Just in case it proves to be unfeasible to build a bomber that can survive modern air defense systems; we always have the option(additional charges may apply) of retrofitting the bomber to deliver short or medium range air to ground missiles instead of just dropping things from above the target. Sure, that adds a factor of ten to the cost of every warhead delivered over the life of the aircraft; but it does allow you to stay away from fixed AA.

      We already do that with air-launched cruise missiles and B-52
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Even if it's just scaling up a F-35, I don't see it happening.

      Even if it's delivering an operational F-35 without fudging the definition of "operational", I don't see it happening either.

  • by Pegasus ( 13291 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @05:37AM (#50815517) Homepage

    Various sources around the net speculate that this thing is already flying for some years now. Developed as a black program, this announcement would serve only to declassify it. One wonders how many $$$ already went into it ...

    • Re:Already flying? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @05:53AM (#50815555)

      Actually, its not just speculation - the program is already fairly mature as all competitors have flown demonstrator scale versions and developed their entries to a higher level than normally required to. As an example, both the F-22 and F-35 programs were awarded based off of non-representative demonstrators, and the actual production examples were then developed from scratch after the contracts were awarded - in this case, the competitors were required to fly demonstrators based on the production examples, and were fully funded to that goal. The winner now gets to continue development on to full scale.

      Why the change in approach? Because its run by a different office than normal acquisitions - the LRS-B contract competition was run by the Rapid Capabilities Office, which also handled such programs as the X-37 and thus isn't bound to the normal acquisition rulebook.

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

        "both the F-22 and F-35 programs were awarded based off of non-representative demonstrators, and the actual production examples were then developed from scratch after the contracts were awarded "

        Boeing and Lockheed-Martin were both given $750m contracts for prototype development. This resulted in the Lockheed Martin X-35 and Boeing X-32. After evaluating the performance of the prototypes it was determined that both planes met the design specifications. Those aren't "non representative demonstrators". Th

        • Actually, neither the X-35 nor the X-32 were representative of the final product at all - the X-32 had a completely different wing to the design Boeing submitted in their final offer (the X-32 had a delta wing while the final offering had a conventional wing and tailplane), and the X-35 only kept a vague visual similarity in its transition to the F-35.

          Nothing other than the general look from the X-35 was carried over to the F-35 - even the engine, high speed turboshaft and lift fan were developed from scrat

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        There was a documentary, Nova I think, that really pissed me off and made me hate the F-35 from the start. I actually like the idea - even though it can't be as good as a specialized device, I'm a fan of the Swiss Army Knife for example. Anyhow, I think the documentary name was something like Battle of the X Planes or something akin to that. Neither company actually had a fully functioning model, just concepts, that were actually changed even after the contract was awarded. If they were going to accept that

  • she used to be the bomb.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... if Russia and China announced new attack planes that were designed with the specific purpose that they couldn't be kept out of American airspace...

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      Yes I can imagine it - a rapid push to develop new early warning / detection and tracking technology that can counter such aircraft. Probably exactly what Russia and China will do in response to aircraft which can evade their existing systems.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      You mean like the Su-27 or better? Yeah... Russia's already got planes to do this. So doesn't China but I forget the names - I think I read that they'd kind of copies the Su. I'm not sure what the MiG's are up to but I bet it's fantastic.

      The Cold War isn't over - it was just paused for the armistice. They were able to make more money from business deals but now that the economies are coming closer to each other, it will be time to get the war machine rumbling. We can argue if it's a good or bad thing (I sus

    • They're, uh, kinda doing that. The Russians and Chinese both have stealth planes in the works.
  • We've already got two bombers vastly more advanced than the B-52, both specifically designed to easily nuke Russia. First the (supersonic) B-1B from the 1980s [], and also the (stealth) B-2 from the 1990s []. But they just keep using those old dammed B-52s everywhere...

    If anyone has a dammed good reason those two are pieces of crap, and a new bomber is necessary, I'd love to hear it.

    • It is secret what they improved, so no one can answer this properly.
    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:45AM (#50815675)

      Firstly, the B-1B only has supersonic dash capability at low Mach - it lost the ability for sustained high Mach flight during its redesign between Carter and Reagan (specifically, it no longer has variable intakes so high Mach airflows are out of the question). Its a fine platform, but its also devilishly expensive to operate, having more than twice the per-flight-hour cost of the B-52.

      The B-2 is also a fine platform, but its also very very expensive, and incredibly maintenance heavy. It requires specialist hangars and maintenance routines due to the age of its stealth technology, while more modern techniques means aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35 require much less preventative and ongoing maintenance solely for its stealth capabilities.

      When it comes to dropping bombs, the B-52 is still the most cost effective, and has the lowest per-flight-hour cost of any heavy bomber currently in the USAF capability range - the point of the LRS-B contract is to produce a much more cost effective aircraft to replace both the B-2 and B-1B, bringing costs much more in line with those of the B-52.

      • I wonder, could we take a B-52 and reskin it with composites and call it a day? It would likely require quite a bit more than just that to make it more stealthy, but the B-52 (BUFF) does still have its fans and it does the job asked of it.

      • its also devilishly expensive to operate, having more than twice the per-flight-hour cost of the B-52.

        Completely wrong. The B-1 is actually LESS EXPENSIVE to operate than the B-52, while possessing greater capacity: []

      • Its a fine platform, but its also devilishly expensive to operate, having more than twice the per-flight-hour cost of the B-52.

        The B-1B has more than 2x the payload capacity of the B-52. 125,000 pounds vs. 60,000 pounds. So the cost per flight hour isn't the issue since each B-1B effectively replaces two B-52s. IIRC, the problem was lower availability (greater downtime for maintenance) than the B-52, and intelligence from a Soviet defector that the new (at the time) MiG-31 had look-down radar capability

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The B52 has loiter capablities and sheer mass of bombs other platforms cant match - the B52 is one hell of a cruise missle launch vehicle and holds far more missles per sortie... the B1 and B2 just cant launch / drop the sheer amount of FUCK YOU a B52 can. Oh and a B52 can be used for say a biiiiig FAE bomb for that extra fuck you.

      So basically, if you want flatten the fuck out of something without a nuke, you want a B52. Hell, the B52 is perfectly good at big fucking nukes too.

    • Well for starters the B-2 isn't going to be replaced by the LSB, only the B-52 and B-1B are. The B-2 will be replaced by a new bomber design sometime around 2037, but that is ways off. More B-2s won't be built because they are expensive, and after 20 years the state of the art has changed a lot.

      The B-1B was designed to defeat Soviet radar by flying low and fast. We now know that this won't work against a modern air defence systems that know how to deal with ground clutter. While at present only the big boys
    • Neither the B-1 or the B-2 are in production. We got far fewer of the B-2s than we wanted due to the end of the Cold War. Our B-52s are crumbling and the B-1s paid dearly for abilities that are no longer relevant. The B-1 actually gets a LOT of use, we just don't hear about it as much as the B-52 for some reason. Both of them likely cost more in maintenance and per flight hour than we'd like to pay, though the question of whether or not the LRS-B will be cheaper to operate is an open one.
    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      The B-52 is entirely obsolete for the first-line nuclear bomber role that it was designed for. The reason it is still in use is because it is big and relatively cheap to operate and we're fighting wars where air dominance is easily attained by US forces.

      The other two bombers are not big ugly fuckers who truck tons of bombs and missiles like the B-52 does. They're more expensive to operate and maintain, and don't carry as much.

      However, they are significantly better for situations where you don't have compl

  • Typo? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mescobal ( 1516701 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:55AM (#50815699) Homepage
    I thik it's NorthrOp not NorthrUp.
  • The bomber will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons

    You mean like virtually every bomber manufactured after we stopped using wood and cloth for airframes?? You don't say! ;)

  • I checked the links and there isn't even an artist's rendering of a proposed design!
  • by belthize ( 990217 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @08:48AM (#50816051)

    Just weld some bomb releases on that badboy and let it do it. It will be cost efficient having only one airplane model

  • The headline is certainly prescient: This may indeed be the plane that will bomb the next generation

  • What could they want that an "evolution" B2 couldn't be? The other option is something like what the US almost built 45 years ago—the XB-70. The B1 was always a boondoggle and only has a very narrow effective mission profile (terrain-hugging approaches). The B2 wasn't used in a number of battles because it was so expensive and there were so few that it wasn't worth the risk of losing one. Nope, attacking with a large number of cheap drones—not necessarily remotely piloted—is the method tha
  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @09:58AM (#50816451)

    60,000,000,000 could buy you a LOT of drones. So what if they aren't all that stealthy or fast or whatever. Send 10,000 of them.

    Rather than have one bomber carrying lots of bombs, that might get taken down by AA measures, have MANY bombers, with a few bombs, overwhelming defenses. Make 'em cheap. Lose a bunch, who cares, no pilots to die. Also makes the enemy use up their ariel weaponry for the next wave etc...

  • The mission of this aircraft is idiotic. If we use this thing to bomb Russia or China we get nuclear war. Period. As such, the mission of any long range stealth bomber's can be achieved equally well by our simply nuking ourselves. Since we already can do that now, let's cut the USAF budget by $60B and declare "Mission Accomplished".

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      The mission of this aircraft is idiotic. If we use this thing to bomb Russia or China we get nuclear war. Period. As such, the mission of any long range stealth bomber's can be achieved equally well by our simply nuking ourselves. Since we already can do that now, let's cut the USAF budget by $60B and declare "Mission Accomplished".

      That is probably the best point made about the cost. The question shouldn't be about particular capabilities, but having enough capability to act as a deterrent. Is there a risk that our ICBMs and cruise missiles wouldn't make it through and someone would be willing to bet the world on it? Then yes we need these bombers. But is that a real risk? You are probably correct, I don't know for sure either way.

      But I'd much rather see a larger military with more soldiers who can more flexibly respond to variou

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      It's not for bombing Russia or China, it's for bombing some country with Russian or Chinese air defences as a proxy for bombing Russia or China.

  • Considering that an F-16 is "capable of carrying nuclear weapons", that's not all that impressive in a bomber.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982