Next Generation Bomber Survives Budget Tightening

The U.S. Air Force continues work on designs for a stealthy, high-tech, next-generation Long Range Strike-Bomber ready for initial operating capability sometime during the 2020s and able to replace portions of the aging fleet of  B-2s and B-52s, service officials confirmed.

The Air Force acquisition strategy for the next generation bomber, for which the service requested approximately $400 million in the President’s FY14 budget, is to achieve a leap-ahead in long-range strike capability, stealth characteristics, communications gear and weaponry, service officials explained.

While much of the program details and its desired capabilities remain secret, there are a few available or known attributes sought after for the system. Extended range to potentially counter Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) challenges, fuel efficiency and an ability to operate in a more challenging or contested electro-magnetic or “jamming” environment are among the key attributes.

The service is hoping for the next generation bomber to be able to fly farther, have more robust abilities against enemy air defenses and carry advanced, next-generation weaponry to improve strike capabilities. An Initial Capabilities Document has been drafted for the LRS-B, the details of which are classified, service officials said.

However, long-range strike capability, which brings the ability to attack or destroy enemy air defenses and ballistic missile launch sites while eluding detection, is considered to be a key element of the Pentagon’s much-discussed Air-Sea Battle operating concept.

The Air Force plans to build 100 LRS-B aircraft, at a per unit price of about $550 million per plane. The LRS-B will be nuclear-capable and potentially have the technological capability to be unmanned, said Ed Gulick, Air Force spokesman.

“The baseline LRS-B aircraft will be delivered with the features and components necessary for the nuclear mission and ensure nuclear certification is complete within two years after Initial Operating Capability,” Gulick said in written responses to Military.com questions.

At the same time, the Air Force is hoping to leverage the best available industry technologies in order to keep costs down. The idea with this approach, naturally, is to avoid the kind of cost and schedule overruns which can accompany these kinds of acquisition efforts.

“The LRS-B program is leveraging mature technologies and existing systems to reduce development risk and minimize concurrency in integration and test. In addition, the Air Force is constraining requirements to enable stable, efficient, and affordable development and production efforts parameters,” Gulick added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at Military.com.

19 Comments on "Next Generation Bomber Survives Budget Tightening"

  1. Good to see this survived budget cuts. Our strategic bomber fleet is one of our best and most irreplaceable parts of our power projection capabilities. Can't wait to actually see what the prototype will look like too. Its hard to imagine something being more bad@$$ than the B-2. Whatever it will be, hopefully the procurement will go smoother than the F-35.

  2. USS ENTERPRISE | April 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

    US about to crank out new bombers? Hey, means Boeing is going to have a field day. Only thing that concerns me is the clause that is at the beginning of this article, that says that this Next Gen will replace the B-2. This sets off warning bells for me. 2020 is only seven years from now. The B-2 will barely have lived. I mean, it was an expensive project, how are you going to just replace it with a plane that is bound to be more, in fact, substantially more, than the projected price of 550 Million? Now, I can understand retiring the B-52. Honestly, I always loved the B-52, a great investment, all the airframes are paid for, and it is still very much serving its role quite brilliantly, but once again, it is form the sixties. It is time to slowly put the BUFFs to rest. Don't scrap them in the god-forsaken bone yards; preserve them. Of course, the B-1B's excellent payload, pretty good speed, and service record rightfully keeps it in the fleet. Last thing: don't make the bomber look like the picture. That is one ugly aircraft. Boeing, you will most likely win the contract, don't design another X-32. Oh, and just thought of this. Funny how the government starts to give out more information on the progress of this plane after Russia's announcement of its hypersonic bomber. Coincidence?

  3. While the services may make a hopeful budget the full weight of cuts are not being taken into account . So these projects will be delayed further. I dont see any new USAF bomber till 2025 at the earliest.

  4. BlackOwl18E | April 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

    Because this makes so much sense during sequestration…

  5. What makes aircraft and programs expensive is politics cutting the numbers built. The B-2 was offered In 1995 at $566 mill each. The cost in today's tech is the development cost, that is why I trump paying the development cost separate. Doing such would end the politic trick of cutting numbers driving up per plane cost which ends up supporting cutting more numbers which drives up etc…. Pay the development cost up front then the opposite reaction is natural were the public demands more numbers to get a bang from all that development cost.

    500 million range is doable if the air force stays with large numbers and don't fall for the trick.

  6. Half billion dollar bomb dropper? Time for The Navy to fight the bombers again.

  7. Well, $550M/airframe in today's dollars is downright cheap compared to the B-2, which cost over $1B each (more each, than their weight in gold at the time).

    If the Chair Force is going to make this number (100), they're going to have to meet that budget and offer something incredibly capable. Given their record, and the acquisition system, if they make that number (+/- 10%) I will personally be astonished. I think one can safely bet the mortgage that this paltry (?) $550M is going to increase significantly.

    And I take note, that there was zero mention of the B-1.

  8. Snafuperman | April 23, 2013 at 8:52 am |

    I remember reading something in AvWeek a while back about the operating costs (the real driver, not the purchase cost). The B-52 was about $1k/flight hour, the B-1 was about $3k, and the B-2 was about $8k. That was due to a sea of desert spares for the B-52, and the problematic coatings of the B-2. The B-52 is a great bomb truck in most situations where there is little or no air defense, and with a dirt cheap operating cost, that thing lives on forever. The B-2 is the only stealth aircraft, which leaves the B-1 in a bit of a lurch being not cheap and not stealthy.

    Also, the picture is not a bomber, so it won't look anything like that.

  9. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2014-BUD/pdf/

    8 billion for JSF, 5 billion for the Virginias.

    And:

    "As one of the largest organizations in the world, DOD consumes almost
    three-fourths of all energy used by the Federal Government. Consuming that much energy—whether fuel for planes, ships, and tanks, or electricity for bases, commissaries, and schools—has budgetary and strategic impacts."

    If true, that is pretty scary. Solar pixie dust panels in Afghanistan won't make a dent in it.

    Nuclear generators, anyone? Though I suppose an ATGM into a small nuclear power station would have dire consequences for the people nearby.

  10. Incredible, the comments are creating political problems before the program even has a good beginning. The contractor doesn't have a chance. He is going to get kicked around from several sides. What contractor has the means and will to take the beating and still deliver a good product for America.

  11. Well this is one bit of positive news among the usual insanity in Washington.

    There are a lot aspects to consider. Subsonic or supersonic? How large? What level of stealth? Combining high supersonic speeds and VLO stealth is a high risk option so that will probably be avoided in this current budgetary environment.

  12. This will be interesting, the Air Force wants hypersonic capability for this airframe.
    Maybe new propulsion technologies will be developed in this program.

  13. Special Ops Pops | April 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |

    Unmanned bomber carrying nukes, wow. Don't like that idea at all considering Iran skyjacked one pf our drones.

  14. this thing looks very cool.HOOAH

  15. Hope things works out for the LRS-Bs. I just hope they keep things on budget this time and Dod doesn't try mess around with it while its in development which sometimes causes these projects to balloon. They need high-tech bombers and low-tech ones. Manned has its place in Air Force, unmanned technology is still growing and developing. UCASS hasn't even matured into a functional combat aircraft yet. Why get ahead our selves with tech we haven't gotten used too..specially how fast we obsolete old technology. Pilots easier to maintain from obsoletion than expensive AI equipment.

  16. Russell1969 | April 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

    We have billions invested in the B-2 and the talk of retireing them or even the thought of retiring them is repulsive! Check the flying hours on the air frames and the cost for flying hour this aircraft was touted as the best bomber ever built. If the B-2 gets retired the tax payers will have thrown away billions on the B-2 program not just air frames but look at the cost of spare parts that will be useless.This asset need to be flying for years to come.

  17. Looks like more potential activity will happen at Plant 42…

  18. 500 million range is doable if the air force stays with large numbers and don’t fall for the trick.

  19. As long as it is a manned bomber its ok ENOUGH DRONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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