Air Force Wants A Bomber That Balances Cost With Capability

Gestart door jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter), 16/01/2013 | 11:53 uur


CitaatService officials have cited a cost figure of $550 million per plane as the ceiling for the program, but even that figure has some mystery to it. Outside observers have noted that the figure does not include research and development costs, which could drive up that amount.

Fascinerend ook weer.
Ergens is het eigenlijk ook gewoon wel treurig. Het F22 programma is stilgezet om kosten te besparen, alleen om opgevolgd te worden door een duurder programma.
De kosten van de LRB zijn met de geplande 550 miljoen ongeveer gelijk aan het geplande bedrag voor de B2. Die werd uiteindelijk duurder, vooral ook doordat er maar weinig toestellen werden afgenomen.

Ben erg benieuwd wat er uit dit programma tevoorschijn gaat komen.


James: USAF Expects Long-Range Bomber RFP in Fall

The US Air Force intends to issue a request for proposal (RFP) on its new long-range strike bomber this fall, according to the service's top civilian official.

"We expect that there will be a full RFP, a final RFP and a competition probably in the fall timeframe," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Feb. 26 event, hosted by Bloomberg.

James also told the audience that there are "two teams at present who are working on pre-proposal types of activities, preparing to take the next step in competition on the long-range strike bomber."

While not identifying the two teams, it has been widely assumed for months that the two competitors for the program are Northrop Grumman and the team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The news came as something of a surprise, as the bomber program has been shrouded in mystery. James also promised more details would come out during next week's budget rollout.



USAF Defends Need for New Long-Range Bomber


The panel featured a full-throated defense of the long-range strike bomber as a key asset for the future of the Air Force. It was a slightly puzzling attitude, given that the bomber has been identified as one of the big three key modernization programs for the service and has secured what Lt. Gen. Burton Field, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, called "great support" from Pentagon and congressional leadership.


The new platform will be fielded in the mid-2020s, with penetrating capability in mind. The service will procure between 80 and 100 of the bombers, which will mostly be made with existing technologies. Those platforms will also have both stand-off and direct-attack munitions and room for a "significant" payload.

Field clarified after the panel that the 80- to 100 range is more about uncertainty over the price — the service wants to keep the cost for the program under $550 million per plane — rather than a figure representing the minimum number of bombers needed to mitigate risk (Note: An earlier version of this story did not specify that the $550 million price tag was per plane).


While the new bomber will be based on existing technology, both Field and his co-panelist, analyst Rebecca Grant, talked about the need for the platform to move technologies forward.



Citaat van: Elzenga op 26/10/2013 | 11:28 uur
Als er zo geen concurrentie ontstaat gaat dit project alleen maar meer kosten...Het lijkt me dat de B1 en B2 nog wel wat jaartjes meekunnen...

Het zal in ieder geval een grote uitdaging worden. Zeker omdat duidelijk is dat de producenten de laatste twintig jaar een stevige greep op het beleid hebben gekregen. Ook ambitie van de Amerikanen en de USAF in het bijzonder ligt vaak erg hoog, regelmatig hoger dan haalbaar.

De genoemde B1 en B2, maar ook de B52 zullen nog wel even in dienst blijven. De Ik dacht dat de B52 de 100 dienstjaren zou gaan halen?

Grootste probleem is nog dat de USAF zelf stelt dat je zonder stealth en supercruise kansloos bent, en die combo heeft geen van die bombers. Het is gewoon 'jammer' dat het B2 project zo enorm geflopt is.

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

Citaat van: Elzenga op 26/10/2013 | 11:28 uur
Als er zo geen concurrentie ontstaat gaat dit project alleen maar meer kosten...Het lijkt me dat de B1 en B2 nog wel wat jaartjes meekunnen...

Ik vermoed dat er niet veel andere keus is, als LM de opdracht alleen zou krijgen dan is Boeing voorlopig klaar met specifiek militaire projecten (als fighters en Bombers) rond 2020 rond is het exit productielijnen van zowel de F15 als de F18 en rondom de FA/XX, Boeings gedroomde opvolger van de F18E/F is het nog erg stil.

Als ze aan de overkant van de plas niet uitkijken dan creëren ze een pure monopolist en daar wordt niemand uiteindelijk blij van (behalve LM natuurlijk)

Of men moet het contact puur aan Boeing gunnen.


Als er zo geen concurrentie ontstaat gaat dit project alleen maar meer kosten...Het lijkt me dat de B1 en B2 nog wel wat jaartjes meekunnen...

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

Boeing teams with rival to pursue bomber contract

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 /  Tim Logan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT) 

Boeing Co. will join with one of its biggest rivals to win one of the largest defense contracts this country will see for a long time.

The aerospace giant announced plans Friday to team with Lockheed Martin in its bid to build a new generation of bombers for the U.S. Air Force.

The $55 billion job, which probably won't be awarded for several years, is the only major military plane-making contract the Pentagon has left on the table right now. Winning it, analysts say, is essential to Boeing's future in the military aircraft business.

While Boeing's Hazelwood-based defense unit will be the lead contractor on the bid, teaming with Lockheed will essentially double its clout in Washington, where the two companies are expected to face off against Northrop Grumman. The partnership will also help Boeing offer the Air Force better technology at a lower price, the company said.

"The team will be able to produce unique and affordable solutions that could not be achieved without partnering," Boeing and Lockheed said in a statement.

In the big-dollar business of military aviation, the stakes couldn't be much higher.

Amid shrinking defense budgets, the Air Force has made the Long-Range Strike Bomber, designed to replace aging B-2s, a top priority. And after awarding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Lockheed and the KC-46 Tanker to Boeing, the Pentagon has no other major planes in its development pipeline.

Whoever wins the bomber will sustain thousands of jobs for decades. But if Boeing loses the contract, what's left of the old McDonnell Douglas could someday find itself out of the plane-making business altogether.

"If McAir has a future as an airframer it's with this," said Richard Aboulafia, a veteran defense analyst with the the Teal Group. "I can't think of anything else worth noting."

While the Pentagon's precise requirements for the plane remain classified, Air Force officials have said they want something that can fly both staffed and, later, unstaffed bombing runs deep into well-defended airspace.

The Air Force will buy 80 to 100 of the planes and have set a price cap of $550 million apiece. That budget puts a premium on current technologies, said Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick.

"A lot of Air Force acquisitions are using existing technologies," he said. "You can field something faster and keep requirements in check and have a better handle on costs."

Both Boeing and Lockheed already have experience with the sort of stuff the new bomber is likely to need, from the advanced sensors of the F-22 to the strike capability of the F-35 to the stealthy, drone Phantom Ray developed at Boeing's Phantom Works in Hazelwood. But so does likely competitor Northrop Grumman, who made the Air Force's last bomber, the B-2, and whose X-47B stealth drone beat out Boeing for a Navy developmental contract in 2007. Still, analysts give the Boeing-Lockheed team good odds.

In the bare-knuckled but pragmatic world of defense contracting, these sort of tie-ups are not unusual on big jobs, as they help companies combine both technical expertise and political clout. Boeing contributes about one-third of the Lockheed-built F-22, while Northrop is a major supplier on Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Boeing and Lockheed had first agreed to collaborate, 50-50, on the bomber back in 2008, but parted ways two years later when the Air Force suspended the program. When it got moving again, they weighed their options before deciding to team up again, said Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher.

"Over the past year the two companies began looking at this kind of arrangement again," he said. "They determined that working together would benefit the Air Force more than doing this a different way. They discussed it with the Air Force, and the Air Force agreed."

Gulick said he couldn't comment on the Air Force's opinion of the collaboration. Aboulafia said both the partnership and the way it's structured would probably help Boeing's chances.

"They need to make this work," he said. "And this time what they're doing is having a clear program leader. A 'marriage of equals' means no one's in charge."

Should this partnership win the contract, having Boeing in the driver's seat could benefit St. Louis.

The company's Hazelwood assembly lines for the F-15, C-17 and F/A-18 are all likely to peter out by the time the Air Force wants to start taking delivery of the bombers in the mid-2020s. If Boeing plans to keep its experienced workforce here active, it will need a new product. Company executives have said in the past that St. Louis would be a strong candidate for a bomber assembly line, though Blecher said Friday that any location decision was still classified and Gulick said it was probably still too early in the process to know.

But in a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, defense analyst Loren Thompson pegged the bomber as the best bet St. Louis had to keep active the assembly lines that have been pumping out planes, and employing thousands of people doing it, since World War II.

"Boeing's the company to beat in this competition," he said. "And that program is the best hope St. Louis has for maintaining a large workforce there."

©2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

Air Force Bomber Could Fly Unmanned Missions

Jun 18, 2013| by Kris Osborn

The Pentagon may be settling into what could be a decade of spartan defense spending, but the Air Force isn't giving up its hope of buying a sizable fleet of manned and unmanned long-range bombers, the service's top acquisition officer said recently.

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

Air Force Wants A Bomber That Balances Cost With Capability

The U.S. Air Force exists because of bombers.  Although military leaders were quick to grasp the warfighting potential of airplanes after the Wright Brothers proved the feasibility of flight, it took decades before they were convinced there should be a separate military service dedicated to air power.  What changed their minds was the role that long-range bombers played in securing victory during World War Two.

It wasn't just the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that made bombers look like a weapon that could win future wars.  On the night of March 9-10, 1945 — months before atomic bombs found their way to the Pacific theater — 300 B-29s loaded with incendiary weapons destroyed 16 square miles of the Japanese capital.  Subsequent raids burned out most of Japan's major cities.  So the addition of atomic weapons to the air campaign in August of 1945 simply reinforced the already widespread belief that bombers were something new and special.

Within two years after the war ended, the Air Force was granted independence from the Army, and then went on to become first among equals in Pentagon councils during the early years of the Cold War.  Ironically, though, the new service at that time was already funding what some experts today say was its last fully successful bomber-development program.  That effort produced the iconic B-52 bomber featured in the movie Dr. Strangelove that has played a role in every major U.S. military campaign from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Despite the passage of 60 years since its inception, the B-52 remains the most common heavy bomber in the Air Force fleet.  There are newer bombers in the fleet too — the supersonic B-1 built in the 1980s and the stealthy B-2 built in the 1990s — but they have proven to be more controversial than the beloved "Buff" (as airmen call the B-52).  The bat-winged B-2, for instance, saw its production goal slashed from 132 planes to a mere 21 when the Cold War ended, amidst widespread complaints about its billion-dollar price-tag.  All 100 of the B-1 bombers that the Reagan Administration set out to buy were actually built, but it took many years to fix the plane's deficient electronic defenses, and by the time that was accomplished the rationale for buying the bomber had largely disappeared with the Soviet Union.

Not that the bombers aren't useful.  The B-2 typically is the first bomber used in every air campaign because it is so survivable, and with recent modifications it will soon be able to precisely hit 200 targets in a single flight.  That's quite a change from World War Two, when hundreds of sorties against a single target sometimes produced little damage.  The B-1 has been transformed from a nuclear bomber to a carrier of conventional munitions; like the other heavy bombers in the fleet, it will be equipped with rotary weapon launchers so that it can deliver diverse weapons tailored to the characteristics of specific targets and missions.  The advent of GPS-guided smart bombs has made all of the bombers in the fleet, even the venerable B-52, more lethal than earlier generations of aviators could have imagined.

However, the bombers are getting old.  Structures need to be reinforced, engines need to replaced, electronic equipment needs to be replaced.  Even if corrosion, metal fatigue and parts obsolescence were not taking a toll on the planes, potential adversaries are buying better and better air defenses that will make it harder for the bombers to reach their targets in future wars.  That problem can be ameliorated by loading the bombers with "standoff" weapons like cruise missiles that are released from outside enemy defensive perimeters, but at a million dollars a pop, it's an expensive way of waging air campaigns that sometimes consume tens of thousands of weapons.

Besides, standoff weapons have only limited lethality against the kind of deeply buried and/or hardened targets that countries like China are building.  And now questions are being raised about whether even ground-hugging cruise missiles will be able to penetrate contested airspace in the future.  So with their aging fleet of barely 160 long-range bombers facing a growing array of operational challenges, Air Force leaders have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they need to buy a new bomber.

I say reluctantly because so many Air Force modernization programs have been canceled or delayed since the Cold War ended that the service now finds itself forced to replace its fighters, tankers and helicopters all at the same time.  Adding bombers to that list is very difficult in the current fiscal environment.  If Hollywood were making a movie about the outlook for new weapon programs in Washington today, it might be called "No Country for New Starts."

The Air Force received that message forcefully during the early months of the first Obama Administration when former defense secretary Robert Gates canceled a proposed "next-generation bomber."  Gates said at the time that the performance requirements for the plane needed more reflection, but he also made clear that he wanted to avoid a repetition of the cost overruns seen in the B-1 and B-2 programs.  Gates was probably right about killing the program, because the service was pursuing a medium-range aircraft that would have had limited utility in a war against China or Russia.  Once the Pentagon began concentrating on shifting the U.S. strategic focus to the Western Pacific, though, the need for a new bomber — a long-range one — resurfaced.

When the administration rolled out its Asia-Pacific military posture a year ago, the need for a new bomber that could function effectively in the vast distances of the Pacific Basin got explicit endorsement.  And with good reason: the U.S. doesn't have access to many bases near China, and most of them could be preemptively targeted by the Chinese military during the early days of a future war.  Beijing also has been developing anti-ship missiles and other weapons that could deny U.S. warships access to its littoral waters.  So if Washington wants to prevent the Middle Kingdom from eventually dominating the industrial heartland of the new global economy, it needs ways of deterring Chinese aggression from far away that don't require threatening nuclear war.

Bombers equipped with precision-guided conventional munitions are the obvious answer, so long as they have sufficient range, payload and survivability features.  The B-52 and B-1 have the legs and bomb-loads required, but Air Force planners are skeptical that they will be able to cope with Chinese defenses in the future.  The stealthy B-2 looks highly survivable for many years to come, but there are only 20 in the fleet and major air campaigns typically require a hundred bombers.  Some of those 20 planes wouldn't be available on any given day due to maintenance downtime, and planners have to assume a few of the planes would be lost due to hostile fire despite their low-observable features.

In theory, the Air Force has many hundreds of tactical aircraft like the F-15E fighter-bomber that might be used to prosecute an air campaign in the Western Pacific, but those planes have limited ranges and thus would be heavily dependent on aerial refueling.  If U.S. regional bases were targeted, then it isn't clear where either the fighters or the tankers could operate from.  So the Air Force's dwindling bomber fleet becomes a pivotal factor in deterring future Chinese aggression given the geography of the Western Pacific and the capabilities Beijing is likely to have at its disposal 10 or 20 years from now.

With that in mind, the Obama Administration has budgeted over $6 billion through fiscal 2017 to commence development of a new "Long-Range Strike Bomber" that will be ready for operations circa 2025.  The Air Force has been reluctant to disclose any details about the program beyond the fact that it wants 80-100 planes at an average cost per plane of $550 million.  That's about twice what the latest widebody commercial transports sell for, which isn't much when you consider all the sensors and other on-board equipment the planes would require to operate successfully in hostile airspace.  It's a foregone conclusion that the new bomber will be as stealthy as possible, but it looks like the options to operate in unmanned mode or with nuclear weapons will be deferred to save money.

Another technique for saving money will be to use proven technology already developed for other programs, such as the sensor suite on the new F-35 fighter or the landing gear on the B-2 bomber.  Air Force leaders have referred to the bomber as a "family" of systems, which probably means the plane will rely on off-board systems such as orbital reconnaissance satellites to reduce the need for expensive on-board systems.  However, planners will have to weigh the cost-saving advantages of a family-of-systems approach against the danger that vital datalinks might be jammed by future adversaries.  The plane must be able to operate autonomously in some warfighting scenarios.

If this plan manages to stay on track through the various fiscal cliffs and valleys that lie ahead, then some contractor will eventually get a contract worth tens of billions of dollars to build the new bomber.  There are only three plausible candidates: Boeing, which has built most of the nation's past bombers; Lockheed Martin, which has built all of the nation's stealthy tactical aircraft; and Northrop Grumman, which was prime contractor on the most advanced bomber, the B-2.  A team containing any two of these companies would probably enjoy such decisive advantages in a competition that it would win the program.

Regardless of who wins, the nation's next bomber will likely be assembled at a secret facility in California's Mojave Desert called Air Force Plant 42 — the same place where the super-secret B-2 was integrated.  Air Force leaders believe strongly that secrecy enhances the value of whatever aircraft eventually emerges from the plant, because potential enemies will lack information needed to defend against it.  And therein lies what may be the most important fact about the new bomber: if enemies fear they have no effective defenses against it, then they will be less inclined to start a war in the first place.  So the Long-Range Strike Bomber isn't just crucial to winning future wars, it's crucial to preventing them.