The B-3 Cha-Ching

Boeing, Lockheed to team up for new bomber

Boeing and Lockheed Martin plan to announce today a joint development program for a next-generation bomber for the U.S. Air Force.

The two defense contractors — sometime bitter rivals, sometime partners — have agreed to team up “to perform studies and system development efforts” for the anticipated Air Force long-range bomber program.

Murdoc’s semi-serious prediction: Six years and 7.8 gazillion dollars later, the decision will be to go with an FB-22 in order to “save time and money.”


  1. My prediction – that new bomber will be dropping bombs before the M4/M16 is replaced – for a total cost of the landing gear for one bomber.

  2. MO, What, in general terms, might a new bomber do that we already lack the capability to do? We have B52s, B2s, and B1s already fielded. We have a host of fighters that do great as bombers. We have as many cruise missiles in the USAF and USN as we care to have. We can even be really goofy and drop big mf-ing bombs out of C130s if we feel like it. Is there really a gap in our ability to deliver the big ordnance? I could be persuaded that the B52s just plain need to get replaced. I get that. But why start from scratch to re-invent a system that is so effective already?

  3. The issue with the new bombers, is that the B-1 & B-2 will be reaching the end of their life cycle around 2018. Maybe a few years sooner if we keep digging holes in 3rd world countries. Now I could be crass and wonder why our ‘newer’ bombers are going to go to bird heaven in 2018 and the B-52’s are projected to last till 2050 or so…. Personally I am bitter that we selling F-16IN’s to India. Super cruise, AESA radar, and sorts of fine bells and whistles… while we are stuck in endless R&D land with the F-35… Which of course the F-16IN in absolute & relative terms can fly circles around while have a bigger ordinance load and greater range….and 30 million cheaper…. and available ‘NOW’. Who am I to blow against the wind. As for this bomber. We need a new generation heavy bomber. A true heavy bomber not a warmed over F-111 concept. Which the projected stats for this bird represent. A blended wing multi-role bomber /tanker concept would solve several long term issues.

  4. I’m a hawk, but whenever we bomb a country with an aircraft worth more than that country’s GDP, I wonder.

  5. Murdoc, I think your link is broken. I like the Chateau Ste. Michell Reisling, but I think this is the link you intended. What gets me is that it took twice as much money and time to design the F-22 as it took to design the B-2. Now which way do you think the cost and timeline of the B-3 are going? If all this bomber is supposed to be is a subsonic, 40,000 lb payload stealth platform, why not upgrade the avionics of the B-2 and restart that assembly line? Why do we need another of the same thing? Plus, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but Boeing’s JSF candidate was butt-ugly and didn’t work. It never would go vertical as they advertised. So gee, I guess they were, try not to gasp, lying? But, I’m sure they won’t lie to us this time, right? What we really need is a Mach 3 bomber with no stealthy edges or coatings. The edges and coatings are what take so much time to repair and maintain. Even the time required to take care of composite parts pales in comparison to the time it takes to keep stealth coatings up to par. It should have shape stealth only and carry about 40,000 lbs payload 4,000 mile unrefuled. If we’re ever going to have any weapon that keeps China from walking in and taking over Taiwan, that would be it, although I think our military is so weak now, Taiwan is a goner. China will take it without even firing a shot, while we’re bogged down in a 1930s style depression manufactured by our good friends and trading partners. A Mach 3 shape stealth only bomber is the only airplane that makes sense for the threat we face in the real world. It is effective against terrorists because of its short on-station time. It is effective against the big boys because speed is still life. Now all we need is an Air Force General with the balls to stand up to the Boeing-Lockheed team. Ha ha ha. Like that will ever happen.

  6. Thanks, Dfens. The link I used went to a a quick summary, not nearly as detailed as the article you linked to. Now that link isn’t even for wine, so it must just be updated all the time. I will change my post to point to the article you found.

  7. Maybe the deal is that Boeing and Lockheed figured they only way they could compete against a restart of the B-2 line was to team up. I really see no point to this program if they stick with the subsonic stealth specs. I don’t think Congress will see any point to it if they stick with that stupid plan too. Boeing could make a nice bomber out of that sonic cruiser they were trying to peddal to NASA a while back. It wouldn’t be too hard to make stealthy. I don’t see that it would bring enough new to the table to make it worth building over more of the B-2s. Given as much of the B-2 as Boeing built and would build I guess they win either way. It’s only a question of whether or not Lockheed gets a piece. They’re the real dummies. They should be out trying to make the case for a supersonic airplane to put them on an even footing, but they’ve got no balls. The Skunkworks exists in name only these days.

  8. Back 2001 Northrop Grumman offered to restart the B-2 line – creating a B-2C with updated materials,better stealth, avionics, low maintenance costs minus nuke certification. The birds were to come in around 750 million a copy. The airforce balked, not wanting to ‘waste’ money on more heavy bombers when they were trying to get the F-22 into production. Given the stats on what they want. A B-2C would do far more, and cost far less then anything they can realistically field. As for a Mach 3+ bomber? Not going to happen. Not for the dollars that the air force is throwing around. Mach 3 is not going to cut it. Not vs the advances in missile tech going faster then advances in planes. Ramjet missiles air to air have the legs and the speed to drop a Mach 3 bomber. Ground based anti-ballistics can nail a mach 3 bomber. Yes, speed is life, but now you need a lot more speed, plus its a big trade off between speed and capability. Seriously, you are better off with a subsonic high stealth, long endurance platform (most likely unmanned) with lots missiles, then with a high speed bomber. With high endurance, you don’t need speed and a fleet of tankers.

  9. No air defense has ever been proven effective against a sustained Mach 3 airplane and we have had ramjet missiles for longer than there have existed Mach 3 capable aircraft. Sure the missiles work great in theory, but in practice there is such a small window available for a shooting solution that it effectively does not exist. Now that doesn’t mean that our enemies couldn’t make defenses against a Mach 3 bomber that would work, but the same can be said for defenses against a subsonic bomber. The difference is the faster bomber will always have a better chance. In the case of what I’m talking about, the faster bomber would be the cheaper option. It would be more reliable and have a higher operational readiness. It could also be anywhere in the world in 6 hours. It takes the B-2 18 hours, which not only leaves plenty of time for a situation to change but also leaves the crew exhausted. Although, hopefully a B-2C would include some crew rest accommodations. The Mach 3 bomber is also a much better weapon against terror. It is a terror weapon in and of itself. It looks bad ass. It leaves a huge sonic boom footprint. Based in or near a country it can be anywhere in a matter of minutes and bring a huge amount of ordinance to bear on a situation. The Mach 3 bomber has a don’t-f-with-me-quotient that is the air equivalent of a big battleship. It has never been equaled.

  10. The Mach 3 bomber has a don’t-f-with-me-quotient that is the air equivalent of a big battleship. It has never been equaled.’ An operational Mach 3 bomber has never been made. As far as I can remember, there are only is one bomber that would come close the XB-70. The Russians tried with the TU-60, but they dropped that requirement due to costs. IMO your statement reliability and operational costs are suspect. At least with a subsonic craft, you have proven engines and you are not on the edge of material performance capability. Getting anywhere in the world in 6 hours? In theory sure, in practice I doubt it. A bird going at Mach 3 is going suck jp like its going out of style. You are going to have to stack KC-135’s all along the rout. My bottomline, until proven otherwise, you have have two out the following four options – long range, high speed, large payload, low cost. As for the missile intercepting a mach 3 plane. You are right, but I would say that it is a chicken and the egg issue, not a performance issue. No Mach 3 bomber to shoot down, no reason to build an air defense to shoot it down. So its been never proven to be possible. That said, patriot PAC-2 & PAC-3 missiles were shooting down Iraqi short range ballistic missile which are a comparable speed range. I would bet a good dinner that a PAC-3 could down a Mach 3 bomber with little trouble. A PAC-2 would have a harder time, but most likely could.

  11. Although you are correct in stating that we’ve never had a Mach 3 bomber, you seem to be forgetting that we have had an operational Mach 3 surveillance airplane. The engines it used were conventional to the extent that a combined cycle turbojet/ramjet could be considered conventional. The edge materials were none other than the venerable titanium that we routinely use for golf club heads today. Also, these airplanes were retired with full life left in their airframes due to the effects of aerodynamic heating on their structure. You might be right about my 6 hour number. It may be that I did not allow enough time for tanking, but even if you assume 7 hours it is a radical improvement from the time it takes a B-2 to get to the other side of the Earth. And what do you give us? Stealthy coatings and edges are responsible for what, a couple of db of reflection suppression? That translates into a couple miles maybe where a B-2 is not detected where this Mach 3 bomber could be seen. At 2000 mph and 100,000 ft to the B-2s 500 mph and 40,000 ft altitude, I’ll give you those 2 miles. Good luck getting that missile shot off. I would contend that it was a huge mistake not to field the XB-70. Instead we decided that intercontinental ballistic missiles could do the job, but can they? How many ICBMs did we use in Vietnam, Panama, Libya, Gulf War 1 or 2? Yet in all of those conflicts we used the B-52 extensively. The ICBM is the Soviet era relic. The bomber is and always will be the tip of the offensive spear in any conflict. It is the reason for the existence of the fighter jet. We have neglected this vital link in our force structure for far too long. Now is the time when we need that vehicle the most. A quarter of our aerospace engineering workforce is eligible to retire this year. How many people does that leave who have ever worked on a supersonic airplane of any kind next year? What we don’t need is another billion dollar Cold War relic. What we need is a weapon that makes a statement of strength, and nothing I can think of makes that statement better than a Mach 3 bomber.

  12. Yes the SR-71 was/is a Mach 3+ plane, but there is a huge leap from a SR-71 to a bomber. Yes, there was some talk about the Blackbird being an interceptor and even some work on make the a bomber variant. That said, the blackbird was one of the most expensive planes to fly. Personally I would hate to do the environmental impact report on a 200 ton bomber sitting on the tarmac leaking fuel. All that aside, I do not really disagree with you. A Mach 3 bomber would be a grand weapon to have. Personally I a bit embarrassed that the SR-71 came out 40 years ago and we still do not have anything ‘officially’ faster then it. I would love to have a couple of dozen XB-70’s on call. If I was the SecDef – I would want 24 XB-70’s for rapid response, 24 B-2C’s for standoff and penetration and 100 B-52 type heavy haulers. However, where you and I disagree is on the need. Given the number of defense dollars and the sad state of our ability to producing anything in a reasonable period of time. I would much rather has a subsonic bomber with hypersonic cruise missiles then a supersonic bomber with GPS bombs. Its like the issue with stealth fighters. Once you degrade the enemies air defenses, all the fancy coatings, and shaping is useless. Stealth and speed play a role, but there comes a time when brute force and firepower have a role to play as well. You want to inspire fear? two word ‘Arc Light’

  13. B-52s are great, mostly because there are so many of them, but they are old and they are slow, and quite frankly a country that has to rely on airplanes that are so damn old and slow as those are has no respect in the world. It’s like watching some young idiot go through his parents money after they’ve died. It’s just a matter of time. Having designed a bunch of fantastically expensive parts for the F-22 myself, I can tell you that composites really jack up the costs. A metal airplane still costs about what airplanes always cost. A Mach 3 bomber would necessarily have to be made from metal because of the heating, either Titanium or Steel. From a design standpoint there isn’t much difference which you choose. In supersonic design stiffness to weight ratio is the key feature of the material you’re interested in. Composites have a high stiffness to weight ratio. Much higher than metals. Aluminum, Ti, and steel are all about the same. The reason the XB-70 used steel was because of its domestic availability. I was thinking it might be interesting to investigate using carbon steel instead of stainless. Carbon steel has generally better properties. The key to using that stuff is corrosion resistance. I suspect we have paints now days that can survive at Mach 3 temperatures. If that’s the case, it could be built with many of the processes used to build cars. Carbon steel forms great. It’s weldable and literally tough as nails.

  14. On your carbon steel point. Yes there are ready off the shelf coatings that can take the heat and with a little tinkering could work just fine. Aremco’s Corr-Paint for one. Personally I would investigate a good graphite based coating that can take the heat and as a bonus can protect vs EMP effects. Weight will be issue, but foam steel for internal structure can help. Foam metals have advanced quite a bit from the XB-70 days. An added plus is that manufacturing costs for foam steels is comparatively cheap compared to composites. The real cost for planes is not its material costs (though 200K for a canopy is not chicken scratch – but a million here and million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.) The real cost for planes is the electronics. The B-52 may be old and slow but it gets the job done. I doubt anyone looks down on BUFF’s, especially anyone has been on the receiving end of a BUFF gifts. In any event, its the ordinance not the plane.

  15. I’m not really commenting negatively on the B-52. It’s great. My comment is more directed at Americans. We inherited a great country with an extremely powerful military and we’ve squandered what we had through the last 30 years of neglect. To add insult, our neglect has come at an extremely high cost and has made many who did not deserve it rich. I really like your idea of using the metal foam as the internal structure for the wings. I was thinking of the same thing. You’d probably want to combine the metal foam with that plastic foam they use to make tanks self sealing. I don’t think that’s ever been done, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be. You’d think electronics would be more expensive, but the last data I saw didn’t indicate it was so much. I saw data on the C-5 avionics modernization program that put its cost at about $400M while the re-engining program cost about $1.6 billion. That was a couple years ago and there was some new avionics in the re-engine program. Still, though, structures and engines are the heavy hitters. Much of the cost of the structures are unseen when you look at an airplane. There are big tooling costs both for large tooling that helps jig the large sections of the aircraft and small tooling that you use to form parts. Structural testing is also quite expensive.