New USAF bomber by 2018? Riiiiight…

U.S. Air Force to step up new bomber search in next budget

From the Department of the Blindingly Obvious:

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told Dow Jones Newswires that the Pentagon needs to “get on with the getting on” of a new bomber program. Unless the service starts soon, it won’t get its new plane by even 2020, he said in a recent interview.

Is Murdoc the only one who doesn’t think we’ll see another manned long-range bomber?

Boeing Co. (BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) both say they already have started work on the concept. Analysts say the Air Force may have a stockpile of classified research, or “black” projects, to draw on, or it could revive a plan to build a bomber version of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 stealth fighter.

Teal Group aircraft expert Richard Aboulafia said the Air Force needs some kind of a running start to have any chance at meeting the 2018 goal. The Defense Department’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review emphasized that date, overriding previous plans to aim for a new bomber around 2025.

One way I can see these requirements being met is by a combination of a UAV bomber and a manned plane, maybe either the FB-22 concept or perhaps the “B-747” JDAM platform we’ve talked about from time to time. Building on the X-45 UCAV program and Global Hawk to produce a workable unmanned bomber in ten years seems perfectly reasonable, and stretching the F-22 into a strike bomber or converting a commercial airliner into a bomb carrier in that time seems possible, as well. An entirely new manned bomber does not.

I wondered back in December, when the “Attack” designation was dropped from the Raptor, if the change might not be part of a move to get the FB-22 concept back into play. Might we be seeing something along those lines now? Only time will tell.

Read the whole thing, which has a lot more info. It also scores bonus points for Understatement Of The Month:

Major aircraft development programs have a history of running over budget and behind schedule. They also are expensive.

Meanwhile, Grand Forks, ND is set to become the Air Force’s “UAV Hub“.


  1. What is the mission? If it’s to deliver nuclear weapons IAW the Triad principle, UAVs can do it. Although, arguably, upgraded ICBMs already are atomic UAVs. If it’s to support tactical/operational commanders, existing platforms ought to be able to do it through…well, forever, if we keep fighting dirtbags armed with RPGs and car bombs. If we go against a conventional enemy, we’ll use the orbital death beams, gravity hammers, and tungsten rods. If it’s just to have new shit, the Air Force should be told ‘no.’

  2. Someone explain to me how a bomber version of the F-22 is worthwhile? If I recall correctly, the F-22 had to carry all of it’s ordnance internally in order to maintain it’s stealthy profile. This necessitated development of new 250lbs small diameter bombs to fit the internal bay. Even so, the number of SDBs carried is much less than can be carried by current aircraft. Replacing the F-117 with a F/A-22 MIGHT be feasible, but an F/B-22? Why? Once you start slinging bombs under the wing, you might as well use an F-15E or an F/A-18F for lower profile missions (notice I didn’t say tactical) or B-2 or 52’s for the big jobs. As for UAV bombers, it’s possible, but not likely to happen for a while yet. Predator’s have a much more stringent ROE than manned aircraft. Until we decide to fix that, UAV bombers aren’t going to happen.

  3. 2018? For a second I thought I was reading the Onion and not Murdoc! From directive to fielded aircraft in 12 years? Just like the ATF program was going to crank out f-22’s or 23’s in the early 90’s right. Next you’ll tell me that the program will be under budget.

  4. UAV’s for the bombing mission? Right, because when you’ve just spotted Zarqawi going into a building, you want to call someone back at Hq to bring in the bombs. After all, they’re just bombs, what could possibly go wrong? We should have Mach 3 bombers ‘accidentally’ overflying North Korea right now. There ain’t nothin’ that will put the fear of God in a commie like that would. Let ’em go ahead and try to knock it down.

  5. Whatever is going to go Mach 3 and carry bombs is going to be a lot easier to design, build, and pay for if it doesn’t also have to carry around a pilot who only pushes a button after people on the ground look at the same sensor output he does. Get real. More likely B-52s will still be flying in 2018 than a new manned bomber.

  6. Snowflake : As far as I know, the F-22 can carry two 1000lb JDAMs in its main weapons bay. However if it does that, that’s all that will fit in there, it’s down to I think 4 AAMs in the side bays. The development of the 250lb JDAMs is probably for two reasons; one to limit collateral damage and two to allow it to carry more of them or other stuff as well. I imagine an FB-22 would feature a ‘bloated’ fuselage with more room inside for extra ordinance. It would make a worse dogfighter but, meh, it would probably still be better than anything else. And this is a bomber we’re talking about anyway. Of course it would save money and weight to ditch the cockpit and canopy and stick fuel or weapons in that space, along with the communication equipment necessary for remote control. That would be a helluva UAV.

  7. It would be great if UAVs were the answer to all our problems, but the fact of the matter is, they aren’t. Typically someone flys a UAV even if that someone is on the ground. The ground station doesn’t come free with every box of Cheerios. Then you need the camera and high rate, data link to give the guy on the ground the soda straw view of what’s going on where the airplane is. Great SA, just what you always hope for when someone is dropping large amounts of live ordinance. Then you have the fact that the UAV soaks up bandwidth other aircraft might be using. Then you have the potential for jamming. Then you have the chance of a mid-air with other aircraft. Not much of a chance at Mach 3, but quite significant if it plans on loitering for a while. The fact is, the human pilot+bombadier provides a good sensor suite and an excellent autonomous processor on site and requires very little in the way of support. If they have to call back to Hq to get clearance to drop a bomb, then that’s a problem with the red USAF, not the crew.

  8. This brings to mind several articles in the Armed Forces Journal over the last couple of years. The thrust of which have been the Air Force has been dominated (to it’s detriment) by a ‘Fighter Mafia’ of senior officers for the last 20-30 years. The inverse situation of the service being dominated by the ‘bomber boys’ who came to command after WWII. The alleged AF domination by the FM (in my opinion one can not discount the competition from submarine & land based ICBMs) is the reason intercontinental bomber programs have been few and far between. The authors of these articles go on to state a strategic force imbalance structure has been the result. The U.S. has enjoyed air supremacy for the last 30 years (an inarguably good thing) at the expense of it’s most invaluable delivery platforms……….the strategic bomber forces. No argument from me……….it’s painfully obvious if we dropped it on anyone in any quantity, it was done by bombers and not land or sea based ICBMs (and the dear old cruise missle).

  9. As fun as UAV’s are – I doubt the next bomber will be UAV. If the air force learned anything from the B-52, is that heavy bombers have to be flexible. The next bomber would be a blended body plane capable of speeds up to Mach 1.5 or so. It would have at least 6 modular bomb bays and a significant internal power source. The flight deck would able to accomidate up to 6 to 10 crew members depending on the mission. The over-arching concept is to create a plane that can carry a massive load, quickly and with a minimum of cost. It could do mulitiple missions and could be euqiped to handle different missions in a short period of time. Stealth while important, by 2014 or so (knock on wood) there will be some new materials that will enable stealth craft not to be so dependent on shape and RAM.

  10. You are all overlooking the possibilities of materials technology research. When we have an actual modern analogue of the fictional bi-phase carbide armor, or BPC, well…well then we’ll see. Oh yes, we will.

  11. I thought Wonder Woman’s plane was real. Linda Carter sure looked good flying around in it. Hell, if we wait long enough, we won’t need any stinking bombers at all. It took 12 years to develop the B-2. Is Murdoc saying he doesn’t think we can develop one today in less time given all the technology advances we have now that we didn’t have then? I guess when you look at the 25 years it took to develop the F-22, you’d have to wonder. What I wonder is why people accept this stupidity? Why do you let them get away with this garbage? The next bomber shouldn’t be ready in 2018, it should be ready in 2012. Anything else is pure BS.

  12. Murdoc’s not saying he ‘doesn’t think we can develop one today in less time’, he’s saying he doesn’t think we *will*. Unless there’s suddenly a threat that requires a new manned bomber. Look how long it’s taking to sort out a new tanker. Or the Joint Cargo Aircraft. Obviously, if the need was pressing enough, we could speed things up. But today’s system rewards those who drag their feet and incur cost overruns. Then the program gets axed. Seems that improvements in design capability should count almost as much as improvements in materials and such. Heck, just the change from slide rules to electronic calculators should have shaved a significant amount of design time. AutoCAD, computer simulations, and 3D modeling have totally changed the way that the work is done. Yet here we sit.

  13. Yeah, if you want to talk reality it will be 2012 before they figure out if they want a bomber, UAV, or missile. By that time everyone who actually knows how to design an airplane will be retired. I mean KNOWS how, not thinks they know how. We’ll end up building some piece of garbage that has more drag than a barn door. It’s not so much me I worry about, but what kind of nation are we leaving our kids? As Murdoc says, here we sit – fighting a war with the weapons our parents left us.