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USAF: Long-Range Strike Options Considered

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posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 07:25 AM
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This one, this one.




posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 07:55 AM
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Despite this DOD sponsored study of options...

The Air Force will more than opt to keep and utilize the existing B-52, B-1B, and B-2 fleets, complimented by assets such as the F-117, F-22 [which has strike capabilities], UCAS/UCAV/UAVs, etc. till the Air Force decides on a new long-range bomber program (LRS) or a HCV delivery system. Doing this will also allow for more emphasis and expenditures on continued upgrading/modernizing current fighter systems and the continued acquisition of current newer fighter systems [manned and unmanned], while continuing R&D on future LRS and HCV programs and system, also will allow further enhancement of ideas, designs, etc. on such future systems.

I am not fond of spending major bucks on a new "regional/interim" bomber, at all, when the large amounts of funds could be better utilized elsewhere [like the acquisition of more F/A-22s, etc.], but if the Air Force was to go with anything at all in that classification of aircraft, the choice would probably be such proposals/concepts as the FB-22, FB-23, and/or other unspecified interim bomber [FB-X] proposals/concepts, etc., while continuing to upgrade PGMs and C4ISR components/systems, etc. on all existing strike platforms.






seekerof

[edit on 6-10-2005 by Seekerof]



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 08:11 AM
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Why not have satellites with large arsenals of bombs that can be sent from orbit?


I mean, I'd think that the big limit there is (besides the laws against weaponizing space) the cost of delivering a payload of bombs by sending them into orbit, compared to have a jet deliver them, but any rough ideas from anyone here on just how much of a difference that is?

Short of that, in my own inexperience, I'd think that the best option are these unmaned craft. Its almost like haveing a reusable cruisemissile that drops bombs on a target and that is reusable. I'd think that we're in the early stages of this remote technology, since these kinds of vehicles are uncommon, and that the costs could be driven down great as advances are made, such that you could send large numbers of 'smart' aircraft to deliver huge numbers of 'dumb bombs' in a precise manner.



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 08:15 AM
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Originally posted by Nygdan
Why not have satellites with large arsenals of bombs that can be sent from orbit?


Agreed, but the problem with this is that as soon as the mere inkling of a mention was made by this current US administration and military, the world went ape-crap over the thought of the US weaponizing space.

If only they knew...






seekerof

[edit on 6-10-2005 by Seekerof]



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 09:23 AM
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IMHO,

B-1R: Like trying to teach an old dog some new tricks. It would be cheaper than alot of other options, but not as stealthy. Low observability will be a key factor in determining a winning concept, especially if deep penetration is required. I think any concept not committed to deep penetration is a losing bid. The US Navy is already spending millions of dollars to upgrade SSBN's to ripple-fire dozens of LACM's from littoral waters, and the BUFFs are still flying - no need for more stand off platforms. B-1R is a penetrator, and would be fast, but lack of LO will hurt its chances. Not a bad idea, though. Would be a cool concept to export to friendlies interested in a regional srike capability.

Blended Wing: Good stealth, good range, good payload.....problem? High risk and high cost. Programs with both of those factors are rarely chosen over programs with similar capabilities that are cheaper and safer.

X-45: Like some others have previously stated, and I totally agree, UCAVs are not a mature technology.......yet.

FB-22: This is a really interesting choice, but I forsee political battles. If the USAF want to acquire a fleet of new bombers, I feel that there will be many in congress who will want to redistribute the wealth to someone other than LM. If the US is not careful, we could find ourselves down to only one or two companys capable of producing combat aircraft. This is a technically safe choice, and in many ways would probably be the most likely.

AC-130J: See previous comments re stand-off platforms.

LM UCAV: See previous comments re immature UCAV technology.

B-2C: Does the job, and does it well........but oy! The cost! I have always believed that you get what you pay for, and considering the cost this option would probably work really well. I question the platforms speed, and usefulness during daylight operations, however. Strike aircraft (versus a conventional bomber) have always implied rapid access and agress to and from the target area. Bumping up the B-2's speed seems unlikely.

YB-23: A very interesting concept, and in many ways the best technical solution. But....no prior airframe experience meaning a lengthy and expensive development will be likely. I personally prefer this solution, but the cost to be too much to bear.

X-47: See previous comments re immature UCAV technology.

Final Analysis? FB-22 will have a camp within the USAF and those parts of congress that represent LM constituants. FB-23 will also have a camp in the USAF and congress, but could prove to be too expensive. If the money is there, however, I would go with the "Attack Widow".



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 09:36 AM
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I think that there is a danger of seeing this as simply a one solution option. There are several different needs that may require multiple options. I'm leaning towards complete stealth for the solution. Let's examine.

Let's say hypothetically that we want to take out one of Iran's nuclear reactors or their centrifuge program before they can crank it up and start processing nuclear fuel. What we would need in this instance is a stealthy aircraft that can carry a couple of small or medium sized bombs to take out the target. Stealth would be of high importance in this situation since their air defenses would still be up and operational. The aircraft would not need to be manned, and you wouldn't need any support fighters to assist in the mission.

Jump to another scenario where the target is spread out in multiple or large areas. It would be nice to have a workhorse like the B-1B to bring in eighty 500 lb. bombs to clear the area. This scenario would be one such as the recent war in Iraq. The B1 has some radar evading capabilities, but you would probably need some support craft to stand-off and protect against enemy fighters, or SAMs. I think this fact is over-looked when talking about the cost of stealth fighters. Stealth fighters can perform stand-alone operations.

Sure a stealth bomber cost 1 Billion, but if you added up the cost of a bomber, support fighters, and an AWAX then you are starting to approach the cost of a single stealth fighter or bomber that can do the job alone.

Just throwing this idea out there. Has anyone considered a stealth refueling aircraft? You could have a small stealth fighter, that could have extended range and still stay off the radar the whole time. Let's face it, hooking up with a KC-10 sort of blows your cover.



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 09:48 AM
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Originally posted by Seekerof
as soon as the mere inkling of a mention was made by this current US administration and military, the world went ape-crap over the thought of the US weaponizing space.
If only they knew...



So , the current administration say they are putting `ground penetrators` in space

and the russians , say `fine , so are we then` , usa goes `oh no your not` and things scale up from there.

All it takes is a few FOBS and were back to the 80`s and the height of the cold war.


[downsized quoting format -nygdan]

[edit on 6-10-2005 by Nygdan]



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 09:59 AM
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It would depend on exactly what the USAF want, and see their future doctrine;

Do they want a fast response? (more tactical), if so, would they want an aircraft that can loiter and wait for targets, or launch from an airfield and use speed to get the quick response time... or it doesn't really matter (more strategical)?

How do they see a future 'strike' being conducted? Stand-off with stealthy cruise missiles? Or over the target with LGBs? Or a mix of the two, laser guided bombs with a small rocket booster anyone? Or do they see a 'mothership' deploying (from say, 30 miles out)
small UCAVs to go in and bomb the target?

I remember there was a fella over here giving a talk to us last year, about smart materials. He briefly mentioned how they have developed bombs for the F-22 that can fit into the bomb bay, but be much more compact than traditional configurations, enabling a greater bomb load to be carried internally, so a stretched (and very slightly modified) F-22 is not out of the question.

All the concepts here are different, each with their own positives and negatives, I don't think I can say which is best for the job, as I don't really know what the job is
(Besides, I would probably get it all wrong anyway!!
)

Personally, I would go down the route of the mothership with as simple as possible UCAVs (more like modified cruise missiles that drop a section than 'traditional UCAVs) or just standoff missiles, advantages being:

- Humans aren't exposed in the most dangerous part of the mission, but maintain a strong control over proceedings
- Lower cost of UCAVs mean less monitary loss if one does get shot down
- The 'mothership' doesn't have to be 'super' stealthy, very stealthy will do instead
- There is the possibility of flexibility, go down the route of either a super fast response vehicle (something akin to an SR-71 with cruise missiles attached), or a loitering machine (a U2 on steroids), it should be possible to achieve both in the one package, its just the loiter time may represent fuel issues. However, what if UCAVs could be launched, then control 'maintained' from some distance away, the same manned aircraft would not necessarily have to have control over the same UCAV, it could be passed on to a similar mothership, or even a satellite link or AWACs...
- It is a half-way house between manned and un-manned, and may bridge the gap so to speak.


With the concepts given the least risk (also R&D cost would be low) is probably a B-2 with the cruise missile option. However, the B-2 must be able to fly from local bases instead of having to go half way round the world every flight.



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 11:11 AM
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If I had to pick one of these options I would have to go with the C130-J. While I love the sexy gee whiz aircraft and would like to see a whole fleet of Buck Rogers type fighters, you have to look at this from a realistic view. This whole study is nothing more than a what can be done brainstorming session. The fact that the Air Force is taking a year to look into this proves that. Problem is with the current world situation this is capability that we need right now. The ultimate solution for this would be an airborne aircraft carrier loaded with super sophisticated UCAVs, lasers and directed energy weapons and that may be a possibility in the future, way in the future.

The question that must be asked is what can the Air Force realistically expect to get funding for? I don’t believe in stretching a program out for decades because of funding. Look at the B-2 the project started in 1981 and here 24 years later we still only have about 20 of them. The initial production aircraft acquired in 1993 are beginning to show signs of wear and are in need of being upgraded. What ever project that is decided on needs to be budgeted so that enough aircraft and weapons systems can be acquired to meet operational commitments in a short period of time.

In my opinion the C-130J project has the best chance of meeting the requirements that I have previously stated. The aircraft itself is proven technology with little needed in the way of testing and evaluation. There are existing airframes and maintenance, training, spare parts infrastructures are in place. This allows the money to be spent where it is most needed, on the UCAVs and missiles themselves.

The launching system needs to be designed so that the launching aircraft provides power, sensor mounts and little else. Other than the launch equipment being mounted there should be minor changes to the launch aircraft. One of the main advantage of this system is that the UCAVs, missiles and their support hardware can be upgraded and new systems implemented without the need to replace or rework the launching aircraft. Another advantage is if the launching system is of a modular construction then the entire system can be moved to a different launching aircraft if desired. This would permit aircraft such as the C-17, C-141, C-2 (Navy) or future designs to be used as launch platforms.



posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 02:57 PM
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Great post as usual IntelGurl.


I must agree with Seekerof on this. I don't think there is a reason to spend all of this money on an interm bomber when current and near term future aircraft can do the job just fine. The B-2, with support from Raptors, Blackbirds, and JSFs should be able to handle any thing the USAF needs to get done. I would much rather spend this money on increasing the number of Raptors or developing a true next generation long range strategic bomber.

Of the aircraft mentioned, there are only a few that are even worth the money in my mind.

The Arsenal ship concept makes a lot of sense to me. It would have the range and stealth ability that is needed for this type of aircraft. I also like the idea of a standoff ability - this way you don't put what would likely be a very expensive aircraft at risk. The idea of having hypersonic and possably stealth cruise missles is very appealing to me because these are the types of weapons that would be of great use against true world powers (read China) in addition to the regional powers the US is currently having standoffs with.

I don't like the F/B-22 concept based just on range, though it would incorporate the speed and stealth that make it tempting. Thus, I think a great alternative is the F/B-23. It would have the range that the F/B-22 wouldn't, along with the speed and stealth. In addition, unlike the Arsenal ship, a lot of the R&D is already done. It wouldn't be as costly to develope or on an airframe for airframe basis as the Arsenal ship.

I am opposed to UAVs untill the technology is more proven, however the cost benefits on the airframes would be great.

The stripped down B-2 and B-1 proposals don't make any sense to me. You wouldn't get very many B-2c's for 700+ million a pop, and you're paying 2+ billion just to restart production. The B-1 is an outdated airframe, pure and simple. IMO there is no reason to invest more money into an airframe that will be nearly 50 years old by the time this aircraft comes to service.

The 130 idea is just plain stupid from my point of view, unless a lot of money isn't available to the program - but if that's the case, why waste that money at all.



posted on Oct, 7 2005 @ 12:30 PM
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Really, this all depends on how two technologies pan out in the next 15 years: AI and directed energy weapons.

If things just grind along as they have done and we don't see any big leaps, then it's relatively straightforward. But if either of these takes off, then the air combat world will be transformed, and this project risks being osolete by the time it's flying.

Effective AI for UCAVs will put bigger question marks over human pilots in combat zones than exist now. Effective DE weapons could make most missiles useless, and make it unsafe to go within line-of-sight of defences.

It's a lottery, and the fun thing is that even the guys with the money have no idea what's going to happen...



posted on Oct, 7 2005 @ 12:44 PM
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B-1R - rehash of an ancient idea no thanks

Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept - better as a B52 replacement not a fb

FB-22 - the fa-22 is cool but this looks cheesy 60-70's design, the range is way to short.

Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft - flying battle ship not a fb better suited for the battlefield circling not would the FB should be doing.

B-2B - too slow I see these nuking cities deep inside the countryside, costing too much

FB-23 - natural born fb, I wa not a fan of the yf-23 I was a raptor guy but the raptor doesnt make a good fb at all but the Yf-23 looked like a fb as the yf-23.


THe UAVs are not mature yet but i see two that stick out as theatre strike are bombers:

The x=47 and the Lockheed Long Range Strike UCAV Concept look to be on the right track the boing x-45d seems to be the weakest.

Rankings:

Manned:

4. B-1R - cheapest and you get what you pay for
3. FB-22 - short range and not far looking
2. B-2B - Slow and the cost barely topping the fb22 by.5 of a point
1. Fb-23 - best concept seems a natural choice

Uavs:

4. x-45d- seem to be better as a recon plane
2. Lockheed Long Range Strike UCAV Concept - tied with the Blended Wing being revulationary
2. Blend Wing- a good replacement for the B52
1. x-47 - a mini uav b2

Flying Battleship:

1. Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft - scary weapon but not for this computition!



posted on Oct, 7 2005 @ 12:47 PM
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Originally posted by Wembley
It's a lottery, and the fun thing is that even the guys with the money have no idea what's going to happen...



I would sure hate to have a losing ticket in that lottery. Think of it this way. Directed Energy weapons the new SAMs. The only chance that there will be is for small fast low-flying RPV's Anything on a ballistic trajectory is gone. ICBM would be nothing more than junk. You would have to build small, fast and cheap RPVs and launch them like swarms of bees at the target trying to overload their tracking systems.



posted on Oct, 7 2005 @ 01:17 PM
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A very nice thread indeed


Well, I would defenetly not go for the FB-22/FB-23. Just because I'am not sure about their capability to work as bombers. It just seems too "cheap" in a way. To take a really good fighter and just turn it to a bomber, without even thinking about the dissadvantages of the Raptors scales/shapes as a bomber. Yes the Raptor works well as a fighter, but these bomber models just look to much like you've taken an F-22 and made e little room for bombs in it. So defenetly not the FB class. The B-1 suggestion sounds interesting, the fact that its top-speed could be increased sounds nice. In my opinion future bombers have to be fast and stealthy. So the B-1 could be a good choise, the modell is already existing, and it works, so there wouldn't be any risks in the project. But if I've have to chose one I'd defenetly go for the X-47, it looks a bit like the B-2, just that its shapes are more stealthy and the plane looks much faster. Besides the hull that's on the plane look like it could make a lot of space for bombs. But even tough you ave a good bomber the weapons have to be good, better bombs etc.



posted on Oct, 7 2005 @ 03:52 PM
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I've heard speculations that one of the reasons to choose the FB-22, will be to give Boeing more defence work since they lost the JSF program.

The idea was that Boeing will be the main contractor with LM being their junior partner (switch roles from the Raptor)

That will mean that some other states could benefit from this plane apart from Georgia and Texas.



posted on Oct, 8 2005 @ 12:02 PM
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Umm.. My money would be that the US would go for one of the two UCAVs (45/47) and along with that incorporate a not-so-expensive bomber like the B-1B upgrade or the C-130J thing..
That would enable a "smooth" phase-in for the UCAVs along with the B-1B upgrade as a "security blanket" for the USAF..
IMHO putting all your money into a UCAV/F-23B/B-2B type thing would be risky..
Keep the UCAV proj up and running at a comparatively small scale and gradually phase it in..
Also the US def budget needs to be handled with care..



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 07:13 PM
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I think that the B-1R concept could be better tailored for the requirements. For instance, instead of ussing the F-119 engines, they should use the F135 or the F136 alternative engine. While not as fast, the range would probably not be effected or even increased. The Air-to Air missiles should be deleted, I mean it makes a good book (Dale Brown) but come on a bomber should not use these. I also think they can make it stealthier by redesigning the engine boxes, the wings, and the tail with stealthier shapes and materials (aka RAm, composites) Also, the radar and sensors should be replaced by those in the B-2 to reduce the RCS by reducing anntanae.

While not a stealth platform, with altitude, stealthy measures, and longer range weapons it should be fine. Besides, they can just hook some Stealthhawks up to it.



posted on Oct, 11 2005 @ 12:05 AM
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Excellent thread Intelgurl.

I havn't been able to reply yet cause of pc probs and then it wouldn't let me log in...but anyway...

I'm not a fan of the B-1R, Thats an aging airframe and I dont think its good enough to be a future strike option, and that also goes with the AC-130.


The BWB Arsenal Aircraft it unique, reminds me of the Navy's Arsenal Ship concepts...which I liked, I like the idea of having a huge variety of weapons and you can choose what would work best for your intended target. But it would have to be stealthy, but even then...I just dont see this aircraft getting used much except for the beginning of wars...since its obviously meant for hualing a massive payload, which would only be needed for a "Shock and Awe" type of event. I would only recomend this aircraft if the USAF is seriously considering a future war with China or Russia.


I dont know much about the X-45 "D" varient...But i'm assuming it will look exactly like the "C" varient only larger...and I like the X-45C. However I wouldn't support it...The main reason would be its speed, since it's sub-sonic only. I just dont see this being that used...Cause once you make it bigger then the "C" varient, it looses some of its appeal, since it would become basically an unmanned B-2...And I dont see the need for having 2 Aircraft with the same bombing role.


The F/B-22 is probably the most talked about and hyped (future) bomber currently out there, I think it would be a solid design, and it would help lower the costs of the F/A-22 as well, I like the design and think it would do a good job, and it could be used it todays world, where more often then not you are bombing a couple buildings...and not an entire city, so I think its payload, combined with radar stealth, and hopefully visual stealth as well, and its speed could make this a winning combination.


I do wonder what Lockheed has up their sleeve, since they often create some of the best looking aircraft out there. But unfortunatly they have a history of being very good at keeping secrets.

The Morphing Aircraft is only in its very beginning stages, Lockheed is testing a scale model...but thats it as far as I know. But it has the potential to revolutionize the bussiness...and i'm not just talking about military aircraft, cause commerial aircraft in the future (at least smaller bussiness jets) will be supersonic, with low-boom tech, if they had the ability to tuck there wings in when supersonic it could greatly increase fuel efficiency. Which is also a big factor for the military.....If there intel tells them Osama will be This location, at That time, then they could send a UCAV up and have it retract its wings and go supersonic, and when it gets to its target it can unfold them and loiter above the target increaseing its fuel efficiency and perhaps gathering additional up-to-date info on the target to see if if the intel was correct, where as a normal UCAV, like the X-45C, would take longer to get there...and Osama could be gone by then...thats just one of the many examples on how this tech will change it all.


My coolest looking vote has got to go to that F/B-23 pic...thats the first good rendering i've seen of it...Is it from Northrop?
I liked the Y/F-23, but since thats out of the picture, everyone who liked that switched there interest into the F/B-23, which I to think would make a great bomber, and if its stealthier and has a greater range then the F/B-22 then its deffiniatly a contender.
Whats up with the cone air inlet??? Is this thing going to be a turbo/ramjet?
Then it would deffiniatly get my vote, I would love it if the USAF got a Mach 3+ bomber, and it could serve a usefull role of time important targets, and could be usefull in not only bombing terrorist locations, but also in any possible future war with Iran. It would be a great first strike option.


[edit on 11-10-2005 by Murcielago]



posted on Oct, 11 2005 @ 12:01 PM
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Hi Intelgurl. I finally have some time to comment on this (excellent) report.

From what I've understand, the military planners want a 'global strike' capability. I've read quite a few articles last few years that state the Pentagon want to be able to strike a target anywhere on the earth within 2 - 3 hours.

I'm currently way too busy to do some propper research into the options you mentioned, some of them I never heard of before (X-45D & B-1R).

I'm surprised they didnt mention the FALCON project, are they going to cancel that, or do they want to use existing technology as much as possible (kind of like NASA does with its Moon project)?

USAF / DARPA FALCON Program



posted on Oct, 11 2005 @ 12:39 PM
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To all those commenting that the B-1 is an "aging airframe" - ever hear of the B-52? There is no particular reason that airframe age should preclude the B-1R's development. And leveraging an existing airframe means huge devlopment and production cost savings. The rebuild will allow the USAF to address the well-understood shortcomings of the existing B-1, making it a far more effective aircraft.



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