8X2 (twin bays with an 8 shot rotary launcher in each) GBU-31 @ 2,161lbs each is roughly 34,576lbs. Or 17.2 tons.
With current bomb technology (SDB) it's not that bad.
Ahhhh but it is...
Because you see, while I've seen reports on the SDB 'compatibility' with the B-2 ranging anywhere from 80 to 218 _by weight_ (34,576/285 = 121
GBU-39 SDBs) the only PICTURES available support a substantively less thrilling loadout using the very same BRU-61 (X4) bomb rack as say the F-16 or
F-15E would carry.
i.e. With a loaded weight of around 1,460lbs per loaded 4-rack, the Mudhen is potentially capable of carrying the SDB across all seven primary
'heavy weight' weapons stations. Which means 28 bombs and 10,220lbs. Which is quite acceptable when compared to the X2-X4 2,000lb munitions plus
8,000lbs of wingfuel (the SDB installation has less drag) that would otherwise be present.
By comparison, the B-2 can only carry 64 such weapons or 2.28 F-15Es worth, even though the rotary launchers are probably rated to 5,000lbs per
station to accomodate some of the larger munitions like the GBU-37.
THE DIFFERENCE then comes in delivery mode, sortie rates and effective presence.
A B-2 coming from Whiteman is going to be doing anywhere from 8 to 12,000 miles to hostage what we consider to be 'targets of interest' in the
longitudinal bands from 15` to 120` East.
That means rounds trips on the order of 24-36hrs with probably a half hour in the target area.
With only 20 aircraft operating on a 2hr mission interval with another 12-24hrs after landing to regenerate the airframe and crew for another mission,
that means you are looking at a target coverage /availability/ (since many targets will go invalid in the transit interval to the operating theater)
of roughly +18+20:30+23:00+25:30 and so on with the coverage by 'support mission' assets (and don't kid yourself, the batwing sucks up every
jammer, escort and SEAD platform for hundreds of miles around) needing possible further time to recover and turn.
That's /Hundreds/ of hours wasted in transit. And MILLIONS of pounds of fuel blown off. For tens of minutes worth of aimpoint availability.
Compare this to a UCAV which may well be only only 400-1,200nm from it's nominal combat area (because systems like he A-45C/CN can operate from land
and sea with equal aplomb) and can 'hover' for 2hrs at 1,100nm. Or 6-8hrs at 350nm.
Now realize that a _similar number_ of UCAV (say 2, 10-plane, squadrons on a Carrier) can now cover twenty separate geographic areas for half a day
(10-12 hours if you stagger the squadron launches and do not employ a section doctrine). And even with all this _over target area_ coverage (say
60-80% of their total flight time), they will STILL land /before/ the first Batwing to take off makes it back to base to begin upwards of a 24hr
combat turn as the ground crew reputty's it and the aircrew get some serious decompression time.
All of which adds up to a massive change up play in effective DMPI's (Designated Mean Points of Impact) that you can service 'on the fly' as and
when the UCAV itself or another force element inserts a TCT into the allocation list.
If it's just a building, put a cruise missile through the roof. That's what they are good at. That's what a CG can carry 20+ of at 10 cents per
ton-mile. And the building will never duck or decamp so the simplest of inertial + GPS coordinate aimpoints off a satellite will /always/ hit it.
Even strategic bombers rarely attack more than 2-3 targets during mission. The only time you need more payload is for spraying the enemy with cluster
bombs or carpet bombing.
If I'm with a footpatrol in some back alley of Baghdad or part of a SEAL team /screaming/ for extract because we're surrounded by barbarians who
don't know how 'special' we are 'somewhere near' Pakistan.
I may well need more than one bomb, more than once, less than 5 minutes out. But separated by HOURS of hangtime. Even /days/.
Wherein that airpower is effectively doing nothing at all.
What's more, if I am reduced to 'yelling for help while shooting back', I've already guaranteed total loss of combat effectiveness as any
reasonably competent force will get at least one ambush kill by mine, mortar RCL, LAW or sniper. And I will not be able to pursue so long as I have
to wait for casevac to come get his injured/dead hide out of the combat area.
OTOH, if I have an 'sentry tower' constantly overhead, then particularly while bivouacked at night, but also during key periods of closing to
contact on a threat that know's I'm running him down. Or even when I simply wish to /avoid/ all contacts.
The recoverable asset's sensor mission capabilities become equally important.
Because by using a system like ROVER-
The ground guys can see what the air guys can see and SPECIFICALLY say "Yes, that is them and not us." Or "Gee thanks, now that we see them while
they and their recoilless rifles are still 6,000m out, I think we can move back to this ridgeline and not be killsacked..."
On a minute to minute basis of update.
On other thing needs to be noted. CBU's cover an average area 100X300m across with an instant mine hazard. Just ask the 20 some odd EOD folks who
blew themselves up trying to clean up a Kuwaiti airbase after DS. While an 'ordinary' one in the CBU-49/59 or 87 class may cost under a 100,000
dollars, a guided one suitable for precision delivery from altitude will run you upwards of 300 grande, especially if it also has brilliant
OTOH, a 2,000lb airburst may well have a frag radius that is utterly incompatible with nearby collateral structures. And while it will mow down
open-field/area targets like running infantry with quite a some efficiency; your typical tactical platform can only carry two. And again, in a
GBU-10/24 class you are looking at 60 grande for each KMU. While even a GBU-31 is something like 17-21 grande each.
Which leaves you with an SDB. With a smartfuze, it may well be able to frag a 60m wide airburst zone. But most bounding infantry will be trying to
turn a flank with fire and maneuver or defilade attacks across 500m or more.
Now add time of flight on a glide kit weapon which may well be released right over the targets (no effective S2A threat) but which STILL has a glide
down factor of 10-20 seconds or more.
The way most infantry would deal with that problem would be to creat a threshold line (friendly fire separation from self) and then walk the fire
outwards in a geometric spacing pattern. And since GPS plus a laptop or PDA /can/ do this (imagine a 'dartboard effect' of sectored detonation
overlaps, plus a known coordinate offset provided by digital map or a laser from own-GPS location), there is no reason not to employ multiple
munitions RIGHT NOW to deal with the threat as it comes. Rather than try to sequentially kill each in detail as they overrun or fire you up. No
reason except that you may need to conserve munition releases if you don't have a LARGE internal (low drag as much LO) capacity or multiple aircraft
A BUFF would drop 40 Mk.82 unguideds and call it rotokill and RTB. A UCAV pair would drop 10 of 16 SDB and call it precision density of fires with 3
dual-DMPI point attacks left over as the survivors try to scatter and flee.
It would be a mix between strategic bomber (long range on internal fuel, shorter range missions could be "served" by Typhoon and JSF) and tactical
I highly doubt the future UCAV will carry more than 8-12 tons payload, because they would become too big (nearly as big as B-2) - that means too
expensive which negates their main advantage.
The sad irony is that, when considering military capability at a major system level, the term "Where's the nearest carrier?" is almost cliche` for
it's reference to global PRESENCE of U.S. forces as a function of an ability to react, logistically as much as by sphere of tactical influence around
the boat. Yet we never apply the same standards to forces actually /in/ the fight because nobody considers airpower itself to be an endurant force
asset. The result is a pathetic acceptance of unsupported casualties wherein, for instance, it took an average of 26 minutes for CAS to arrive during
the height of Operation Enduring Freedom. And that was only if the assigned unit had air fragged to it that /day/. If it was not available, the lags
could be upwards of 17 HOURS.
Yet, when one Air Force general was asked whether the UCAV had any real functional utility, he replied: "If it weren't for the types' cheapness we
wouldn't even be considering it compared to the flexibility of the 'real' (manned) tactical assets..." like the ability to simply BE THERE
(generate presence) to see the target to drop the bomb was the last rather than the first (preeminent) step in defining how airpower works.
Especially under LIC/SSC theater conditions in which time-critical microtarget sets (and an enemy too wise to sit under /any/ building which may have
emplaced sensors or personnel monitoring it's label-associative 'ministry-X value') REQUIRE you to put light forces in the field to tempt an
unconventional enemy into contact; the ability prevent these infantry teams from being overrun or decimated may very well come down to having multiple
airframes, each carrying multiple ordnance, for multiple hours, in a COP or Continuous Overhead Presence role.
With NOTHING going on.
Wherein, exactly like the police, you are 'driving a beat in your patrol car' to lock down a high-crime area by showing a seemingly vulnerable unit
size. Backed by OVERWHELMING numbers of 'one street over' firepower that is the Blue Wall Insurance Policy.
Admittedly, a B-2 (or B-52 or B-1) can do a similar mission set to the UCAV for a single exposed unit. Because they have a chemical toilet, a
barkalounger and a minimicrowave plus refrigerator as well as potential relief crews onboard. But each of these airframes may well consume upwards of
half a MILLION pounds of fuel to carry out such a mission, even on a 1,200 mile radius. And NONE can be launched from a carrier or threatened
airfield. Which, taken together, means they may have 4-6 sorties fragged to an entire /country/ in a given day.
Comparitively, the UCAVs will flood a nation and (at 1,200 dollars per flight hour and 10,000lbs internal fuel for the entire trip) could
theoretically maintain 2-minute CAS orbits of 6-8 aircraft within the same /county/. So that 20 separate ground teams may well be able to call upon
the same (A-45C carries 8 GBU-39) 64 small diameter bombs as that B-2 can carry.
Delivered to 10 different, simultaneous, meeting or ambush engagements. 15 miles apart.
Ahhhhhh, now you /want/ 'all those extra bombs' don'tcha?