Originally posted by ghost
For many years, long range bombers were the backbone of the US Airforce's strike force. Heavy bombers like the B-52, B-1 and B-2 were costom design
to hit startegic targets. Now, at a time where we have more wars then ever they're replacing bombers with small fighter that can carry 1 or 2 bombs.
The increased accuracy of air to ground ordinance has changed the way air strikes are conducted. Gone are the days of saturation bombing with dumb
bombs, which is what the B-52 was designed to do in conventional
(non-strategic) warfare. Nowadays the B-2 bomber can make a single pass over
an "area of interest" and hit 80+ targets with guided munitions with an overall accuracy ratio of +/- 2 meters. (which makes no difference when
dealing with 500+ lbs of HE)
It is however very infrequent that you have 80 targets sitting in an area waiting to get taken out by a heavy bomber so you have attack craft such as
F-22 and/or F-35 to carry out that roll. There are also plans to make a medium bomber out of a delta winged F-22 variant.
But even with the increased accuracy of munitions and the use of lighter strike aircraft carrying out bombing the use of heavy bombers is still
necessary, to that end we still have the B-52, B1 and B-2.
The Boeing B-52 heavy bomber
was developed in 1946, put into production in 1955 and now expected to have a serviceable lifespan to 2040 and
(ref.: "A Hybrid Approach to Obsolescence"
, USAF White PaperMaxwell AFB,
The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber
has an expected life cycle expected to go well beyond 2030.
(ref.: "1994 Defense Authorization Act: The B-2 Bomber"
Center for Defense Information, Washington,
The B-1 Bomber
force size is actually being reduced under the Bush administration, by consolidating those that are in the best shape and
canibalising off those in the worst shape, thus saving money on replacement parts and repairs. The expected lifespan of the B-1 bombers in current
inventory is also expected to go beyond 2030.
(ref.: USAF "White Paper on Long Range Bombers"
According to the USAF Quadrennial Defense Review, a roadmap has been established that specifies a division of labor among the available bombers, with
the newer B-2 assigned critical penetration tasks in medium to high risk environments, the B-1 assigned similar roles in low to medium risk scenarios,
and the B-52 reserved for low-risk penetration and standoff cruise-missile missions.
The plan states that by the end of 2004, 130 units of the current bomber inventory be combat-coded, with the remainder set aside for training (24
aircraft), backup (20), attrition reserve (14), and testing (2).
(ref.: "National Defense; July/August, 1999 "
, A Defense paper submitted by the
The Future - closer than originally planned:
Additionally there is already a development underway for a new long range bomber and the roadmap established by D. Rumsfeld for actual production has
been moved up from the mid-2020's as indicated by the 1999 Bomber Roadmap and the USAF "White Paper on Long Range Bombers", to a much sooner
production period somewhere between 2010 and 2015. The big 3 US aerospace giants are gearing up for competition in this arena
see Intelgurl's (that's me) post on the current status of the USAF's Long Range Strike project.
Link: B-3: Long Range Strike Aircraft
[Edited on 23-3-2004 by intelgurl]