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USAF: Long-Range Strike Options Considered

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posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 05:52 PM
A DOD sponsored study of options to modernize the U.S. Air Force's long-range strike capabilities is set to begin next month, (October 2005).

This analysis of alternatives which is expected to last one year will explore the various concepts presented by defense contractors vying for the long range strike project due to be deployed by 2018.

Although there have been various threads touching on one or two of these concepts, perhaps a review of all the concepts presented openly by the major contractors could be informative. In fact, over the summer (2005), the Air Force has reviewed more than 20 specific proposals submitted by the defense industry for new long-range strike capabilities.

After veiwing these "long range strike" options it would be interesting to hear from ATS members as to which concept they favor best and why.


Boeing’s response to the Air Force includes an array of potential solutions for Global Strike-Global Persistent Attack capability. Concepts ranged from a re-engined and upgraded B-1R bomber, a Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems X-45D, and a Blended Wing Body Arsenal Aircraft.


the B-1R (R stands for “regional”) would be a Lancer with advanced radars, air-to-air missiles, and F/A-22 engines. Its new top speed—Mach 2.2—would be purchased at the price of a 20 percent reduction of the B-1B’s combat range.
The upside of this concept is that it's an affordable option, the downside is that the range is reduced instead of enhanced, plus the B-1's stealth capability is nowhere near what the USAF brass would like to see on a future bomber.

Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept

Another option offered by Boeing is the Arsenal Aircraft. It could conceivably deploy from the continental U.S., carrying many hundreds of hypersonic weapons, or cruise missiles -- each plugged into the network-centric architecture and capable of hitting enemy targets from stand-off distances.

Although the Blended Wing Body Arsenal concept meets these requirements, the "ground-up" development it would require make it a very longshot in the competition of concepts.


Boeing's unmanned offering included a scaled-up “D” variant featuring greater range and payload capability than the “C” version.

So far, Boeing has three X-45C unmanned aircraft under construction at its St. Louis facility, with the first flight scheduled for early 2007. The X-45A demonstrators that are now flying were the first to drop a smart weapon from an unmanned air vehicle. These are subsonic, very stealthy and risk no pilots and crew.

It's anybodys guess as to whether the JUCAS derived X-45D actually stands a chance in the competition, my personal opinion is that the USAF wants this long range strike aircraft to have human eyes onboard. It may be that the LRS concept could be a command and control aircraft similar to an AWACS and it be able to control UCAVs on their stealthy bombing runs deep into enemy territory, but my money is on a manned aircraft.



Of all the options, the best known seems to be the FB-22. This would be a two-seat, extended-range derivative of Lockheed Martin’s F/A-22 single-seat, short-range Raptor. The Congressional Research Service reported that the FB-22 concept “appears to be the only bomber concept that Air Force leaders are discussing with any enthusiasm.”

Speaking in February, Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, described the concept thusly:

“The FB-22 would carry some 30-plus Small Diameter Bombs, have a range of about 1,600 miles, and be able to persist behind enemy lines and penetrate with some element of supercruise—and still [have] some element of maneuverability and the ability to protect itself.”

Also, U.S. Air Force Secretary Roche has said the USAF needs a new, fast, long-range plane, and he has indicated that the FB-22 is a contender. In April, Roche said that the work done to perfect the F-22, is doubly useful because it's moving the proposed "FB-22" adaptation forward as well.

Gen. John Jumper refers to the FB-22 concept as a "regional" bomber, but the Congressional Research Service contends that a regional bomber may not meet long-range strike criteria. With a range of 1,600 miles, the FB-22 “appears to be clearly a different class of aircraft than today’s long-range bombers, which typically exhibit unrefueled combat radii of 3,400 to 4,400 miles.”

So it may very well be that even though the USAF brass seems to favors the FB-22, it may not happen due to it's short range compared to other options.

Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft

According to John Perrigo, Lockheed Martin's senior manager for combat air systems one of the possible systems is an arsenal ship version of a C-130. Perrigo described the AC-130J arsenal ship as nonstealthy, subsonic and not designed to penetrate enemy air defenses. However, it would be modified internally to carry 8-12 cruise missiles for standoff attacks.

The restructuring of the airframe would consist of roll-on, roll-off weapon racks and a launch console. Weapons selection is expected to include the conventional air-launched cruise missile, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and Jassm-ER and miniature air-launched decoy missiles fitted with electronic attack warheads for close-in jamming.

Another weapons payload possibility for the AC-130J option would be an array of directed energy weapons. As John Perrigo puts it, "we fully expect there's going to be some pretty good energy weapons available by 2015-20."

Lockheed Long Range Strike UCAV Concept

There have been no indicators from the Lockheed camp regarding an LRS UCAV, this is suspiciously unusual. Considering that ATS is a conspiratorial web site, it would seem that there should be more attention paid to this.

There have been indications that Lockheed will be unveiling a black project UAV in the near future, most hints seem to point toward a large airframe version of the stealthy DarkStar concept.

Other areas of consideration here would be the morphing UCAV we keep hearing about. One thing is certain, the LRS concept competition is potentially lucrative and one would think that LockMart would have a UCAV offering since the other players do. Time will tell...



According to the program manager for future strike systems, Charles Boccadoro, Northrop submitted eight concept proposals. One of the proposals is the B-2 Global Strike Capabilities concept, which basically entails a low-risk block upgrade to the highly successful stealth bomber.

Although neither the USAF nor Northrop have proposed restarting new B-2 production, it has been discussed.
The House version of the Fiscal Year 2002 Defense Authorization Bill reccommened that the USAF buy 40 additional B-2s. The proposal calls for restarting the Palmdale production line at a cost of $2 to $4 billion and buying a stripped-down version of the $2.2 billion B-2A called the B-2C, which would cost around $735 million a copy.

The chances of either B-2 concept becoming a reality are slim due to the extreme expense even for the $735 million stripped down B-2C.


This is not just a YF-23 refitted for bombing missions, it is a completely different aircraft, larger than the original Black Widow II, but still retaining it's stealthiness, supercruise and other characteristics.
The new range figures of the FB-23 as it is being refered to as, are unknown to the general public but it is assumed that Northrop will attempt to make it a truly long range aircraft in order to undercut the FB-22 option which has been said to be weak on overall range.


Derived from the JUCAS program, the X-47 is Northrop's unmanned offering.

Like the X-45, it's Boeing competitor, the X-47A is a stealth design with no vertical control surfaces, yaw control being achieved by differential movements of surfaces in the wings. The all-composite airframe is powered by a single turbofan.
This UCAV would have to be redesigned to make room for additional fuel but like the X-45, the basics are in place. Also like the X-45 I do not think that the USAF is ready to hand over precision long range bombing to an unmanned aircraft. It's coming, there's no question about it, but the USAF brass is just not ready for that.

So what do you guys think? Which one of these Long-Range Strike concepts do you think should be chosen?

ATS Links:

B-3- what do you think/hope it might be?
Raptor as a Bomber
The Skunk Works New Proposal: FB-22 with Active Visual Stealth!
The Future USAF Bomber: Is the Long Range Strike Initiative Here Already In The Form of a YF-23?
New Bombers
FB-23RTA proposal
Skunkworks working on ISR/Strike capable UAS
Skunk Works Shapeshifter UAV

Boeing: Offering Unique Solutions for Global Strike Force; Boeing News Release
Long-Range Strike in a Hurry; Air Force Magazine, Nov 2004
B-2 or not B-2...That is the Question; COuncil for a Liveable World
A Smarter Bomber: Popular Science
Striking Concepts; Aviation Week & Space Technology, Nov 28, 2004

[edit on 5-10-2005 by intelgurl]

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 06:02 PM
I go for the FB-23, incorporating the UK's FOAS requirement too so my local RAF base can get to have some

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 06:08 PM
maaaaaan....those aircraft starting to look unmanly and more like extraterrestrial u know. but its pretty cool to see how the air force looks like for the next few decades.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 06:40 PM
FB-23 or the B-1R. I always did like the Black Widow over the Raptor and I think the B-1 is the best strategic bomber we have atm. What really is the point of stealth. If you just dropped a set of, say, 2200 lb. bombs then its fairly obvious that you're gonna get noticed.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 06:57 PM
I would choose the Blended Wing Body Arsenal Aircraft, it has the range to be launched from the US, It would carry hypersonic cruise missiles and it looks the stealthiest out of the bunch.

[edit on 5-10-2005 by WestPoint23]

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 09:29 PM
I think they're all pretty impressive, but i'd go with the Blended Wing for the weapons load out it would be able to carry. Some of the others don't look like they'd be able to carry a big loadout which would mean more planes.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 09:46 PM
I would say the blended wing arsenal aircraft looks the best. Its the stealthiest and seems to incorporate the biggest and newest arsenal.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 09:59 PM
I believe one of the biggest question is whether to go piloted or unpiloted. I do share intelgurl's opinion that the Airforce is not ready for a full unpiloted bomber.

The B-1R is an attractive offer but as intelgurl said, the platform is aging. The Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept is interesting but I believe the Airforce does not want to start from the ground up. The Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft is still a C-130 and because of that it will never really be a strike aircraft that can penetrate enemy defences. It is just a too primitive design. The B-2B is very stealthy but as stated, it is expensive. While the price may go down a but from the B-2A, it would still be too expensive. This leaves us with the FB-22 and FB-23.

The FB-22 does have a few advantages and a few disadvantages over the FB-23. It has the conection to the F/A-22. That may be all it needs. If the FB-22 is built it would make the cost of the F/A-22 go down and many in the Airforce and in the government would be happy to see that. The FB-22 may be able to get around the range problem with stealth external fuel tanks or making the aircraft a bit bigger but those options would make the aircraft less stealthy and would make it more expensive.

Last but not least is my favorite, the FB-23. This aircraft would have to overcome some hurdles but I believe if selected, it would be the most effective of all the concepts listed. It seems that Northrop has the range problem covered, if they can pull it off. The FB-23 seems to me to be more of a true strike bomber aircraft much like the FB-111 of late. Northrop will have to overcome its failure in the ATF competition but if it has an agressive marketing scheme then I believe that they can make it. If they do, the US Airforce will have a mutlipurose strike aircraft more effective than another other in the world for many, many years to come.

I vote FB-23.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 10:17 PM
Interesting thread there are some very unique aircraft mentioned here. I always been a fan of the UAVs and cant wait to see more of the rumored "Son of Darkstar" I dont think UAVs are quite far enough to take take on such a important role as of yet by themselves but Lockheed could prove me wrong. I do think they are the future of air combat though.

I love the concept of the "Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept " Its such a brilliant concept IMHO, I wish I thought of it first. A large ariel platform capable of launching large numbers of cruise missiles at stand off range. With the next Gen cruise missiles and possibly even stealth cruise missiles man that could be amazing.

But if I had to pick I would have to cheat and pick a blended choice
Primary choice would be the FB-23 I dont know much about it but was a big fan of the YF-23 stealthness and speed are just a great combination. Secondary choice would be one of the UAVs perhaps the X-45D to work in conjunction with the YF-23 on missions.

I would like to see something like a FB-23 flying a mission with 2 UAVs as its wing robots

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 10:25 PM
thanks for asking me to post intelgurl, but honestly, i just dont have enough knowledge in this area to contribute....although i am a huge fan of northrop

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 10:42 PM
They want something that is fast, stealthy, and medium to long-range.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 11:48 PM
My personal opinion, honestly the unmanned craft are the way to go, they gain more from having no pilot at risk, not to mention manuverability (no G force restriction). That and with a command & control aircraft above them, will give the brass that eyes on target feel. Plus the question of more range and larger payload will be easier solved.

Just being able to have these many options says alot, they are all great packages when considered. How ever the advantage of being able to have top gun pilots operateing the unmanned craft from afar or further above, presents the loss of exerience. Maintaining the tactical edge as well as technical, pilots are not expendable and should be utilized in the best fashion available.

As for manned air craft, they still have a fighter role and defence to worry about, those situations require the on the spot calls only being there knows. I just don't see a unmanned fighter, not yet any ways. Technology needs to be smoothed over more first. But it isn't far off by any means either.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:01 AM
B-1R for shure ,you have the aircraft built ,easy upgrades for that .
Also F-111D was forerunner to B-1 (D having the most advanced TFR) at
that time ! But both A/C did same ,B-1 just did it on a bigger (Frame ,PowerPlant) scale .

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:04 AM
Yeah, but why would you want to LOSE capabilities when you're getting a "new" airframe? The B-1 has so many problems already, I shudder to think about what adding A2A missiles, with the fire control, and datalinks and every is going to do to the thing. It's horrifically underpowered as it is. To be capable of going beyond Mach 1 they could only put three generators on it, instead of four. Three is barely enough to power what they HAVE, and to do that they have to shut other systems down.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:41 AM
Excellent Report!!!

Its poses some interesting questions.

I would say the B-1R concept is interesting and may give life to the airframes that congress is perpetually trying to retire. But as pointed out, the range reduction means more tanking and that may negate some of the advantages of the new engines. I advocated this in another thread. Load it up with AIM-120C's and fit it with an AESA radar system, devote one bomb bay for fuel, and the other for a generator for the new electronics and have the bomber take over the cruise missile defense role being proposed with the F-15 that have the AESA.

The Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept is a "non starter" IMHO. If we have the Hypersonic cruise missile to equip it with, then why not modify a C-5 / C-17. or even a 747-400 (Also looked at by the Carter Administration) with the missiles. Developing the blended wing concept while has future promise, the Military has shown an inability or reluctance in the past to bring such a radical departure from the norm to life.

UAV's: For the near term and perhaps for some time, I think there will be a fundamental opposition to having "strategic" platforms unmanned. I realize that many of the strikes carried out by these proposed a/c may not be strategic, but its the best term I could come up with. There is a certain security having a manned aircraft be it real psychological or a an actual one. Of the two I am fond of the X-45. I could see a stealthy UAV as an escort for one of these a/c loaded to the gills with ARM and AA missiles, controlled by the bomber itself.

FB-22.... As put forth in IntelGurls post Range Range Range. I also wonder if there would be any translation of savings in the F/A-22 production line as the aircraft are similar yet different enough to offset any production cost benefits. 30 SDM are quite a bit, but I think alot of its capacity would be picked up by the F/A-22 which can carry 4 plus its usual Air Superiority load out or 8 SDB etc. I would like to see how many JDAMS it could carry as well.

AC-130J... Or perhaps the AC-17 as has been kicked around, Non stealthy and slow. Again either of the a/c could be configured to fire off a hypersonic cruise missile from standoff range and be quite cost effective in that role.

B-2B or C. As your article pointed out, hardly an affordable option. Really really stealthy, but slow in terms of response. I am also skeptical that they could deliver the A/C for the price quoted.

FB-23: AN interesting option and I admit as a big fan of the YF-23 I am a bit biased. However, alot is not known about the proposed bomber other than its stealthy, can super cruise etc. If it could deliver a decent bomb load with good speed and maintain its stealth, Its clearly the way to go.

Other items in its favor:
The Pentagons trend for Corporate welfare: Northrop could use the contract
It's already being looked at so could have an advantage in terms of production.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:49 AM
I support the B-1R as it's the most bang for the buck.
My taxes are high enough already.

The FB-23 gets the "gee whiz" points, but considering the budget pressures the US is under, I'd rather see us getting the most use out of an existing airframe, and perhaps putting the savings to use keeping our manned space exploration programs going.


posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 01:41 AM

I do like the B-1, but I don't think this would be the best for a long range strike bomber. With all that stuff that stuff hanging down under it, it will defiantely cause some drag and reduce it's stealthiness as you said.

Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept

Interms of payload, i'm sure this thing would be great. I do like the concept of this aircraft for sure. But I am unsure of it's speed and stealthiness to really be able to pass judgement.


I may be lacking the knowledge on how this would be more affordable because the F/A-22 is already in service. I guess it matters on how much is changed and modified. If little is changed, I just don't see how they could make it a bomber. It's weapons bay is too small. There isn't enough depth to carry anything of decent size in it. Unlike the YF-23 which had a fairly deep weapons bay. Rereading the FB-22 proposal, I noticed it said, “The FB-22 would carry some 30-plus Small Diameter Bombs". Just how small are these things if they can squeeze 30 of them in there? Would they even be guided?

The F/A-22 is a good plane, but I don't like the FB-22 idea at all.

Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft

I don't have much to say on this one other than, No. I wouldn't ever consider it.


A good bomber for sure. Upgrades to it or even stripping it down could be a good thing, but I don't think it's price is worth it.


I think I like this proposal the most. I admit that maybe i'm a little biased and that I just want to see the YF-23 in one form or another flying, but between this and the FB-22. I think this beats it hands down. Like I said earlier, it has a bigger weapons bay, maybe even a bit bigger with this streched version. And if not, there maybe be at least a larger fuel capacity, thus increasing its range.

X-45D, Lockheed Long Range Strike UCAV Concept, X-47

I'm lumping all these together because, frankly. I believe UAV's (or UAS's as they are called now
) have yet to prove themselves. I don't know if the technology is there yet where unmanned aircraft can do it all themselves. I also don't like the idea of taking out the human element. Computers don't have moral and ethical judgement. For spying and what not it's fine, but for bombing and possibly killing other human beings. I just don't like the idea of machines doing it themselves while the people sit safely and comfortably in some control room. But this is getting onto another subject, so i'll leave it there.

[edit on 6-10-2005 by jra]

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 03:31 AM
If Northrop can keep the budget requirements down , then i can see the FB-23 as the lead contender

BUT , we ARE talking about 12 years down the line here

what aircraft will be used in the interim?

The capability is needed NOW , and that capability was thrown away 10 years ago , with the `retirement` of the F-111 fleet - which are , in the main sitting at the boneyard (or sold to Australia)

As an interim `win-win` solution , i propose the refurbing of the `varks , which have longer legs than anything short of a full bomber .

The F-15E and F-1117A just don`t cut it

US General Accounting Office's report "OPERATION DESERT STORM -- EVALUATION OF THE AIR CAMPAIGN totally blasts the aircraft (nighthawk and clipped eagle) - the Aardvark is needed now.

[edit on 6-10-2005 by Harlequin]

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 04:19 AM
I like this the most :

Lockheed Martin "Future Strike Platform"

Lockheed Martin reveals future strike platform
06 June 2003

Lockheed Martin has revealed images of a stealthy, supersonic strike aircraft designed to penetrate heavily defended airspace in the initial phase of a conflict and deliver precision-guided munitions on time- sensitive and other high-value targets.

The company developed the concept, which it refers to generically as the 'long-range strike aircraft', in support of studies on future strike platforms that the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is leading.

Although the air force anticipates operating its current bomber force of B-1B, B-2A and B-52H aircraft until 2040, it is examining complementary capabilities. It is prioritising its technology investments to be in a position to launch a next-generation strike programme around 2012-15, with the goal of fielding the system starting around 2020. The system it chooses may not be an aircraft, but rather a capability that traverses space, or some other unconventional approach.

Nonetheless, the service is examining a range of notional subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic aircraft designs as it formulates its technology roadmap.

The Lockheed Martin aircraft is a M2.0-M4.0-class system with highly swept wings and large engines, said Kevin Renshaw, Lockheed Martin's programme manager for long-range strike and advanced combat aircraft. Crew would consist of a pilot and a weapons systems operator.

The company is examining a mix of payload and range options. A payload capacity between 15,000 lb and 40,000 lb (6,802kg and 18,140kg) is envisaged, Renshaw told Jane's Defence Weekly, noting that between 20,000 lb and 25,000 lb appears to be the preferred design trade space. The concept has a notional combat radius of 3,000 miles (4,827km) without mid-air refuelling.

Renshaw said the company believes that many of the key technologies exist today for such a system but need to be refined so that they are smaller, lighter and more affordable. The company has a heritage in developing supersonic aircraft like the M2.0-class B-58 Hustler bomber and M3.2-class SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft.

One area Renshaw highlighted for improvement is the cruise efficiencies of supersonic engines so that they require only one-half to two-thirds the fuel of existing systems.

source :

But in most probability i think the FB-22 will be chosen simply because most of it is alredy ready in the F/A-22. Also it might be unwise to put in bilions more $'s into R&D to make a new bomber, when the alredy developed F/A-2 can be modified reletively inexensively to make the FB-22.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 06:10 AM
As Fred said, this is an exellent report, with many good details to support and refute each proposal. I will admit a personal bias for the Northrop designs. However, I will do my best to be fair.

Blended Wing Arsenal Aircraft Concept

I really think this Boeing design holds a lot of promis. Also Boeing has more experience with building bombers then ALL of the others together. Directly or indirectly, Boeing has been involved with almost Every bomber built in the last 50 years: B-47, B-52, B-1 (inhaired from Rockwell), and the B-2 (they were Northrop main subcontractor). Experience count for a lot. Boeing might be the company to Beat on this.


It is a clever concept, however, I honestly don't think it's time has come yet. UAV/Drone tecnology is developing fast, however, I still think it's too new to comit to the strategic bombing/strike mission at this time.


Sorry, but I don't see this idea getting off the drawing board. The Origional B-1 program was plaged with mechanical and technical problems. Part of the reason they are cutting back on the B-1B fleet is because of maintence related issues. I think this has the LEAST chance of getting past the concept stage.


I think the Lack of Range/Payload might kill this one. Also, Lockheed already has the Lion's share of two Major contracts: the F-22 and F-35. Also, I don't think the F-22 based concept will be versital enough.

Lockheed AC-130J Arsenal Aircraft

This isn't even a bomber! I don't see it filling a job meant for a bomber.

Lockheed Long Range Strike UCAV Concept

We're back to my statment on UAV's. The Technology Just isn't there in my oppion.

Northrop B-2B

I have admitted my personal Bias on this issue. However, I think this might have a better chance then people are giving it credit for. Remember the basic R&D for the B-2 is Already paid for. This means the costs should be lower then for most of the other concepts. All that they would really be developing is some of the software upgrades. Also, The B-2 has shown it's poetential in combat, something none of the others, except the B-1 has done yet. Third, Despit a higher cost projection at the time, the B-2 still beat all it's competitors on it's first try. I would really like to see this one make it Remember: A bird in hand, is worth Two in the bush!


I like the Design, but I don't know that it will do very well. The main problem is that it's based on a design that never made it into the full scale development phaze. However, Northrop's YF-17 fail on it first try, only to become the basis for the F/A-18. If this design makes it, it would not be the First time that Northrop has pulled a rabbit out the hat and brought a failed concept back to become a winner.On the Other hand, Politics has killed many great Ideas!


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