Title: A Look at The United States Bomber Force
Authors: Raul Colon
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The Bomber Industrial Capabilities Study was directed by Congress, chartered by the DOD, and conducted by The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC). The study concluded that building a new bomber type, a B-3, could easily cost in excess of $35 billion for research and development alone (with unit flyaway costs about the same as a B-2). Technology concepts from the USAF Scientific Advisory Board's (SAB) New World Vistas and technology concepts submitted for the 2025 Study were reviewed and concepts harvested from these efforts included the Future Attack Aircraft. This concept envisions a 500-nm-range manned or unmanned aircraft that would use stealth technology (both RF and IR) to reach a target and employ laser or high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. An unmanned aircraft with a "tunable" HPM weapon could provide either the non-lethal or lethal punch SAF needs in the constabulary mission.

Two concepts under consideration by Air Force Materiel Command included:

  • Multi-mission - Manned, multi-role capability, radius > 450+ range (hi-med-hi), Payload?, medium threat, Unit Flyaway Price (UFP) <$75M (BY00) Number of Concepts Scored: 3 (‘96); 1 (‘97); 1 (‘98)
  • 10.2 Deep Strike - Manned, 1000NM < radius < 2000NM, 12-24 klbs, high-med-high or hi-lo-hi, med-high threat, $50M < UFP < $250M (BY00)

A 1999 RAND Corporation study articulated a rationale for acquiring a Mach 2 supersonic bomber with the following characteristics:

  • un-refueled range of 3,250 nmi
  • weight of 290,000 to 350,000 pounds each
  • payload of 15,000 to 20,000 pounds
  • support 37 to 40 percent of the current USAF tanker fleet and 100 air superiority fighters.

The Mach 2 bomber could attack targets almost anywhere in the world while operating from well-protected, permanent bases on US and UK territory. A total inventory of approximately 80 to 105 of these Mach 2 bombers could deliver enough PGMs (about 560 tons per day) to replicate the USAF Desert Storm effort.

Air Combat Command conducted the Future Strike Aircraft study with three airframe prime contractors - Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The FSA study looked out to the year 2030 and beyond, developing concepts for future bombers to meet the anticipated needs of the Air Force. The Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, wanted the study to address threat and technology growth in the 2030-35 timeframe, while considering acceleration pressures for earlier replacement of older aircraft. The goals of the study were to present a credible, compelling vision of the FSA concept and to begin laying out a technology development roadmap. However, the FSA program has been allocated less than $1 million in funding and is not geared toward becoming a full-blown acquisition program.

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