dkramer7
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Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:14 pm

Hello all

My apologies if this has been discussed before

Over on another thread I was discussing the idea of moving the USAF tanker fleet to an all KC-46 (B767 Based) model, and it somehow got me thinking about the many different types of heavy bomber aircraft in the USAF inventory.

Since money is kind of a thing at the moment (or lack thereof) it seems at least looking in from the outside that maintaining 3 heavy bomber types (B52, B1 and B2) is resource intensive (read expensive).

I wonder aloud how much benefit could be obtained from retiring all but one aircraft type from active duty and basing the heavy bomber force around a single frame.

As much as I love the look and capability of the B-2, the speed of the B-1 and the sheer staying power of the B-52, it seems like its getting a bit much to have all three around at the same time.

Now assuming for the moment that there was no resistance from the Air Force (please humor me on this one) how might this translate into loss of capability, reduced costs etc.
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:57 pm

There would only be one option, that would be to retire the B-1B fleet, as the B-1 no longer nuclear weapons capable. Both the B-52H and B-2A fleet are capable of delivering nukes, while also being capably in the conventional weapons role. The fast bomber mission also has the F-15E, which actually makes the B-1B redundant. With the LSR-B program getting started, it can begin replacing the B-52 in the mid 2020s.
 
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Stitch
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:26 pm

This thread might be of interest, as it discusses the LSR-B.

B-3 (by rheinwaldner Jul 2 2015 in Military Aviation & Space Flight)
 
ThePointblank
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Mon Aug 17, 2015 2:01 am

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 1):
There would only be one option, that would be to retire the B-1B fleet, as the B-1 no longer nuclear weapons capable.

Which won't happen because the B-1 plays a very important role in the Pivot to the Pacific. It's also the lead development platform for LRASM, is going to be compatible with JASSM-ER, and has a tremendous payload capacity for smart munitions that the B-52 didn't have until very recently.
 
dkramer7
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:09 am

Quoting ThePointblank (Reply 3):
Which won't happen because the B-1 plays a very important role in the Pivot to the Pacific

Perhaps then a new bomber platform could perform this role and the role that the others play as well?

Is this already the case or are there program proposals to replace each of these aircraft individually?
 
rwessel
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:45 am

Quoting dkramer7 (Reply 4):
Perhaps then a new bomber platform could perform this role and the role that the others play as well?

Is this already the case or are there program proposals to replace each of these aircraft individually?

While the exact goals have wandered around a bit, the LRS-B appears (currently) intended to replace the B-52 and B-1, with the B-2's remaining. Although why they'd want to keep the very expensive to maintain B-2's in parallel with the LSR-B's is a bit of a mystery. One of the justifications for the LRS-B is a projection of reducing stealth effectiveness of the B-2 against Chinese capabilities.
 
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ssteve
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:10 pm

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 1):
There would only be one option, that would be to retire the B-1B fleet, as the B-1 no longer nuclear weapons capable.

Is this much of a technical hurdle to surmount, or just a way of keeping that fleet out of arms reduction treaties?
 
Ozair
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Mon Aug 17, 2015 10:52 pm

Quoting SSTeve (Reply 6):
just a way of keeping that fleet out of arms reduction treaties?

Correct. The B-1B had its nuclear capability removed in the 90s.

Quoting rwessel (Reply 5):
Although why they'd want to keep the very expensive to maintain B-2's in parallel with the LSR-B's is a bit of a mystery. One of the justifications for the LRS-B is a projection of reducing stealth effectiveness of the B-2 against Chinese capabilities.

The B-2 will keep the nuclear deterrence role for many years to come, something the B-1 cannot do and, other than launching nuclear armed cruise missiles, something the B-52 cannot do either.
 
KC135Hydraulics
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Tue Aug 18, 2015 5:30 am

I think the troops who fought in Afghanistan will argue about replacing the B-1. It provide(d) outstanding support there with its vast array of smart munitions. Its speed made it able to reposition to hot spots quickly. Also note that the B-1B has a lower cost-per-flying-hour than the B-52, though I'm sure its FMC rate isn't nearly as good.
MSgt, USAF
KC-135R / C-17A Pneudraulic Systems Mechanic Supervisor
 
rwessel
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:31 am

Quoting Ozair (Reply 7):
The B-2 will keep the nuclear deterrence role for many years to come, something the B-1 cannot do and, other than launching nuclear armed cruise missiles, something the B-52 cannot do either.

Yes, but I was talking about a post-LRS-B world.
 
Ozair
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Tue Aug 18, 2015 12:01 pm

Quoting rwessel (Reply 9):
Yes, but I was talking about a post-LRS-B world.

When you say post LRS-B world do you mean when only LRS-B and B-2 are in service or when LRS-B is retired?
 
rwessel
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:56 pm

Quoting Ozair (Reply 10):
When you say post LRS-B world do you mean when only LRS-B and B-2 are in service or when LRS-B is retired?

Poorly worded on my part. Once the LRS-B is in service. The question is why retain the B-2 then?
 
Ozair
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Wed Aug 19, 2015 8:40 am

Quoting rwessel (Reply 11):
Once the LRS-B is in service. The question is why retain the B-2 then?

All reports on LRS-B I have seen point to it being half the size of the B-2. This probably means at best two thirds the range and half the payload of a B-2. In that case there is plenty of scope for the B-2 to remain in service for range and payload considerations alone.

Saying that, the LRS-B will likely have a full suite of new smart weapons, including DEW, to increase capability while retaining smaller internal bays.

Quoting dkramer7 (Reply 4):

Perhaps then a new bomber platform could perform this role and the role that the others play as well?

As early as 2009 the USAF were talking about the LRS-B being more than just a bomber

"The Air Force plans for the new bomber to be multi-role with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities"

As with the F-35, I expect the LRS-B to have a key role in the future battlespace as a forward deployed ISR node.
 
rwessel
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Wed Aug 19, 2015 3:03 pm

Quoting Ozair (Reply 12):
All reports on LRS-B I have seen point to it being half the size of the B-2. This probably means at best two thirds the range and half the payload of a B-2. In that case there is plenty of scope for the B-2 to remain in service for range and payload considerations alone.

I've not seen any meaningful size estimates, but it's consistently being described as a "heavy bomber" and "long range". Are you sure you're not confusing it with the similar, but smaller ("Medium"), Next-Generation bomber, which was superseded by the LRS-B program?
 
Ozair
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:01 am

Quoting rwessel (Reply 13):
I've not seen any meaningful size estimates, but it's consistently being described as a "heavy bomber" and "long range". Are you sure you're not confusing it with the similar, but smaller ("Medium"), Next-Generation bomber, which was superseded by the LRS-B program?

The info I have comes from here.

A source with knowledge of the program said the Air Force is likely looking at something smaller than a B-2, perhaps as small as half the size, with two engines similar in size to the F135 engines that power the F-35, so enhancement programs can also be applied to the bomber.

"They should go bigger [in terms of airframe], but Gates threw that $500 million figure out there without thinking through the overall effect and requirement," the source said.

http://www.defensenews.com/story/def...ir-force-bomber-industry/21805275/

Of course this is just supposition and since the requirements for LRS-B have never been released we cannot confidently say either way, nor will we probably know anything more detailed when the contract is awarded in September, unless we get some conceptual drawings and general figures released.

Given the ride the F-35 has had in the media, it will be interesting to see how the LRS-B fares over the next few years...
 
ThePointblank
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 6:30 am

Quoting KC135Hydraulics (Reply 8):
I think the troops who fought in Afghanistan will argue about replacing the B-1. It provide(d) outstanding support there with its vast array of smart munitions. Its speed made it able to reposition to hot spots quickly. Also note that the B-1B has a lower cost-per-flying-hour than the B-52, though I'm sure its FMC rate isn't nearly as good.

Also consider that the B-1B has a higher payload capacity than the B-52... more bombs, and more specifically, more smart bombs. Coupled to high speed, long endurance, and integrated with a targeting pod makes it an excellent platform for providing ground support.
 
nomadd22
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:17 am

Quoting Ozair (Reply 7):
Correct. The B-1B had its nuclear capability removed in the 90s.

Everybody keeps saying that, but what does it mean? The special comms gear or the launcher?
Anon
 
Ozair
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:38 am

Quoting nomadd22 (Reply 16):
Everybody keeps saying that, but what does it mean? The special comms gear or the launcher?

I don't know but you are probably right that comms gear and any specific arming equipment for the weapons would be the main candidates.
 
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Stitch
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 1:27 pm

Quoting Ozair (Reply 7):
The B-1B had its nuclear capability removed in the 90s.
Quoting nomadd22 (Reply 16):
Everybody keeps saying that, but what does it mean? The special comms gear or the launcher?

It involved removal of nuclear arming and fuzing hardware. I am guessing this means the B-1 can no longer communicate with the Permissive Action Link on a nuclear warhead.

The B-1 launchers can still handle the AGM-86B cruise missile and AGM-69 short range attack missiles, just with conventional warheads.
 
mmo
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:33 pm

Quoting Stitch (Reply 18):
AGM-69 short range attack missiles, just with conventional warheads.

The SRAMs were retired over 20 years ago. And there were never any SRAMs with conventional warheads.
If we weren't all crazy we'd all go insane!
 
Marcus
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RE: Usaf Heavy Bomber Fleet Future

Tue Aug 25, 2015 3:44 pm

This was starting to look like a simple procurement program, a set number of frames, a timeline, a fixed budget for development and aquisition etc etc then I see this on the news today...

"Air Forces Brushes Off $27 Billion Accounting Error

Air Force leaders on Monday shrugged off concerns that the service got the projected 10-years cost of its next-generation bomber wrong to the tune of more than $27 billion."

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/marke...unting-error/ar-BBm4JAL?li=BBgzzfc

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