US Air Force LRS-B Bomber Thread

We don't know. Not yet. It's intended to fight China. So. What does that tell us?

We know it needs far, far longer range than the F-22 without tanker support. We know it needs much better stealth against the Chinese, since their sensors are better than the Russians now. We know it needs a deeper magazine, because sorties will take a long time from a 'safe' base to the target. It, like the B-21, is likely to use the ADVENT-like engines, but then the fighter sized ones are likely to be retrofited into the F-35As, if not Cs.

Past that...who knows. We can speculate based on what has been said and discussed,'s just fun speculation.

And I have to wonder if we need a different thread again. geez. This isn't a bomber. lol.
LOL nobody reads this

the real expensive is going to be a transition to 'optionally unmanned', I guess

anyway let's wait and see if the US will be able to pile up this kind of 'products'


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LOL nobody reads this

the real expensive is going to be a transition to 'optionally unmanned', I guess[/uote]

Or they might end up doing a huge swarm of the relatively inexpensive Loyal Wingman type drones with a few bigger manned platforms, like the B-21 and PCA controlling them. Kratos' Valkyrie is going to be interesting, if it goes to production. What, if anything, comes from the DARPA Gremlins will have some interesting potential. Ditto the drone swarms deployed from chaff dispensers.

IMO, I have a feeling "low end" fighters will disappear into the unmanned swarm first on the force mix.

DEW will wildly change air to air combat. If they make it to the battlefield.

anyway let's wait and see if the US will be able to pile up this kind of 'products'
That I will totally agree about.
Ellsworth to be first operational B-21 base
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The Air Force announced on Wednesday that it has chosen Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to be the first base to house an operational
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unit, as well as the formal training unit for the Raider.

Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas will follow, and receive
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, the Air Force said in a release.

“These three bomber bases are well-suited for the B-21,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in the release. “We expect the first
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to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”

The release said Ellsworth was chosen as the preferred location for the first of the advanced long-range strike bombers because it has enough space and existing facilities to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost, and with minimal impact across all three bases.

But it will probably be 2021 before the final decision on where to base the B-21 is made. The Air Force said that decision will be made after it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes as part of the service’s strategic basing process.

Last November, the Air Force announced that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would maintain and sustain the B-21, and Edwards Air Force Base in California would handle testing and evaluation. Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah were also chosen to support Tinker on maintaining, overhauling and upgrading the B-21, the Air Force said last fall.

The Air Force plans to gradually retire the B-1 Lancers and B-2 Spirits once enough B-21s have been delivered, the Air Force said.

“We are procuring the B-21 Raider as a long-range, highly survivable aircraft capable of penetrating enemy airspace with a mix of weapons,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in the release. “It is a central part of a penetrating joint team.”

The Air Force will keep operating B-52 Stratofortresses at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The B-52 is expected to continue conducting operations through 2050 — nearly a century after it first became operational in 1955.
Next Milestone for Future B-21 Bomber? First Flight
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I guess
The Air Force's stealthy new bomber is getting ready to take its first flight.

"Our next major milestone is first flight," Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the
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's military deputy to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, said of the B-21 Long Range Strategic Bomber program.

During a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on airland hearing Tuesday, Bunch told lawmakers the program has met all developmental checkpoints and is on schedule.

While he didn't reveal when the flight will take place, officials have said the first B-21 is expected to reach initial operating capability in the mid-2020s.

"We're still in our acquisition thresholds and baselines, and [the B-21] is executing the way we want. … We got past critical design review," Bunch said of the bomber, developed from a clean-sheet design.

In December, the program cleared the developmental milestone. Officials confirmed the Northrop Grumman-made B-21,
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in honor of the World War II Doolittle Raiders,
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. It passed its
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The B-21 will have both nuclear and non-nuclear roles. As a conventional bomber, it will be able to go after multiple targets, but it can carry out
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The program is relying on open mission systems and open architecture practices, meaning that different technologies plug into the common management system and communicate with one another, Bunch said Tuesday. The Air Force is also "bringing the warfighter in early,"
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on what is and isn't working, he said.

These moves contribute to the program "making great progress," Bunch said.

Lawmakers had a closed-door program briefing in February and intend to have at least one or two more a year, said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.

Cotton and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the sessions help Congress better understand the program's life cycle and to help keep costs in check.

The Air Force awarded Northrop the contract,
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, in 2015. Total costs are
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over the life of the program to procure at least 100 of the Raiders.

Last month, the service picked
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, South Dakota, to be the first operational B-21 base. It will also host the bomber's first formal training unit.

Ellsworth, which currently houses
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bombers, was chosen as the "preferred location" for the B-21 mission.
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, Missouri, a
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base, and
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, Texas, another
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, "will receive B-21 Raiders as they become available," the service said in a news release.

Last year, the service announced it had selected
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, California, and
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, Oklahoma, to
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for test and evaluation and maintenance and sustainment, respectively, for the program.
thought this thread for
U.S. Air Force Fleet Is Structured For The Wrong War, CSBA Warns
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Not only are they too small, by one-third, to fight a near-simultaneous war with Russia and China in 2030, the U.S. Air Force’s four newest frontline combat aircraft today—the B-2,
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—will be limited to stand-off distance from future highly contested airspace.

In 2030, a new crop of Russian and Chinese very-long-range air-to-air missiles will keep
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’s newly delivered KC-46 tankers at least 500-1,000 nm away from defended airspace, flanked by a protective shield of aging
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. Meanwhile,
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F-35As will still slip through an enemy’s long-range fighter screens but will now stay safely outside an enemy’s borders, lobbing Stand-in Attack Weapons (SiAW)—the Air Force’s future version of the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER)—at targets from hundreds of miles away.

The long-range penetration mission—a mainstay of U.S. offensive strategy since World War II—will now rely on a new family of frontline aircraft designed to avoid detection by low-frequency tracking radars. Led by
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B-21s, a still undefined next-generation fighter and a mysterious new penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (P-ISR) aircraft, this sixth-generation strike package penetrates deep inside enemy airspace from multiple directions and lingers there as long as possible.

As the successors of the Northrop Grumman B-2 and Lockheed Martin’s F-22 and F-35A, these aircraft find the most elusive or dangerous targets then nullify them using electronic or kinetic effects or by sending the target information to distant F-35s with SiAWs or Boeing B-52s loaded with long-range weapons, including hypersonic missiles.

That sobering scenario, presented in an April 11 report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), describes not a distant vision of aerial warfare but a near-term wake-up call for the airpower community and Congress, according to the authors. The National Defense Strategy (NDS) released by the Pentagon in 2018 calls for the military to be prepared to win a war with China and Russia within a decade, but today’s Air Force is woefully short of the aircraft and capabilities needed for the task, the CSBA concludes in the congressionally mandated report.

“We have a force that is not well-suited to these kinds of conflicts because we haven’t invested in the force in the last 25 years the way we should have,” CSBA Senior Fellow and report co-author Mark Gunzinger tells Aviation Week. “Now we’re playing catch-up. We really, really are.”

Indeed, the CSBA report echoes the eight-month-old, unclassified summary of the Air Force’s own analysis, “The Air Force We Need.” In late 2017, Congress commissioned the reports by the CSBA and the Air Force—along with another unreleased, classified analysis by Mitre Corp. The objective was to gather insight for shaping resource decisions in the absence of a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The latter was replaced in 2018 by the
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’s less detailed NDS.

Of the three assessments, the CSBA offers the only independent and unclassified analysis of a force structure for the Air Force and one that is unconstrained by the Trump administration’s budget and policy agenda.

“What the QDRs gave [Congress] was, ‘Here is our strategy, and here is the force that we can afford to best support the strategy.’ But that is not what Congress wanted. They said, ‘We come up with what the nation can afford. We want to know what’s needed,'” says Gunzinger, one of the report’s five co-authors and a contributor to five QDRs.

According to both reports, the Air Force needs more and different aircraft. The service’s “Air Force We Need” analysis concluded that the requirements laid out by the NDS, which include fighting rogue states and lightly armed insurgents, call for a total of 386 squadrons, including units devoted to nonaviation missions such as cyberwarfare and space. The CSBA analyzed requirements only for aviation units and came up with similar overall results. Today, the Air Force operates a total of 169 squadrons flying bombers, fighters, tankers, command-and-control (C2) and ISR missions. Whereas the Air Force calls for adding 50 squadrons to raise that to 219, the CSBA analysis proposes raising the inventory by 54 squadrons.

The two reports agree roughly on the size of the force but disagree on the fleet mix. The CSBA report calls for 24 bomber squadrons in 2030, a 71% increase over the 14 squadrons recommended by the Air Force. But the Air Force report proposes 89 squadrons made up of ISR and C2 aircraft, versus 76 called for by the CSBA. The numbers of fighters and tankers are roughly equal between both reports, with the CSBA suggesting three more fighter units and four more tanker units than the Air Force’s vision for 2030.

The classification of the Air Force’s report makes the mix of aircraft types within those top-line fleet numbers unknown. But that is also what makes the CSBA version of the report so interesting. Unconstrained by the obstacle of secrecy, the CSBA project was free to speculate on the specific types of aircraft the Air Force will need after 2030. Moreover, two of the report’s authors—Gunzinger and Carl Rehberg—performed such analyses within the Pentagon until retiring from government employment within the last decade.

As an aircraft that entered the development stage 3.5 years ago, the B-21 presents a special case. Though nearly all schedule and performance details are classified, the authors make intriguing projections about the bomber’s current and potential production capacity over the next decade. Based on limited information provided by the Defense Department’s selected acquisition reports, the CSBA report estimates that Northrop Grumman will deliver 38 B-21s by 2030. But even that pace is not fast enough. The CSBA authors recommend accelerating the production ramp-up to complete 55 B-21 deliveries by 2030, starting with the first in 2024.

The Air Force needs B-21s because they form the heart of the CSBA’s projected stand-in strike package. The next-generation fighter and existing F-35As and F-22s are useful, but alone they lack the range and payload for the task.

“What if your tanker has to stand off 500 mi.? What if close-in air bases are under threat?” Gunzinger asks. “You don’t want to do that with something that requires a lot of refueling and carrying that [smaller] payload.”

Although larger than a fighter, the B-21 is considered survivable against the next generation of airborne and ground-based threats, in CSBA’s analysis. The Air Force has not released the size of the B-21, but Rehberg—a former B-1B pilot—considers it smaller than a B-52 or B-2, which helps its stealth signature.

“It’s also the outer mold line, and it’s the material you use that’s determinate,” Gunzinger says. “You design something with a couple tails that stick up, and your exhaust is hanging out in the breeze—OK, that’s going to be pretty easy to find.”

The same analysis also consigned the F-35A to a standoff role in the CSBA’s 2030 study. “I think you need a new outer mold line for a highly contested environment,” Gunzinger says. “You need something that’s all-aspect, broadband [and stealthy].”

But the F-35A still has much to offer for a next-generation fighter, which the CSBA identifies as a dual-mission Penetrating Counter Air/Penetrating Electronic Attack (PCA/P-EA) aircraft. The report calls on the Air Force to accelerate the first delivery to 2026, even though the Next-Generation Air Dominance acquisition program has not yet opened for bids. The faster time line would require the Air Force to leverage mature technology as much as possible, Gunzinger says. One possibility is to combine the F-35’s existing avionics and mission system with a new airframe optimized for broadband stealth. That suggests a tailless, supersonic aircraft.

“That would drive you to a different kind of [outer mold line] and a different kind of concept for operating that,” Gunzinger says. “You’ll not necessarily be pulling high-Gs and so forth. It’d be more of a [beyond-visual-range] type platform.”

The authors provide less detail on the projected requirement for a P-ISR aircraft, due to the sensitivity of the mission area and their backgrounds in recent government service.

“It could be manned or unmanned, and there’s probably nothing more I can say about it, and neither can Carl because we were in that world not too long ago,” Gunzinger says. “Everything that penetrates ought to be able to contribute to operations in the [electromagnetic spectrum] to include communications, sensing, jamming and creating other effects.”


New Strategy Fuels Global Demand For More New Bombers
Source : Aviation Week & Space Technology

Appreciation for bombers also is growing due to the new demands of modern warfare. The Pentagon’s long-term preparations for a future conflict with China place a premium on large combat aircraft, with hefty fuel tanks for long missions and spacious bays for carrying a multitude of precision weapons.

The Air Force fleet mix is currently tilted heavily toward short-range fighters, which enjoy a 10:1 advantage over bombers. That fleet was constructed in the aftermath of the Cold War, as the Pentagon refocused on a “major theater war” strategy involving mainly rogue states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, says Mike Gunzinger, a former B-52 pilot and now senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis (CSBA). Several basic assumptions of such a strategy—a lengthy mobilization process, secure basing, assured airpower and access to tankers—could vanish in a conflict with sophisticated air defenses.

“What if you can’t [build up forces slowly in theater]? What if your tankers have to stand off 500-1,000 mi.? What if those close-in air bases are now under attack? You might have to operate now more from range,” Gunzinger says.

“It screams for a different mix: longer range, larger payload,” he adds. “Because if you have to fly longer ranges to get to your target area, you don’t want to do that with something that requires a lot of refueling and carries a small payload.”

The sudden shift in priorities is raising pressure on the Air Force— for the first time in decades—to field more bombers, not less. Only a year ago, the Air Force Global Strike Command released the Bomber Vector, a long-term fleet plan that caps the bomber force at 175 aircraft, a slight increase over the 157 aircraft now in the fleet.

As new B-21s enter the fleet, the Bomber Vector commits the Air Force to retire its B-2s and B-1Bs early. Although only 18 months old, the Bomber Vector seems almost quaint. The Air Force itself seems conflicted. Only nine months after Global Strike Command issued the plan in January 2018, the service released a contradictory internal study calling for an increase of the bomber force to 14 squadrons, from nine.

A study co-authored by Gunzinger agrees, but goes further and calls for more than doubling the size of the bomber fleet to 19 squadrons. A separate recent review of the Air Force fleet structure by The Mitre Corp. is classified, but also calls for adding bomber squadrons to the future force, according to Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Global Strike Command.

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Air Force to effectively redo the Bomber Vector, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Revisiting the Bomber Vector also now has the support of Global Strike Command, which Ray assumed command of last year after the road map was published. In testimony before the Senate committee on May 1, Ray said the disputed Bomber Vector was based on a “programmatically driven” analysis. In other words, his command’s long-term bomber road map is based on current budget constraints, not an objective analysis of the operational need.

“The analysis that we’re looking at from inside [the office of the Secretary of Defense] and inside the Air Force will be at the forefront of anything that happens,” Ray said.

“The decision point to look closely at the B-21 production rate is in about the 2024 time frame,” he said. “We’ve got a good program, very good program managers there. So once we get to that point we all agree we have some options. But in the meantime, we have some sustainment options we’re going to look at to make the bomber road map we have more affordable.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force’s firm lid on even unclassified details of the B-21 program is loosening, albeit slightly. It started in December with confirmation of the completion of the critical design review, a milestone that traditionally means releasing suppliers to begin manufacturing components for the first test aircraft.

This slightly relaxed posture also extends to one of the B-21’s tightly guarded, although unclassified, secrets. Assuming the Air Force’s planned initial operational capability date in the late 2020s is accurate, Northrop is about one-quarter of the way through the $21.4 billion development phase that began in October 2015. The size and timing of the low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase became public only this year, although not through the standard process. No B-21 procurement spending figures were included in the budget justification documents for the Air Force’s fiscal 2020 spending request, but service officials agreed to confirm the numbers upon request.

The new budget data reveals a $5.9 billion spending plan over the next five years to buy an unspecified number of aircraft. That amount likely covers the first two annual lots of LRIP, plus long-lead funding in fiscal 2024 for LRIP-3. The procurement phase of the program begins in fiscal 2022 with a planned outlay of $200 million, which is likely for long-lead materials for LRIP-1. The Air Force then plans to spend $2.4 billion in fiscal 2023, the first full lot of production and long-lead for LRIP-2. The long-term budget allocates another $3.3 billion in fiscal 2024.
In my view, the USAF will raise the buy beyond the initial 100 units. Given the A2AD bubble and the standoff distances of the Pacific, I expect a greater reliance on long range penetration bombers as the carriers are kept at a distance - at least initially.
in case you cared
B-21 to Fly in December 2021 ...
... Coming in 2021: The B-21 Raider’s first flight?
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The Air Force’s No. 2 officer has a countdown on his iPhone for the
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, and it may happen sooner than you think: December 2021, to be exact.

“Don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson,
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Wilson, who spoke July 24 at an AFA Mitchell Institute event, said he had r
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in Melbourne, Fla., and that the company was “
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The 863-day countdown — if it is accurate — would peg the Raider’s inaugural flight to Dec. 3, 2021. And while there’s still ample time for design problems and budget setbacks to delay that schedule, analysts said the Air Force’s disclosure of the first flight date means that the secretive bomber program is likely moving along smoothly.

“A lot can happen in two years. But if they feel that confident about the schedule it’s a good sign that things are on course,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group.

The short timeline between the contract award to Northrop Grumman in 2015 — which withstood a Boeing-Lockheed protest in 2016 — and first flight in 2021 could be a sign the B-21’s air vehicle design is a smaller version of the B-2 Spirit, he said.

“Which, of course, would mean a lot less risk and reasonably fast schedule,” Aboulafia said. “There’s not a reason for the airframe itself to have to change radically. It’s everything else about it that needs to be modernized, and it seems they think they can make do with a smaller system with less range. If you accept that thinking as the likely reality, then that would make for less risk and a relatively short development schedule. That all makes sense.”

However, it is possible that there have been major design changes, in which case it’s likely that several sub-scale or even full-scale demonstrators will fly before 2021, he added.

Roman Schweizer, an analyst of Cowen Washington Research Group, said a 2021 first flight is a “significant new data point” that meshes well with the company’s projected schedule of the program.

“We believe the next major milestone for the program will be a Production Readiness Review that will clear the way for manufacturing the first prototype aircraft. Based on the program's next R&D funding step-up, we expect this could happen sometime later this calendar year to allow manufacturing to begin in FY20,” he wrote in an email to investors on Wednesday.

In March, Bloomberg reported that procurement spending for the B-21 program would start in FY22 with $202 million in funding, shooting up to $2.4 billion the following year and $3.3 billion in FY24.

“That could mean Low-Rate Production in FY23,” Schweizer wrote. “That would also make sense after flight test evaluations of the prototype (and possibly several others).”

The Air Force has kept tight hold on details related to the Raiders development, keeping much of its budget in the “black” or classified portion of the funding request. The last major B-21 related disclosure was the December 2018 announcement that the program had completed its critical design review.

Wilson’s statements follow Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matt Donovan’s
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in Melbourne., on July 19. Donovan was accompanied by Randy Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for executing the program.

“We look forward to receiving the B-21 on time and incorporating it into our future force,” Donovan said after the visit. “The B-21 will be a significant component of our Air Force as we continue to modernize to meet the National Defense Strategy and is a game-changing capability to win the high-end fight.”