Skip to comments.Let Us Try Again To Turn The 747 Into A Bomber
Posted on 09/06/2009 9:33:49 AM PDT by em2vn
For the third time in the last decade, the U.S. Air Force is looking at using commercial aircraft as bombers. This time around, it's mainly a matter of cost, with the next generation heavy bomber likely to cost over a billion dollars each, and only carry 30 tons of bombs or missiles. The idea of militarizing 747s first started gaining traction three decades ago, as cruise missiles showed up and many air force analysts did the math and realized that it would be a lot cheaper to launch these missiles from a militarized Boeing 747. The freighter version of the latest 747model, the 747-8F, can carry 140 tons of cargo. After militarizing the aircraft, you would still be able to carry about a hundred tons of missiles and bombs.
NO! Doesn’t anyone remember KAL007? How many more 747’s are we willing to to see shot out of the sky because there would be no way to determine one from the other? Are we really that desiress to get our security that much on the cheap?
Sounds like a stupid idea.... commercial planes aren’t designed for the types stresses a military aircraft has built into them.
The general feeling is that you don’t need to penetrate anymore....you just launch from a distance...so the 747 easily does that job. It’s a proven aircraft with relatively few issues. Maintenance is considered simple. The Boeing guys are happy because it brings in more money. Cost would probably the best deal because it already exists. If the question is...will the AF go for such a vehicle...I think the answer is no. It simply gets talked about, and then dropped each time the subject comes up.
Paint them white with colored stripes and a few logos and you could hide them anywhere...:^)
I read somewhere a while back that our B-52 fleet is, on average, 30 years older than the pilot flying them. That’s getting pretty long in the tooth for some of those airframes. It would probably be quicker and cheaper to adapt the existing 747 airframe to a bombing role as opposed to trying to come up with a totally new bomber design from scratch. That’s about the only thing I can think of that would justify something like this. Then again, what do we need new bombers for? It’s not like Obamalamadingdong would use them if he had them.....
I guess you add 40 tons to the weight by “militarizing” the plane, then. So I wonder what that involves? Perhaps adding fuel capacity? Bigger engines? More protective armor? Electronics? Bomb racks?
What is the cost of designing a new bomber? Now the cost of the initial orders? Now, how many 747’s can you buy and retrofit?
There are gazillions of parts, made, re-built and improved already on the market for the 747. Navigation, communications, satelite -you name it, the 747 is a stable, proven platform.
Once we have air superiority, and are in the process of removing valuable targets; a 747 would make a great choice taking over as a ‘heavy-lift’ vehicle, or if the needs are for a surface bombardment - there are not many planes in our arsinal that are as versatile as a 747 (people, cargo, and now bombs), and can land on existing runways. Even if we only use the 747 as a replacment to the very old, yet quite servicable B-52 - it sounds like a great idea to me.
Heck, built a bomber variant of the DC-10. Reopen the plant in Long Beach. We need jobs in SoCal!
The 747 has proven to be a highly reliable aircraft and let’s face it, Boeing does not build junk, be it commercial OR military.
Having said that, if we were talking about refitting and upgrading existing 747 aircraft to military standards in addition to adding both offensive AND defensive weapon systems, the cost could well be prohibitive.
And while it may seem appealing to jam pack tons upon tons of bombs and missiles on board of a 747 on steroids, it also means that if an enemy gets off a lucky shot, they really hit the jackpot because each and everyone of those weapons on board the pumped up 747 will be lost, along with the plane and crew.
Now on the other hand, packing a 747 with all sorts of ECM gear to support whatever mission our B1/B2/B52 fleet might be faced with, that is something I think warrants study.
In flight refueling capability is pretty standard on military bombers and Boeing already has that worked out for the 747. Air Force One can be refueled in flight and I'd bet the one they are testing that laser system on has it, too.....
There's a bunch of them sitting in the desert in AZ waiting to be scrapped....
Sounds like a stupid idea.... commercial planes arent designed for the types stresses a military aircraft has built into them.
I remember the concept from a few years back.
Primarily the concept is that of the Arsenal Ship. It carries the munitions and a Close Combat spotter crew either on the ground or in another aircraft actually pick out the target and guide the missiles or bombs into it.
The Arsenal ship, in this case a converted 747 freighter, would stand back out of the immediate combat area and release ordnance as directed. Plus the capability of a huge loiter time makes this an attractive idea for the military.
The only drawback I see is that the Air Force tends to Multi-role everything. I can just see some bright boy saying, “Well lets put in some extra fuel capability and we can do in-flight refueling, and since this was a freighter originally let’s use it for air transport. And we can carry troops and .....”
In a case like this I believe a single purpose role is best. Pick one and stick with it.
I built a cellular system up in east Kentucky, near Pikeville back in the early 90’s. The switching center, where I spent a great deal of time during the build, was located on a mountain top that overlooked a narrow valley. B-52’s would come through four to six at a time, maybe 200’ off the trees. They were close enough that I could see the curtains were closed on the cockpit windows. I figure they were letting “George” fly. Occasionally, I would see someone in the tail gunner window. It was pretty neat. Loud, but neat.....
Airforce no has the E-3 AWACS based on the Boeing 767.
The US Navy is converting or already has fully converted to the EA-18 Growler.
Like the Carter days, cost once again becomes the main determinant.
Look at what modifications were made to the Martin-MARS planes.
Sure, because IFF transponders can't be reprogrammed or anything...
Self-protection systems, bomb-nav radar, crew stations, weapons systems, radios, EMP hardening, plumbing for aerial refueling, etc.
The list goes on and on.
It is a great idea - for desperate times should they ever arrive.
Although they would probably work better as Spectre gunships.
Good idea: I’m usually bombed when I fly business class on them anyway...
The 747 is an over-engineered beast.
We've used Boeing 707s for decades and have thrown them around pretty good.
I have thousands of hours on military 707s and am continually surprised at how much punishment they can take.
The Russians don't care 'bout no steekin' transponder codes. KAL 007 was squawking a civilian ATC code when it was shot down, the Russians knew it and they shot it down, anyway......
What would probably be the cheapest of all is to just build more B-52s. I have heard that the production line is mothballed somethere. We have all the training, parts, and avionics for this aircraft. Is it stealth, no? But we don’t need stealth in all cases and its has a very mature EW system.
It will never happen, however.
> NO! Doesn’t anyone remember KAL007? How many more 747’s are we willing to to see shot out of the sky because there would be no way to determine one from the other? Are we really that desiress to get our security that much on the cheap?
It wouldn’t be the first time a superb civilian aeroplane also served as a superb military aeroplane, contemporaneously.
The Douglas Dakota / DC3 is one aeroplane that leaps immediately to mind. I bet if I thought long and hard enough I could find others. Like the Piper Cub, for instance...
...I’m sure the Luftwaffe would have done it, too. The Soviets are sure to have done it.
Looks like you beat me to it.
The problem, as intimated in the article, is MINDSET. The whole thinking of the Air Force bomber institution would have to be changed. Well, maybe that's a good thing. Maybe not. But at 1/10th the cost per unit and vastly increased load capacity, why not at least do a real-world feasibility study and see what works and what doesn't?
There's a bunch of them sitting in the desert in AZ waiting to be scrapped....
Replace 50-yr.-old bombers with 30-yr.-old bombers? Even refurbished, you would have many of the same fatigue issues unless you scrap 90% of the airframe and rebuild from scratch. Even a 747 cargo variant would need extensive modifications - hard points, electronics, hydraulics, plumbing for midair refueling. IMO a refurbished 747 would cost nearly as much or more as a NEW a/c.
The Valkyrie was a beautiful bird. When I was a kid growing up near Wright-Patterson AFB my dad and I watched it fly over our house once.
That and the SR-71
My 2 all time favorites on my wish list to see.
No need to refurb old aircraft. Boing is still building new ones.
The excuse was the 747 was mistaken for a C141 because of the bulge on top of the plane over the cockpit even though the two are nowhere nearly alike other than the fact that each had wings. The point is if they used that as an excuse then, that provides them more of an excuse to do it over and over.
NO! Doesnt anyone remember KAL007? How many more 747s are we willing to to see shot out of the sky because there would be no way to determine one from the other? Are we really that desiress to get our security that much on the cheap?Missing a /sarc tag?
I was in the Air Force and got to see the Blackbird a few times. It was usually after an air show and the pilots always loved to show off when they left. The Blackbird with those two huge engines would take off then climb straight up until you simply couldn’t see it. It was amazing.
We know you need the jobs, its just the business climate there is not conducive to any business in their right mind to go back especially when they could not keep Toyota there considering as desperate that Cal is for keeping what they have.
Right where my argument was heading.
Is that you, Joe? :-)
I’m calling BS here: we haven’t had B-52s with “tail gunner windows” since the retirement of the D/E/F models in 1982. In fact, the tail guns, and tail gunners, were removed in the early 1990s after the return from Operation DESERT STORM. . .
And low-level runs were not done in formations, which, in any case, are in cells of 3 bombers.
I was flying B-52s from 1984 to 1989, so I have some experience to back my statements up with 1200+ hours of jet time . . .
Additionally, how were you seeing the windows on an aircraft going by at 400+ knots, “maybe 200 feet off the trees”, considering all the windows on the aircraft are in the top front of the nose section. . .
Don’t think so. The MIG pilots fired their rockets after visual recognition.
I can barely remember that movie, but I thought he was a DC-8 guy.
Don’t need to build a new version. Just re-engine the existing B-52H’s. A re-engined G model would be good too, but weren’t they all scrapped?
“Does this make sense to those of you who are familiar with the issue?”
Some sane person in the USAF must hang out at FR quite a bit.
And remembers that “weaponized” photoshopped Boeing 747 image that
appeared on FR soon after 9-11-2001. The d-nged thing bristled with
105 mm cannons, cruise-missles and other sorts of “Mort Ab Alto”
(Death from on high) implements of the USAF.
It was “Puff The Magic Dragon” writ large and mean!!!
And enlarged about an order of magnitude!
I’ve probably got a copy of the image buried deep on my Dell’s
harddrive, but it could have been lost when the harddrive went down
earlier this year.
It was fine example of photoshopping...and a fond memory of when the
USA was a united, resolute country for a year (or less) after the
Twin Towers fell.
“Even a 747 cargo variant would need extensive modifications - hard points”
Yup. Worked on the 747 fuselage at Northrop back in the day. It’s all sheet metal.