Skip to comments.Industry Looks To New Bomber For Design Work
Posted on 01/28/2011 8:12:22 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Industry Looks To New Bomber For Design Work
Jan 28, 2011
By Graham Warwick
Where is the next combat aircraft? Domestic and export orders will keep U.S. and European production lines running through the middle of the decade. But development work is diminishing and design teams dissipating, and the gap between new programs stretches out.
The U.S. Air Force and Navy have begun requirements definition and technology development for sixth-generation air dominance aircraft, notionally aimed at service entry in 2025-30. But despite Russia, and now China, unveiling F-22-class stealth fighters, U.S. budget pressures are likely rule out any significant funding before 2015.
Russias Sukhoi T-50 entered flight testing in December 2009 and is targeted for entry into service around 2015. The Chengdu J-20 made its first flight on Jan. 11 and China has talked of a fighter becoming operational in 2017-19, so it is clear that U.S. stealth aircraft could face peer threats by 2020.
But even if the U.S. launches a next-generation fighter program soon after 2015, the 15-year spans from flying competitive prototypes to initial operational capability for both the F-22 and F-35 make a 2030 in-service date look doubtful.
Meanwhile, F-22 production is wrapping up and while the F-15E and F/A-18E/F (and possibly F-16) lines will continue through 2015 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program still plans production beyond 2030, the growing issue for industry is the lack of design and development work. The only near-term prospect is the family of long-range strike systems the U.S. Air Force is looking at to replace its planned next-generation bomber program, which was suspended in 2009. While the system is likely to include new strike weapons for existing platforms, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this month said the Air Force will invest in a new long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber.
Funding to begin the program is expected in the Pentagons Fiscal 2012 budget request, to be unveiled in February. Gates says the aircraft, which will have the option of being remotely piloted, will be designed and developed using proven technologies to ensure it can be delivered on schedule and in the quantity required.
Since the original next-generation bomber plan was shelved, the long-range strike program has been undergoing an intensive cost scrub within the Pentagon. This critical look at the design requirements driving cost is similar to the process that is en route to reducing the price tag on the Navys SSBN(X) next-generation ballistic missile by 35% from initial estimates.
The result could be a platform optimized for extremely low observability, potentially with optionally manned capability, but using technology from aircraft like the F-35 where it makes sense and saves money. This could include avionics and engines. For industry, that could mean a scaled-back design and development effort compared to previous bomber programs.
Aside from a new bomber, potential platform design and development opportunities are limited to possible next-generation unmanned aircraft, including the Air Forces planned MQ-X Predator/Reaper replacement and a carrier-based UAV for the Navy. The scope and timing of these programs is far from clear, but more detail may come with the 2012 budget request.
Northrop Grumman concept
I keep seeing people talking up the F-35. I have yet to see where the F-35 is anywhere near the plane the F-22 is.
Can someone enlighten me?
Different roles for both aircraft. The F-22 didn’t exactly have a smooth roll out. Had terrible problems with moisture causing critical failures and shorting electronics when deployed in certain areas like Guam.
Correction: Has terrible problems
FWIW: Here is a PowerPoint presentation of a recent Three Aircraft Carrier Battle Group on maneuvers. Front and center in the first couple of frames is an aircraft I have not heard of prior to this PP show; an F/A-37. The subject in the photos, a prototype, was being fitted for operation with a catapult. Might be some years away from being ready for production and duty. Operational speed Mach 3.5 and top speed of Mach 4. and a RANGE of 4K nautical miles. That’s 8K without refueling. Is that possible? At any rate, I was quite impressed with what I saw.......including the cute test pilot.
What do you know about the sensor suite of the F-35 compared to that of the F-22?
That’s from the movie “Stealth”.
Still...? Nice. Fair weather friend.
Remember OPSEC fellas
Aviation Week still shilling for the manufacturers through fear of a paper tiger. Lockheed, Boeing and Northrup know their stuff is far, far superior to the Chinese and Russians.
But saying that would make it tougher to sell anymore aircraft.
Unbelieveable! Something untrue being posted on the internet. Got to admit it, though; I’ve been had! I guess my biggest mistake was believing that our military under Obummer would be prototyping such a great-looking and great-sounding weapon. Should have known better.
Check your link... it is to your private email, it appears....
Makes you wonder why they built the F-16 and F/A-18 when they had the F-15.
For me, there is nothing more sexy than the B-1R. A beautiful plane, supercruise, advanced EW suites, and dozens (slight exaggeration) of air to air missiles. What’s there not to like about that?
I knew exactly what it was as soon as I saw it.