New to the Air Force
The greatest success so far has been achieved in the field of modernization of the air component of strategic nuclear forces. In addition to existing strategic bombers, a new one is being developed. The company Northrop Grumman successfully implements the project of such an aircraft called the B-21 Raider.
The B-21 project is the end result of several important Pentagon programs. After several years of research and research in 2014, the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program was launched. Within its framework, leading aircraft manufacturers presented their projects, and Northrop-Grumman development was recognized as the best. The development of the B-21 technical project continued until the end of last year.
Recently it became known about the start of construction of the first experimental B-21 Raider. The first flight is scheduled for the early twenties. By the middle of the decade, it is planned to launch mass production. The Air Force wants to get about 80-100 new machines with which it will be possible to replace obsolete equipment. The total cost of the program should reach the level of 55 billion dollars in 2015 prices.
According to known data, the B-21 Raider bomber will be built according to the "flying wing" scheme, which provides high flight performance and stealth for the air defense of a potential enemy. The aircraft will have a subsonic speed and a high flight range. It will have to use a wide range of existing aviation weapons, incl. nuclear. Development of fundamentally new missiles is also expected.
The B-21 is seen as a complement and replacement for almost all existing US Air Force long-range bombers. In addition, such a replacement will have advantages over other samples. B-21 is cheaper than the serial B-2, it gets a wider range of ammunition than the B-1B and will be hardly noticeable, unlike the B-52.
In the late twenties, the US Navy will begin the process of decommissioning submarines with Ohio ballistic missiles due to their obsolescence. To replace the decommissioned ships and preserve the marine component of the strategic nuclear forces, the Columbia SSBN project is being developed. Construction of the lead ship will begin in the near future, and the construction of the entire series will take about 20 years.
The Columbia LSA project is being developed as part of a collaboration between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding. The latter also has to carry out the construction of boats. According to the plans of the Pentagon, to replace the 14 SSBNs of the Ohio type, it is necessary to build 12 new submarines. The reduction in numbers should not have a fatal effect on the combat effectiveness of the marine component of nuclear forces.
The first submarine of a new type was laid in 2021, and by 2030 it will go to sea. In 2031, it is planned to take the ship into the combat structure of the Navy. The 12th submarine of the new project will begin service in 2042. Thus, the delivery of new ships will become annual. It is important that the commissioning of new SSBNs will be carried out in parallel with the decommissioning of old ones. Ohio will be removed from the composition fleet since 2027, one per year. As a result, in 2021-30. the number of submarine grouping will slightly decrease, and then the supply of new boats will allow it to be maintained at the same level.
The assigned service life of submarines is 42 years. Thus, the lead ship USS Columbia will remain in service until the early seventies. The last 12 boat will be written off only in the mid-eighties. During the service of each SSBN, you have to go on an 124 combat campaign. The estimated cost of the boat is less than 5 billion dollars in 2010 prices. The total cost of the entire program, including operating costs, is about 350 billion.
The Colombia project provides for the construction of SSBNs with a length of 171 m and a displacement of 20,8 thousand tons. A modern nuclear power plant capable of operating on a single fuel load throughout the entire life of a nuclear submarine has been used. The submarine will carry 16 ballistic missile launchers for the UGM-133 Trident II. The development of new weapons of a similar type has not yet been planned.
It is curious that the Pentagon plans not only to reduce the number of SSBNs, but also to reduce the number of missiles on them. So, Ohio type submarines carry 24 missiles - up to 336 items in total. At Columbia, it will be possible to deploy no more than 192 missiles.
At the moment, the land component of the strategic nuclear forces is equipped only with LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. These products have been on duty since the seventies and, despite various modernizations, have managed to become obsolete. The process of replacing the Minutemans has already started, its first results will appear only in the late twenties.
In the middle of 2016, Pentagon and Air Force structures in charge of strategic weapons launched the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, which aims to create a promising ground-based ICBM. The desire to participate in the program was expressed by Boeing and Northrop Grumman. In August 2017, the Air Force entered into project development contracts with two companies. The finished documentation for two projects will be sent for consideration next year. At 2020, the winner is scheduled to be selected and the contract for the production of ICBMs to be signed.
Possible GBSD missile appearance from Northrop Grumman / northropgrumman.com
In July this year Boeing refused to participate in GBSD due to adverse events. In her ICBM project, she planned to use solid-fuel engines developed and manufactured by Orbital ATK. Not so long ago, the last bought "Northrop-Grumman." Boeing considered that the takeover of the supplier could threaten their intellectual property in the field of promising developments. In addition, these events may complicate the design or adversely affect the prospects of ICBMs from Boeing. Also, statements were made on the preparation of technical specifications for a specific project from Northrop Grumman.
In such circumstances, Boeing considers it impossible to continue work on GBSD. Without changing the terms of reference, the company will not return to the program. Currently, Northrop Grumman remains the sole contributor. Whether the project will be approved by this company will become known next year.
According to the plans of the Air Force, the new ICBM will have to take up duty not earlier than fnx 2027. Using GBSD products, it is proposed to replace the 450 ICBMs with the LGM-30G. Such missiles will remain in service for half a century - at least until the end of the seventies. It is planned to spend approx. 86 billion dollars at current prices.
The Pentagon plans to carry out a large-scale modernization of strategic nuclear forces, which will allow them to continue to work over the next several decades. All new models of equipment for strategic nuclear forces are created taking into account long-term operation, so new projects of a similar purpose will be needed only in the second half of the 21st century.
The focus is now on the creation of new nuclear weapons carriers. Projects are also being developed to modernize existing warheads in accordance with modern requirements. Such products will be used both with existing and promising carriers.
The US command perfectly understands the importance and significance of strategic nuclear forces, and therefore a number of projects of various kinds are being developed now. Of particular importance in the modernization of the strategic nuclear forces is the creation of new nuclear weapons carriers. And some of them, such as B-21 will appear in a few years.