The weekly VPK has already addressed this topic in a short news information, Boeing and Lockheed join forces, "and now offers to consider the situation in more detail. US Air Force Launches Long Range Strike-Bomber Long Range Strike Bomber Program. They received permission for its implementation in early 2011. The cost of the program is estimated at $ 100 billion with an allowable possible subsequent increase in funding.
US Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welch named LRS-B among the top three priorities of the US military aviation along with the creation of the new generation multi-role fighter F-35 and the new KC-46 refueling aircraft. According to the plans of the Pentagon, over time, the LRS-B may come to replace the B-52, B-1 and B-2 aircraft, which are now in service with the US Air Force.
About the requirements that apply to the new aircraft, almost nothing is unknown, because the program is strictly classified. The Aviation Weekend Space Technology weekly provides only fragmentary information that the bomber should be created using stealth technology and be suitable for delivering nuclear weapons. weapons. It is also known that the LRS-B program provides for the delivery of the US Air Force 80 – 100 long-range bombers with a high degree of stealth. The initial combat readiness of these aircraft must be achieved by the 2024 – 2026 years. The maximum allowable cost of one bomber "superstel" set at 550 millions of dollars, not including technical development and technological preparation of production EMD (Engineering and Manufacturing Development), as well as various improvements.
On first viewing, two important factors are apparent that accompany the launch of the LRS-B program. First, it starts in the conditions of sequestration - the forced reduction of expenditure items of the federal budget, from which the Pentagon suffers more than other government ministries and departments. And secondly, it has a “bad heredity” - the previous program for creating a promising US bomber NGB (Next-Generation Bomber), announced at the beginning of 2008 and providing for the start of supplies in 2018, was canceled in 2009 due to an unsatisfactory figure “Risk - cost” and the financial crisis of 2008. All this in a certain way influenced the new program.
It is known, for example: it provides for easier operational and tactical requirements than requested by the NGB program, especially with regard to the duration of the flight and the ceiling of the cost of the new aircraft, approved by the top management of the Pentagon.
Unlike the NGB concept, the LRS-B bomber is supposed to be used as part of the Long Range Strike LRS (Long Range Strike) family of systems. Among them is the low-profile unmanned aircraft system (UAS) of a long duration flight UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), developed in the framework of a secret program by Northrop Grumman, as well as a promising cruise missile LRS-M (Long Range Strike Missile). It is likely that the LRS-B will be smaller in size than the NGB and earlier bombers of the US Air Force, reports Aviation Week, which has good contacts with the US aerospace complex.
In addition, as part of the implementation of the LRS-M, great demands are placed on risk reduction. In an attempt to avoid large cost overruns, the Pentagon imposes new restrictions on the program. As former adviser to the deputy commander-in-chief of the United States Air Force for the purchase of military equipment, Lieutenant General Aviation Mark Shacklford, the Defense Ministry proposes to implement most elements of the EMD at a fixed cost, limiting the cost items to be reimbursed to those areas where the government sees risks. Incentive payments will become attached to real material results, and not to paper reports. The Pentagon’s top management will monitor the optimal cost of expenses, managing payments for the program implementation department and maintaining a reserve for unforeseen expenses.
According to Shackleford, the defense ministry expects contractors to invest their own funds in the program. He said that for some time it would be critically important to ensure the feasibility of the program and that the industry should be ready to overcome the difficulties before budget financing begins.
The next phase of research and issuing low-risk contracts was scheduled for the first quarter of 2014, but given the likelihood of cuts in the sequestered budget, "I would not expect to be paid in the first quarter," the general warned.
Even at the next stage of the contracting work, the LRS-B will not resemble the final stage of the tender for the program to create a US Air Force tanker, under which experts could not lend to any untargeted work, Shacklford said. “We hope that within the proposed cost - 550 million dollars - there is some reserve that can be used in relation to the work envisaged,” he said. “The five areas in which we invest in risk reduction are recommendations for what the government needs.”
However, such payments are not provided until the start of the EMD phase. "The government finances contractors that offer risk-reducing technologies, to a small extent, beyond the proposed characteristics," said Shacklford, "if contractors can reduce risks without a large amount of customer money." He who invests his own money increases his chances of winning the tender, he stressed.
Who is the contractor and partner, and who is the fallback
The companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin joined the fight for the order of the US Department of Defense by announcing the 25 of October to join forces to participate in this tender. In accordance with the promulgated agreement, Boeing in the joint struggle of the two companies will be the main contractor, while Lockheed Martin will be its main partner. This is the second attempt of joint participation of two companies in the creation of a promising bomber. Previously, they declared about the joint efforts to participate in the NGB program, and after its abolition they continued to work separately.
“The use of proven technologies and the integration of existing systems, as well as stable planning, will enable our team to reduce risks in implementing this project and achieve success,” said Dennis Mullenberg, Head of Boeing’s defense, security and safety department. .
In turn, the vice president of the Lockheed Martin aerospace division, Orlando Carvalho, expressed confidence that the specialists would be able to meet the precise requirements defined for this system and provide the US Air Force with a first-class long-range strike bomber to meet the deadlines and budget.
Meanwhile, the main competitor of Boeing and Lockheed in the LRS-B program, another major Pentagon contractor, Northrop Grumman, which has valuable experience in creating the low-profile strategic bomber B-2, Spirit, is suspicious for analysts silence. She did not explicitly confirm her intention to participate in competition, pointing to the unsuccessful approaches of the Pentagon.
"Northrop Grumman" considers the program to build a long-range strike bomber important for ensuring both national security and the capabilities of the Air Force's forces and facilities for expanding its military presence, the company said in a statement. “We do not comment on issues of cooperation with other companies and do not give comments on the program at present.”
This evasive statement is surprising, because Northrop Grumman has been promoting its ability to build a new generation bomber for over a decade, citing the experience of creating a B-2. This campaign continued at the September Salon of the Air Force Association by distributing a specially released book on stories the creation of the American bomber B-2.
At the same time, Northrop Grumman earlier, for example, decided to refuse to participate in the final part of the tender under the program of the US Air Force tanker, despite the fact that she spent a lot of time and money on her project based on the Airbus A330 aircraft (Airbus).
As for the LRS-B program, according to experts, the company is probably not satisfied with the degree of its competitiveness compared to the two other participants who have joined forces. Having a reliable portfolio of orders, in particular in the field of UAS, including secret unobtrusive unmanned, as well as reconnaissance systems, this defense contractor can do without the LRS-B program.
It is possible that Northrop Grumman believes that the Pentagon, giving the go-ahead to unite the efforts of Boeing and Lockheed, thus pointed out to the favorite and assigned the role of a backup option for Northrop Grumman. The joint team is likely to have the largest and most significant contract in the “risk mitigation” clause at the stage of creating a technology demonstrator. In addition, when it comes to investing developers' own funds in risk reduction, the combined financial capabilities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin will be five times greater (according to annual sales data) than Northrop Grumman. In addition, Northrop has not been engaged in the development of new manned aircraft for the last years.
All this, however, does not mean that Northrop Grumman does not intend to participate in the competition, it’s just that the company can expect better conditions. After all, the presence of a single contender for the implementation of the program can do a disservice to the Pentagon - a secret project worth 100 billions is not a reason for a warm welcome to the congress, analysts say. In addition, Boeing as the lead contractor will be targeted by Senator John McCain, a constant and influential critic of this company.
Northrop Grumman, a company that cares about its history, as seen in the B-2 book, has in the past put pressure on the Pentagon. In particular, she refused to join the Advanced Technology Bomber program, which led to the creation of B-2, until she received guarantees that she would not participate in it as an application to Lockheed. . Also, when in the middle of the US Navy 80s they demanded to develop a promising tactical stealth bomber under a fixed-value contract, Northrop refused. As a result, the Navy was forced to conclude a contract on an A-12 aircraft with a fictitious candidate - the joint team of General Dynamics and General McDonnell Douglas, which resulted in the program being closed seven years later.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s leading role in the new partnership confirms that the company's long and largely unadvertised work in the field of stealth technologies has reached a level where it has a strategic advantage. The Boeing Bird of Prey (Bird of Prey) aircraft was designed to demonstrate the operational capabilities of the Stealth vehicle. In 2003, Aviation Week published Air Force guidance data, according to which Boeing made “more aggressive investments than Lockheed Martin, in stealth technology and led the development of a new demonstration subtle apparatus.
But even with these achievements of Boeing, the scattered Lockheed Martin / Boeing team is unlikely to really work, said Capital Alpha Partners analyst Byron Callan. According to him, for Lockheed Martin, the F-35 (JSF) program is important and LRS-B will compete with it for funding, and Boeing is not interested in supporting JSF. Meanwhile, of the five full-scale bomber creation programs initiated by the US Air Force over the past 65 years, two were canceled, and the implementation of another two led to the supply of only a fraction of the planned aircraft.
And what about Russia? The life of the well-known Soviet strategic bombers Tu-95, Tu-95MS, Tu-160, Tu-22М3, which are now in service with Russian long-range aviation, is also nearing completion, and the government has decided to develop a promising long-range aviation complex (PAK YES). It is clear that the program is also classified, as is the case with the American advanced bomber. It is known that the appearance of the PAK DA is already formed. As the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Viktor Bondarev, said at a press conference in April, the appearance was formed, all the acts on the PAK DA were signed. Now the industry is developing systems that will enter this aircraft.
However, it is known from open sources: the basis of the PAK FA is the “flying wing” subsonic plane of the Tupolev company. If this project is approved, it will put an end to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s long campaign to develop a hypersonic aircraft, which, as it turned out, is technically incompatible with the requirements of the Air Force for an expanded range of aircraft performance and low visibility.
The avant-project competition was announced at the beginning of 2012, and in addition to Tupolev, several other design bureaus participated in it. They presented a supersonic and one hypersonic project, but the choice was made in favor of low visibility, that is, Tupolev sketches, a high-ranking source in the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The “flying wing” fuselage with a smooth interface allows you to place the engines inside the aircraft, ensuring maximum stealth and minimizing thermal signs of unmasking, said a source in the Air Force. Tupolev, as planned, will complete a preliminary proposal and submit a budget for detailed engineering by the beginning of 2014. Production of a long-range bomber should begin at 2020.
“Taking into account the timing of the project, the general state of the Russian aerospace industry, the requirements for PAK DA, and the funds available, the choice of a high-speed option is unlikely, given the enormous technical risks that it promises,” said Douglas Barry, an analyst at London International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Hypersound could be an integral part of the PAK DA program, for example, strike aircraft deployed in the internal compartments of an aircraft.”
Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has long defended the hypersonic project of a promising Russian bomber. In August, 2012, he said: “The question is, will we copy the American equivalent of B-2, which has been in service with 40 for years, or take the path of new, state-of-the-art technologies and create a machine capable of overcoming the air defense zone and attacking any aggressor ".
But, as students of aviation universities teach, for a flight at hypersonic speed, the plane must have an ideal aerodynamic shape with smooth lines, and to become invisible to radars, on the contrary, it must have a multi-faceted facet surface. Due to the features of the multi-faceted design, the radiation of the radars of the air defense system is reflected from such a surface in different directions, and therefore the enemy does not see the signals reflected from the aircraft and it becomes invisible to the radars.
"You can make an increased T-50, but such a configuration for the machine in 120 tons will lead to increased aerodynamic drag and excessive fuel consumption, and thus lower flight range," said a source in the aviation industry.
To ensure stealth in the thermal range, the aircraft engines must be hidden inside the hull, like the subsonic American B-2 subtle aircraft. And for a flight on a supersonic, powerful thrust is needed, which so far can only be created by engines with nozzles placed outside the hull, as on Tu-160, Concorde and B-1 aircraft.
Some Russian analysts believe that the choice of a subsonic version of a bomber can be largely due not so much to ensuring low radar visibility, but to greater efficiency and possible extra-large range of this machine. According to them, the West has already abandoned the concept of supersonic air defense breakthrough aircraft. Now for these purposes, stealth and range are more important than speed. “Russia does not have reliable allies and large foreign bases, so it is very important for us to have strategic aviation, which from its territory hits the most distant targets,” say Russian experts.
It is expected that the project PAK DA will cost several trillion rubles. At the same time, no more than several dozens will need production vehicles for arming the Air Force, since strategic bombers fall under the Russian-American Treaty on the Reduction of Offensive Arms (START), and no one will supply such vehicles for export.
At the same time, according to experts, the new bomber is planning to equip not only aircraft missiles with nuclear warheads, but also high-precision missiles with a non-nuclear warhead, as well as adjustable and free-fall bombs.