The war with LIH emphasized the well-known truth: if the artillery is the “god” of a general war, then the bomber is without a doubt the “god” of the air war. Whole sense of air weapons comes down to strikes, first of all, on ground targets. This is either the enemy troops, or objects of industrial and economic potential in its rear. Militants have already experienced the effects of Russian “strategists” - the Tu-95, Tu-160 and Tu-22М.
"It reminds of starships of Star Wars" - spear-shaped fuselage, built on the principle of "flying wing", small keels "
There are also “demigods” - fighter-bombers and attack aircraft, solving, in principle, the same tasks, but due to the limited range and duration of the flight - not far from the front line. Alas, even the kings of the air, which are grounded in mass culture — fighters — justify themselves only to the extent that there are bombers and their varieties that must be fought with or defended.
In the USSR / Russia and the USA, great attention was always paid to bombers. But due to the fact that America is separated from potential adversaries by the oceans, the emphasis in the development of its bomber aircraft was placed on large strategic ones, while in the USSR it was on medium tactical “bombers”.
This feature determined the appearance of US fighter aircraft during the Second World War. American cars had a long range, powerful enough weapons, but compared with the Soviet, British and German fighters were heavy and not very maneuverable. The designers did not particularly bother to give them these qualities. What for? After all, their main task was to accompany the "air fortress".
In the Cold War, strategic bombers became the same symbol of global confrontation, like ballistic missiles. During the years of confrontation, the Soviet Union created and put into operation six types of similar machines, not counting the Tu-4 (including its modification Tu80 / 85), which was copied from the American B-29.
Soviet "strategists" include the turboprop Tu-95, and also the jet Tu-16, M-4 / 3М and supersonic Tu-22, Tu-22М and Tu-160. Currently, the TU-95, TU-22M, which are “under fifty dollars”, and TU-160, which are only a little “over thirty”, are in service with the seventh decade.
The United States had eight types of strategic “bombers” designed and commissioned. These are piston B-29 and B-50, hybrid reactive-piston B-36, reactive B-47 and B-52, supersonic B-58 and B-1, as well as stealth B-2. From this “constellation”, the expanses of the air of the ocean now ply only three types: В-52, В-1 and В-2. The youngest of them - B-2 - has been in operation for a quarter of a century.
Not surprisingly, when the “great standoff” in 1991 ended, the number and heavy “bombers” were reduced as part of the reduction of strategic offensive arms.
Russia's share in the global arms trade (infographics)
But when cold winds blew out in relations between Russia and the West in 2014, long-range bombers again attracted attention. Initially, Tu-95 began to make patrol flights near the borders of western states, and in early June last year, the United States decided to send B-52 to fly over the borders of Russia as part of the NATO exercises planned for the same month.
So, no ballistic missiles will replace the "good old" strategic bombers. However, if their kindness is doubtful, then old age is undoubted. Both Tu-95 and B-52, which form the basis of the strategic aviation of Russia and the United States, first flew into the air in the same 1952 year. It is obvious that in the 21 century it is at least strange to bet on the solution of the question “to be or not to be” to whole states on machines of the middle of the last century. It is not surprising, therefore, that Moscow and Washington were seriously thinking about strengthening and renewing their strategic bomber power.
Flocks of "White Swans" and PAK YES - today and tomorrow
In late May, it became known that Russia intends to build before the end of this decade at least X-NUMX Tu-50 bombers, also known as the “White Swan” (in the West they are called Blackjack). So that no one would think that Moscow intends to replicate not the most modern equipment to the detriment of the development of new technology, Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces (BKS), Viktor Bondarev, stressed that the purchase of a whole flock of “White Swans” would not hurt to create and commission the so-called PAK DA (A promising aviation complex for long-range aviation).
According to currently available plans, the first flight of the PAK DA should be done no later than 2019 of the year, and in 2023 – 2025 the machines of this type will replace the Tu-95, Tu-22М and Tu-160.
If the White Swan configuration and its tactical and technical characteristics are well known, the PAK DA is a “dark horse.” This is what is said about him in Wikipedia: “According to Anatoly Zhikharev, Commander of Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Force, this is a fundamentally new aircraft with an aiming and navigation complex. Such an aircraft should be able to use all existing and promising types of weapons, it should be equipped with the latest communication systems and electronic warfare, and also have a low visibility. " To create it will, apparently, Tupolev Design Bureau.
The take-off weight of the car is from 100 to 200 tons, and it will fly at subsonic speed. Arms - cruise missiles, including anti-ship, and bombs.
There are many images of this bomber on the Internet, on which it often resembles Star Wars combat starships - a spear-shaped fuselage built on the principle of a “flying wing”, small keels. Sometimes this miracle of technology is decorated with wings of variable geometry. That's all. According to Wikipedia, the “flying wing” scheme was chosen for the aircraft, that is, it would be similar to the American B-2.
“The significant wingspan and design features,” continues Wikipedia, “will not allow the aircraft to overcome the speed of sound, while at the same time providing reduced visibility for radars.”
PAK YES, of course, will fly and will probably be a good aircraft. If the domestic civil aviation industry (not counting the Superjet, which has been molded from foreign components and not yet born MS-21), has practically disappeared, Russia has not forgotten how to make world-class cruise military vehicles. The question is - how efficiently will the PAK DA airborne equipment help it solve combat missions, and most importantly, will the Russian economy be “pulled” by mass production of these machines?
The United States, in its potential response to the “bomber” challenge to Russia, is guided mainly by the Tu-160.
But is it worth being guided by it? This is the question asked by Tom Nichols, a national security specialist at the Naval College, part-time teaching at a branch of Harvard University. According to him, expressed on the Internet resource Nationalinterest.org, the decision of the Russian Federation on the additional construction of fifty Tu-160 (now there are about a dozen of such machines in Russia's arsenal) “means nothing” from a military point of view. Nichols believes that this is just one of the "provocations" that does not require any response from America.
After all, the classic American strategic "trident" - bombers, ballistic missiles and submarines, says Nichols, this is a relic of the Cold War. He was needed in order "not to put all the eggs in one basket." In the event of a first strike from the USSR on the objects of US strategic nuclear potential, at least one of the “teeth” of this trident, for example strategic bombers, should have struck back.
Nichols believes that in modern conditions, neither Russia nor the United States will try to launch “paralyzing” nuclear strikes to each other. For this they, he is sure, do not even have enough means of attack. If in the 1981 year, both sides had a total of 50 000 warheads, now, in accordance with the START-3 agreement, only on 1550 on each side.
This, says Nichols, is clearly not enough to neutralize the enemy with a preemptive strike (apparently, given the significantly increased effectiveness of protection against ICBMs). In addition, he stresses, nuclear-warning warnings, combined with missile defense, make the strategic nuclear facilities in the United States and Russia much less vulnerable than in the cold war.
Why, then, Russia intends to spend huge funds for the construction of a whole flock of "White Swans"? And then, Nichols is convinced that Russia has a large nuclear potential and armed forces obsessed with symbols of nuclear power. The continuation of the production of nuclear "toys", he notes, makes everyone happy: the Russian military industrial complex gets jobs and money, the military - a nuclear "umbrella". And Russians have the opportunity, as Nichols puts it, to “beat his chest”, arguing that they can restrain Obama’s nuclear “ferocity.”
The final conclusion that Nichols makes is: “Our response to Russia's nuclear threats should be the absence of any reaction, except to confirm our ability to protect ourselves.” As for the new Tu-160, the main thing, Nichols stresses, is that their numbers do not exceed the limits of the one defined by the START-3 agreement.
Tu-160 - looks old, the content is new
Speaking about the resumption of production of "White Swans", the deputy head of the Ministry of Defense Yuri Borisov said RIA "News":" In essence, this is a new aircraft - not the Tu-160, but the Tu-160М2. With new flight characteristics, with new features. This is only the airframe will be old, and even then - digitized, and the possibilities will be completely new. "
It is quite possible that it is so, but the question is different: is the mass production of this modernized bomber within Russia? Some experts doubt it. “Those who make such plans still think that we live in Soviet times, when it was enough to make a loud statement, and all the design offices together with the factories immediately rushed to carry it out. And at the same time, no one considered the costs, but what is even worse - no one thought about whether this was necessary, ”one Moscow military expert told IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
Keywords: military aviation, army of Russia, Pentagon, Air Force, military-industrial complex, fighter jets, army and armament, USA and USSR, videoconferencing
The list of serious weaknesses of the Russian military industrial complex is not in the last place is the shortage of skilled labor, especially if we compare the situation in this sector of industry with Soviet times. According to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, the number of trained and experienced personnel that Russia currently has for the production of Tu-160 does not exceed 10% of that which was at the disposal of the USSR in 1980-s.
Under the wing of the LRS-B, or between "2018" and "2037"
Despite the markedly reduced role of nuclear “bombers” in the last half century due to the emergence of “smart” and high-precision rocket weapons, America does not intend to “get out” from the protection of their wings.
Initially, the US Air Force set a high "bar" for the future bomber. He had to become invisible, supersonic, distant and also be able to solve problems without crew on board. The last requirement in this list is a product of the trend that is observed in military aviation, if not the whole world, then at least technologically developed countries.
However, it turned out that before 2037, this miracle of technology is unlikely to be able to be put into operation. Therefore, the intended bomber and received the name "2037". But to this mark still 20 more than years. Do not fly all this time on outdated machines! Therefore, the US Air Force decided to create an intermediate version of the strategic "bomber", which received the symbol of "2018" - the year by which it was to be created and generally tested. The car is still impersonal stationery name LRS-B (Long Range Strike Bomber), which translates as "long-range strike bomber." Sometimes it is also called B-3.
Life has made adjustments to these plans. 2018 is unlikely to be commissioned before the first half of the 2020s. Two competitors fought for the right to develop and build it: Northrop Grumman, the parent of B-2, and a consortium of companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In late October, it became known that Northrop Grumman won.
The total contract amount is estimated at 80 billion. For this money, Northrop Grumman, according to the American source Defensenews.com, is to supply 80 – 100 machines of type B-3 to the USAF. For reference: the 21 bomber B-2 cost the Pentagon 44 a billion dollars, that is, one B-3 should be almost two times cheaper than B-2, costing about 2 billion dollars. According to the resource InsideDefense.com, the final price of LRS-B can reach 900 million dollars per unit.
Let's lift the veil of secrecy
How do the military capabilities of Russia and NATO
The main features of the appearance of the future car leaked to the press. That's what last March managed to learn about it for Forbes magazine. First, the range of the LRS-B / B-3 without refueling will exceed 9000 kilometers. He should be able to reach out to China and Russia without problems. Secondly, its bomb load will be less than that of its predecessors. This is due mainly to the need to reduce the price of a new car. Experience shows that the price of a bomber increases approximately in proportion to its carrying capacity. In the "invisible" B-2, it reaches 18 tons.
However, the use of bombs that have become significantly “more sophisticated” over the past quarter century, combined with their reduced mass and size, will allow the LRS-B to inflict the same damage to the enemy as B-2, but with half the bomb load. It is estimated that a couple dozen B-3s will be able to process the bombs to 1000 targets daily with high accuracy.
Third, however strange it may seem, no “breakthrough” technologies will be involved in the creation of the LRS-B, unlike, for example, B-2. In B-2, many innovative or even revolutionary engineering solutions have been used. Take at least his trim "stealth". But for every hour of the B-2 flight, 18 hours of maintenance were required, which seriously raised the operating cost of this bomber. In addition, the B-2 was given the mocking nickname of a bomber that cannot fly in the rain, because water jets erase an additional anti-radar coating from it.
LRS-B will be based on the most advanced technologies, but those that have already been invented and tested in practice. This will also be done in order to reduce the price of a new car. In addition, the B-3 will probably be more multipurpose, computerized and maintainable than the B-2.
Fourth, B-3 will not be supersonic. Supersonic and invisibility do not fit well. In this flight mode, the skin is seriously heated, plus the aircraft’s acoustic visibility increases significantly. Since the designers still couldn’t run away from the rocket, the designers decided to let it be better, the LRS-B would be slower, but less noticeable. And the price of a plane with supersonic capabilities would be significantly higher.
Fifth, it will not be “at times unmanned”, as it was supposed. The US Air Force believes that a machine carrying nuclear bombs and missiles should always be under the control of the crew. This is a somewhat conservative point of view given the fact that unmanned means of delivering nuclear weapons in the form of ICBMs exist in the world for more than half a century. Probably, the periodic unmannedness will be embodied already in the 2037 bomber.
Not size, but skill
Sixth, B-3 will look different from B-2. Many experts believed that in principle the LRS-B would be the same “flying wing” as its predecessor. But, as it turned out, the size of the aircraft and its outlines in terms of as important for inconspicuous as the skin. During operation, it was found that the length / width of the B-2 facilitates its detection by long-wave radars. Therefore, B-3 will most likely be smaller than B-2. In addition, B-2 was originally conceived as a night bomber, and B-3 should be “round-the-clock”.
Seventh, LRS-B will have greater information and intellectual self-sufficiency than B-2. By the way, this is also partly due to the desire of B-3 designers to reduce the cost of its operation. The more functions the aircraft and crew perform independently, the less the ground support services will have to be involved.
But this will require a serious revision of the principles of “invisibility” used for B-2. Designers "stealth" tried to make sure that his crew as little as possible get in touch with the ground, because it can also unmask the "invisible." However, B-3 will be integrated into the complex of intelligent combat systems, in particular, to work "hand in hand" with reconnaissance satellites, which means that they will almost always find themselves with electromagnetic radiation. The challenge is to mask it effectively.
Finally, unlike the B-2, built in the number of 21 copies, the US Air Force plans to purchase, as already noted, at least 80 – 100 B-3. It is expected that a car of this type will replace all other strategic American bombers, including B-52, B-1 and B-2.
Do not get old soul veterans
However, not only the soul, but also the wings and fuselage. And the program of updating the existing one helps them in this. fleet B-52, currently consisting of 76 vehicles. In total, in the years 1952-1962, 744 bombers of this type were fired. Thus, approximately one out of ten B-52s remained in service from this quantity.
"The old horse will not spoil the furrow," the US Air Force decided. B-52 turned out to be too reliable and unpretentious aircraft, so that it could be written off only because of old age. And in this regard, his fate is reminiscent of the Tu-95.
In the spring of last year, the B-52 process of re-equipment began as part of the “Connected technologies [for integration] into the combat network” program (CONECT). This will significantly increase the “intellectual coefficient” of the old “bomber” and allow it to carry the most modern weapons on board. In total, 30 B-52 should be upgraded within CONECT.
The fact that these bombers remain a symbol of US strategic power was demonstrated a few days ago. According to the newspaper VIEW, one B-52, accompanied by one American and one South Korean fighter, flew over the territory of South Korea near the DPRK border. This flight was a response of the United States and its allies to the test of North Korea in early January, presumably the hydrogen bomb.
The American Internet resource Nextbigfuture.com called B-52 "an airplane that refuses to die" last December. According to the publication, the current plans of the US Air Force provide for the operation of machines of this type until at least 2040 year. This means that the youngest B-52 will be almost 80 years old by that time, because the release of these bombers, as already noted, ended in the 1962 year.
But the belief in "old horses" does not stop only on B-52. The United States intends to continue operating B-2. According to the Washington Post, in order to reduce the time spent on overhauling the "stealth", Northrop Grumman will now carry out these repairs more than seven times as before, and once every nine years.
The long-suffering (otherwise you will not call it) supersonic B-1 supersonic bomber with variable wing geometry remains in service. It is difficult to imagine how many ordeals fell on this aircraft. He began to enter service in the first half of 1970's, but after its production was frozen by President Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan again "put" B-1 on the conveyor, but this did not save the bomber from the technical problems that led to several disasters. As a result, B-1 first struck a blow at real targets only in 1998, in Iraq, during Operation Desert Fox.
After the Cold War, it was remade as a “bomber” capable of carrying conventional weapons, and relatively recently, according to the American Internet resource Stars and Stripes, demonstrated its “magnificent qualities as an aircraft directly supporting ground forces” in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Tactician" in the guise of "strategist"
And yet, in order to launch a “smart” cruise missile, even the B-52 is not needed. For this, the “flying fortress” B-17 of the Second World War is quite enough. Moreover, tactical bombers of the Su-34 type, modern American and Russian multipurpose fighters of the Su, MiG and F type may well be used to deliver small-sized nuclear weapons to the target, thus solving strategic tasks. Why, then, need a very expensive bunch of the most advanced technologies such as B-3?
The answer lies in the words of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Stephen Peifer. He believes that NATO can best respond to Russia's actions with the help of non-nuclear, but conventional forces. This is what, according to Peifer, Russia allegedly fears most, because after the end of the Cold War, its conventional armed forces have weakened considerably.
Thus, there is every reason to assume that the LRS-B, capable, unlike Su, MiG and F, to strike from overseas, was conceived primarily as a tactical bomber, which can be used in a strategic variant. This is indicated by its features: low visibility; reduced price compared to B-2; "Circulation" in quantities up to 100 units; increased versatility; maintainability; the ability to continuously "process" multiple targets. All of this indicates that the ability to dump dozens of non-nuclear bombs on the enemy’s head is just as important in a new bomber as the platform’s role is to launch nuclear cruise missiles.
Like it or not, it will be possible to check only in conditions of war, to which, we hope, things will never come.