Bombers flying into the future

This was seen in 2000 by a promising strategic bomber by Northrop Grumman.

What will strike aircraft wars of the twenty-first century


A final consensus has not yet been reached on what the fighter of the new generation should be, and life has already raised the question of what the 21st century strategic bomber will be. True, in contrast to the development of fighter aviation, the development of strategic aviation is concerned, in essence, by specialists from only two countries - the United States and Russia, but the urgency of this issue can be considered to be even higher. This follows from the large role that strategic aviation has always played in resolving global military conflicts and maintaining the conditions for peaceful coexistence around the world. The urgency of the question is obvious, which cannot be said about the answer to it.

GENERAL FEATURES AND PRINCIPLE DIFFERENCES

The latest news from the MAKS-2009 air show in Zhukovsky certainly includes the official announcement of the development program for a promising Russian bomber, which received the PAK-DA symbol (a promising long-range aviation complex). As the then general director of Tupolev OJSC, Igor Shevchuk, said at the exhibition, government funding for the PAK-DA program began in the 2008 year, although some exploratory research was carried out earlier.

According to the information spread after this, the developed complex will eventually have to replace the long-range and strategic aircraft Tu-22MZ, Tu-95MS and Tu-160 in service. The planned date of entry into service of the PAK-DA, determined by the fact of exhaustion of the resource of existing bombers, was tentatively established as 2025 – 2030-s.

Bombers flying into the future
Perspective aviation complex of long-range aviation PAK DA

The beginning of the PAK-DA development program was a kind of response to the design and military-scientific research begun in the US 1990-ies related to the creation of a promising aviation combat complex of American strategic aviation. This aircraft is intended to replace the B-52, B-1 and B-2 strategic bombers used today, which should be fully deactivated in the 2037 year.

The design and military-scientific studies carried out by the Americans to date have included the content of several short-term programs funded by the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force. If the former were more of a scientific and technical nature, the latter differed in their proximity to the ultimate goal of external design of any aviation combat complex, namely, to justify the tactical and technical requirements placed on it and to develop its general concept. The most well-known are the FSA (Future Strike Aircraft), FLRS (Future Long Rang Strike) programs conducted after 1999, and the Next Generation Bomber (NGB) program that has replaced them now. According to the original plans, the work of the external design of the prospective bomber will last until 2015 and will be completed with the adoption of the concept of this aircraft. Not later than 2020, the selection of a specific bomber project should take place, and in 2035, its mass production began.

NGB (Next Generation Bomber)

When discussing the cost of creating new weapons systems in the framework of the National Defense Program, then called QDR-2005, the leadership of the US Air Force predicted the total cost of creating a promising bomber in the amount of 2005 billion by 10 and more than 2011 billion by year to 70. An attempt to launch the implementation of these forecasts was made in 2025 year while discussing the next version of the National Defense Program (QDR-2009). True, certain circumstances have postponed the final decision on this issue for another four years, not excluding the financing of work on the already ongoing NGB program in the amount of several billion dollars.

It is not difficult to see a common identity in the goals and objectives of the programs for the development of promising aircraft of strategic aviation PAK-DA and NGB. It is also easy to see some fundamental differences in the conditions of these programs. So, if the Americans began their research on a promising strategic bomber for 40 years before its planned adoption, then for the domestic program of a similar purpose, this figure is at the level of 15 – 20 years, that is, 2 – 2,5 times less. Without going into details, it can be assumed that the costs of implementing the PAK-DA program will be less than the costs of the American program with its current name NGB or some new name. This means that the question arises of how to create a strategic bomber in less time and less money, at least not worse than the one created by the Americans. Otherwise, what kind of strategic aircraft?

History Russian aviation knows many examples when the answer to a similar question was provided by the marginal activation of the scientific and technical potential of domestic organizations - aircraft engineering developers. But today, after two decades of exhaustion of this potential, without its proper maintenance, such a path is hardly possible.

In this connection, it is of interest to carry out an objective analysis of the NGB program implemented in the USA with the identification of those points that can be used in one way or another in organizing and conducting work under the PAK-DA domestic program.


This should not be understood as an obsequious recognition of the complete superiority of foreign technical thought and a call for stupid copying of technical solutions appearing abroad. But the fact is a fact - the lack of time shortage and the availability of funds allows Americans in the implementation of their NGB program to more fully and deeply analyze the problem being solved and fully implement the rule "measure seven times ...". Thus, in conducting the external design, the Americans have already done three iterations on the formation of requirements for the aircraft and the definition of its general concept. And this, apparently, is not the limit. The envisaged work organization allows Americans to extend the process of forming requirements and defining the general concept of the aircraft beyond the formal stages of developing the technical specifications and advance design. So the Americans will devote approximately 18 years of research to the concept of a promising NGB bomber. And this is much more than those 5 – 6 years in which it is supposed to put the definition of the concept of PAK-DA. And maybe, something worked out in conceptual terms by the Americans in relation to their NGB will be interesting for our PAK-DA. Especially since there is no need to go far for an example.

IN THE LIGHT OF START CONTRACT

The decade of military-technical and scientific-design research, which determined in the United States the transition from general views on a promising strike weapons system to a more or less clear idea of ​​the requirements and concept of a promising bomber, was to some extent devalued by the fact that a new treaty was signed between Russia and the United States. strategic offensive weapons. Known here as START-3 and referred to in the USA as START-3, this agreement was the result of a lengthy negotiation process that involved finding solutions that suited both the US and the Russian side.

Participating in the preparation of the CHB (START) -3 Treaty from the American side, General R. Edler, commander of the US Air Force’s strategic aviation 8 Air Force, described the difficulties faced by the American negotiators: “When considering nuclear weapons Russians always put special emphasis on the number of such carriers of strategic aviation aircraft. This has always created certain difficulties in calculating the total number of nuclear weapon launchers falling under reduction. According to the Russians, the number of launchers of each bomber should be established on the basis of its technical capabilities, which is absolutely unacceptable for the American side. Indeed, in contrast to land and sea carriers of intercontinental ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers of cruise missiles of the US Air Force are never used with a full load of weapons on board. So consideration of strategic bombers within the framework of the nuclear triad, given their extreme technical capabilities, has always been a position unacceptable for the American side. ”

The above statement of the American general is interesting in its comparison with the final decisions included in the Treaty CHB (START) -3. According to the treaty, it is accepted that the targets of the reduction are not the carriers themselves, but the launchers of nuclear weapons installed on them. And the parties to the contract can have in their expanded state, in general, no more than 700 ground-based, sea-based and air-launched launchers designed for the use of nuclear weapons. In addition, each strategic bomber is considered as the carrier of only one launcher of nuclear weapons (!).

It would be possible to consider the latter provision to be a great victory for the American participants in the negotiation process, which preceded the signing of the Treaty CHB (START) -3, if it were not for another provision, according to which the reduction does not take into account the nuclear weapons carriers themselves, but the launchers on them. Combined with the principle of “one bomber - one launcher”, this provision turns the formal victory of the American negotiators into a big question about the future shape of American strategic aviation and its role in the US nuclear triad.

Considering this issue, Tom Collina, one of the directors of the United States Arms Control Association, said: “The contract aims us to ensure that strategic bombers will be subject to the first and foremost reduction. And this is very logical. Indeed, in comparison with the carriers of land-based and sea-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, they have significantly less efficiency and survivability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles can hit targets on the other side of the globe for a little more than half an hour. A bombers need to prepare for a long time to fly, and then wait a few hours until they reach the launch line of weapons on board. The aviation component of the nuclear triad is not what contributes to a quick reaction and its own survival in a nuclear war.

This idea of ​​the appearance of a promising strategic aviation aircraft was developed by Northrop Grumman in 2005.

According to the American experts themselves, the principle “one bomber - one launcher” adopted in the CHB (START) -3 Treaty will reduce the fleet of strategic aircraft of the US Air Force to 20, and possibly to a smaller number of bombers. And this will be not just a quantitative, but also a qualitative change in the aviation component of the US nuclear triad. If the carriers of intercontinental ballistic missiles of land and sea bases retain the functions of "means of deterrence and deterrence of the enemy" of strategic bombers, only the function of the "reserve of these means" will remain.

The most interesting thing, however, is that the “shocks” awaiting strategic aviation in the context of the reviewed provisions of the Treaty CHB (START) -3 are not a consequence, but the cause of these provisions. The understanding of the qualitative change in the role of strategic aviation under the conditions of the 21st century is reflected in the content of the Treaty CHB (START) -3. As the Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Lieutenant-General David Deputla, said shortly before the signing of the treaty, “technological progress has led us to go beyond the traditional understanding of a strategic aviation aircraft as a bomber. The most important component of the functional role of this aircraft will not consist in delivering weapons to the target, but in quickly accepting huge amounts of information, processing it and implementing relevant actions. ”

The concept of a strategic aviation aircraft as a bomber in the NGB program has been replaced by the concept of a long-range reconnaissance-strike aircraft. The requirement of the possible participation of this aircraft in a nuclear conflict as a “reserve of deterrence and deterrence of the enemy” was complemented primarily by the tasks of strategic reconnaissance, non-lethal suppression of information assets and intrusion into information networks combining these assets with tactical weapons systems like air defense systems and command weapons points of the enemy.

Here it should be emphasized that the understanding of the qualitative change in the role of strategic aviation in the 21st century, reflected in the content of the Treaty CHB (START) -3, is not some kind of “exclusive” American thinking. Speaking at the MAKS-2009 exhibition about the requirements for the Russian PAK-DA promising aircraft, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, Colonel-General Alexander Zelin said that “the new aircraft will not only be able to perform tasks in conventional and nuclear wars, but also to possess a whole set of qualitatively new combat capabilities, allowing to realize various ways of solving deterrence tasks ”.

It remains only to assume that the “qualitatively new combat capabilities” provided for in the requirements for the Russian PAK-DA will not yield to the capabilities provided for in the requirements for the American advanced NGB bomber.

THE CONCEPT OF A NEW GENERATION BOMBER

Speaking at a meeting with Russian journalists in May of this year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov confirmed the start of work on creating a PAK-DA strategic aviation aircraft. At the same time, it was emphasized that this is precisely the beginning of work. “It’s too early to talk about how the new aircraft will be - for example, subsonic or supersonic. This R & D will show. Two or three years later. Not before, ”explained Sergey Ivanov.

The question of whether a prospective strategic bomber should be subsonic or supersonic should the Americans be puzzled. Back at the end of the 1990's. In the complex studies carried out as part of the FSA program, a wide variety of carrier variants were considered - from subsonic to hypersonic airplanes of various dimensions. Systematization of these various technical concepts of a prospective strategic bomber was based on two indicators - the purchase price of the aircraft and the level of its combat effectiveness. By combat effectiveness was understood the degree of risk that an aircraft could safely be subjected to in combat use, the role of combat missions performed in ensuring strategic superiority over the enemy, etc.

The study of the concept of a subsonic strike aircraft under the FSA program received the most attention. There are at least five concepts of such an aircraft, worked out by the firms Boeing and Northrop Grumman. The cheapest, but at the same time the least effective of these concepts was the technical proposal of the Boeing company to create a strategic strike aircraft on the technological basis of the B-767 passenger airliner.

Increasing in efficiency, but at the same time large in cost, following this concept are the variants of technical proposals that received the code name "cheap version of the B-2 bomber", "combat version of the BWB aircraft", "twin-engine bomber B-2" and "strategic aviation aircraft B-3. In terms of their purchase price, the last three options were comparable to the supersonic version of the bomber proposed by Northrop Grumman, significantly losing it in combat effectiveness.

Regarding the latter, it should be emphasized that the FSA program conducted at the end of 1990-s did not take into account the specificity of the strategic bomber’s effectiveness assessment that was expressed by General David Deptul ten years later: “The most important component of this aircraft’s functional role will not be in the delivery of weapons to the target, and in the rapid perception of huge amounts of information, its processing and the implementation of relevant actions. " It is with this evolution of the views of the US military on the combat missions of strategic aviation, reflected in a certain way in the current requirements for a promising strategic bomber, that already in 2005, the American development companies switched to the concept of long-range reconnaissance and strike aircraft .

Among the main features of the aircraft’s flight performance of this concept are the ultra-low level of information visibility and the possibility of flying at altitudes of 18 – 20 km. These features, in the opinion of the Americans, should ensure a reduction in the degree of risk that a plane may be exposed to when it is overcoming an enemy’s air defense zone.

The further evolution of the views of the US military on the combat missions of strategic aviation introduced additional development into the general idea of ​​the technical concept of a prospective strategic aviation aircraft. By the time of final formulation of the main provisions of the Treaty CHB (START) -3, special emphasis was placed on high-energy directional weapons and low-power electronic weapons on the weapons system of the NGB bomber. The first of these should ensure the suppression of information sensors, the second - the invasion of the enemy's information networks. Such information-cybernetic systems placed on board a strategic combat aircraft can be regarded as aviation weapons of a new generation.

The considered technical concept of the NGB bomber has already been embodied in the design of the X-47C aircraft proposed by Northrop Grumman. But this is by no means the last point above “i” in the development of the concept of a promising bomber. The X-47С aircraft should act as a demonstrator of the technological feasibility of the concept that will be developed by the time the external design is completed, namely, by the 2018 year. In this regard, X-47С received the symbol “2018 bomber of the year”.

INSTEAD OF CONCLUSION

The author considers it necessary to emphasize once again that the appeal to the NGB program conducted in the United States in connection with the consideration of a similar domestic program PAK-DA should not be understood as a recognition of the superiority of foreign technical thought and a call to copy the technical solutions born abroad. But one cannot deny the fact that the Americans have done a tremendous work related to the formation of requirements and the development of the concept of a promising strategic aviation aircraft, having begun to develop a draft NGB bomber. This bomber must become the face of the strategic combat aviation of the 21st century, both in its flight performance and in the capabilities of the weapons system.

As part of the latter, the planned equipment of the NGB bomber with information and cybernetic weapons of the 21st century deserves special attention. Perhaps someone will find it futuristic. But today, the rejection of "futurism" in the development of promising combat systems is equivalent to the slogan "Forward to the XX century". It is unlikely that a new structure would appear in the leadership of the US armed forces — the Cybernetic Command, if in the planning of new methods of warfare the Americans would not look at tomorrow's day. The implementation of these new methods should fit into the NGB bomber they are developing, becoming the face of American strategic aviation of the 21st century.

What will the PAK-DA bomber be against this background? What will be the face of domestic strategic aviation? Time will tell.
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