Will the fate of the new strategic bomber B-21 be happy? Part of 2
However, the B-21 can also carry nuclear weapons in the form of LRSO (Long-Range Stand-Off - long-range air-launched cruise missiles) that can replace the existing Boeing AGM-86B nuclear cruise missiles mounted on a bomber. B-52H. It is also expected that the LRSO will be purchased in the usual way in order to replace the AGM-88C / D, which, together with the AGM-88B, will be removed from service in about 2030. The issuance of a contract for the development of the LRSO is expected in the 2018 year, with the American media claiming that up to 1000 of such missiles will be purchased. In March 2016, there were reports of a request for proposals, which is being prepared for publication in June of the same year. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon must respond to it, ready to compete for the right to develop this weapon.
Training bomb B-83, which is an imitation of the nuclear bomb B-83. Intended for the destruction of objects deep underground, these weapons may be installed on a B-21 bomber in the future.
The USAF has set itself an ambitious task. According to Major Lisa, they plan to buy 100 new aircraft. Although there is a negative experience, when the Air Force initially requested the 132 of the B-2A aircraft, then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in the 1989 year cut this number to 76 machines and then again reduced the amount of aircraft purchased to 20 plus one aircraft for testing. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the easing of tension in the world at that time allowed for a reduction in the number of aircraft purchased. Yet geopolitical realities were not the only factor. Cost was also of great importance, because the development of the B-2A aircraft has always been considered an expensive pleasure. At 2015 prices, the cost of the bomber was 1,1 billion dollars and the United States Air Force very much wants these prices not to appear in the B-21 program as it progresses. They determined the average purchase price per piece of no more than 564 million dollars in 2016 prices of the year with the volume of purchases of 100 machines, although the cost may increase when ordering a smaller number of aircraft. Funding from the US Air Force provides for payment of the stage of full-scale development and production preparation of EMD (Engineering and Manufacturing Development) as part of the project on the Long Range Strike Bomber long-range bomber LRS-B, which also includes the B-21 program. A contract worth 21,4 billion dollars to build the first five production aircraft was issued to Northrop Grumman in October 2015. In general, as part of the EMD phase, the 21 aircraft will be built with a total value of 23,5 billion dollars.
The United States Air Force avoids providing specific data, although Major Lease stated that the initial operational readiness of the aircraft is expected in the middle of the 20-s, while the date of the first flight and the date of adoption of this aircraft remain classified. Achieving initial readiness in 10 years seems like a rather ambitious task, although Liz claims that the Air Force has developed a "risk mitigation" program. “Over the past three years, the management of LRS-B, which coordinates the project for the US Air Force, has worked closely with industry to ensure the stability of projects and requirements ... in order to mitigate risks, about 1,9 billion dollars have been invested in this program. The Office completed a preliminary analysis of the project and production readiness and determined a higher level of technological readiness compared to any other new aircraft development program to date. The platform design is currently at the subsystem level: technical solutions are being coordinated regarding the overall design, electronics, hydraulics, engines, data systems, and low-visibility technology. ” Indeed, a number of other companies participate in the project as suppliers of subsystems for the B-21 program, for example, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Janicki Industries, Orbital ATK, Pratt and Whitney, Rockwell Collins and Spirit Aerosystems. In addition, the US Air Force designed the aircraft to some extent “resistant to the future”, using an open architecture through the introduction of the so-called Air Force Open Mission System standard. “In order for the aircraft to be able to accept and integrate new technology and respond to future threats across the entire spectrum of combat operations,” added Liz.
Ultimately, is it possible for the United States Air Force to have 100 bombers, which will be ready for service from the middle of the next decade, at a price of approximately 564 million dollars apiece? Douglas Barry, an analyst with the aerospace industry at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, believes this is entirely possible. Although the development of a new military aircraft can "take more time than you think, and cost much more, because it is quite obvious that the air force begins with a clean sheet of paper." Whereas, B-2A was essentially a new project, despite research in the United States on flying wing projects and EPO-reduction technologies, the implementation of B-21 begins in the period stories Air Force, when several low EPO projects are already in service there, including the F-117A Nighthawk attack aircraft, F-22A and F-35A Lighting-II fighters, not to mention the B-2A and B- 1B, as well as top-secret programs such as intelligence drone RQ-180 by Northrop Grumman. The existence of such initiatives means that “there is a significant amount of research and development that is already classified. But it does show that there is a large body of knowledge available to the US Air Force on stealth technologies,” agrees Richard Abulafia, vice president of research at Teal Group, while stating that prior experience has shown that “the air force has forces have an idea how to create a plane like this.”
However, purchases will depend on the financial situation. With defense spending now in the US there is a difficult situation, as well as in Europe. “Since the B-21 program is a very expensive development process from scratch, it will undoubtedly compete fiercely for scarce financial resources with large-scale military procurement programs, such as the F-35A fighter and the Boeing KC-46A tanker,” said Ray Yavorovski from research company Forecast International. “It’s obviously not a surprise if budgetary tensions cause a reduction in the total number of 100 bombers to about 80 aircraft. Of course, a decrease in the total amount will lead to an increase in the cost per piece, so the savings from such a reduction will be less than one would expect. “Any financial problems can also affect the schedule,” Yavorovski added. - Air Force plans provide for the deployment of B-21 in the middle of the 20-s. Budget constraints can significantly shift the execution of the B-21 program to the right, and in the worst case even lead to closure. At the moment, the cancellation seems unlikely, but the backlog is quite real. "
Mr. Aboulafia noted that the budgets are, of course, a changeable phenomenon and there are no guarantees that the Ministry of Defense will not cut off funding for the B-21 bomber program in the future. “The cost per unit is fully justified, given the size of the procurement, but the size of the procurement depends on the size of the budget,” he recalled. The US Air Force implements three major programs, including the B-21, F-35A and the KC-46A tanker. Although the KC-46A financing by the Ministry of Defense is in fact protected from cuts, this does not apply to F-35A, which means the competition between F-35A procurement and B-21 procurement. At the same time, based on the age of the current strategic bombers, the Air Force has no choice but to replace these aircraft. "There really is a need for this type of aircraft and quite a bit of alternatives."
Abulafia also expressed concern about the design of the aircraft. Although the Air Force did not publish any information on flight performance, the airframe will be smaller in size than the B-2A. “What worries me most is that the smaller sizes imply a shorter range. As a result, the Air Force will become more dependent on the tanker aircraft, since the aircraft needs to be airborne. However, the majority of Chinese investments in ZD / BZ technologies go to such means of support and support, such as for example tankers. ” Now, the air force says they want to buy 100 new aircraft, but there is a possibility of ordering more platforms more than this amount, especially if the Air Force and Northrop Grumman will be able to reduce the cost of supplying an already operational production aircraft. Mr. Barry believes that within the framework of this project one could also create reconnaissance aircraft with the possibility of unmanned flights, although the duration of flights aimed at deterring a potential enemy determines the presence of a crew in the cockpit, as in the case of the B-21 project. It is worth recalling that in the past, bombers served as the basis for reconnaissance platforms, for example, a few years ago, eight strategic bombers of the British Air Force Avro Vulcan B.Mk.2 were converted into naval reconnaissance aircraft.
Summing up, Abulafya said that the project B-21 is feasible "as long as there is funding and the schedule is maintained." Regarding the prospects for the development and adoption of the B-21 bomber, experts in the field of military aviation, Air Force and industry representatives cautiously optimistic. The U.S. Air Force and industry must undoubtedly do their job of developing a new aircraft, but today both sides are confident that the program will ultimately reach the procurement stage, and this will meet the country's needs for strategic bombers in time planned budget, and even better for less.
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