No B-1: Alternative SAC's

isayyo2

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Inspired by the Projects that should have been killed at birth thread's recent conversation about the B-1s futility/utility I thought I'd make a "What If" thread if the AMSA/B-1 program never saw flight.

So for whatever reason the AMSA program is not revived by the Nixon Administration, perhaps either for cost reasons or the Combat Lancer deployment impresses Congress more thoroughly? With the FB-111 in full production for 263 units, the idea of a new penetrating bomber is moot for both the Pentagon and on Capital Hill. Rather than develop a new bomber, further funding is given towards weapons procurement and modernization of the B-52 fleet. The new weapons are SRAM (AGM-69) and ALCM (AGM-86A) which are complimentary to each other roles in sending nuclear hellfire while penetrating into the Soviet Union. Both weapons give the FB-111 and B-52 fleets a "Stand-Off" capability with a 1000 km range on ALCM and the ability to fly at low penetrating altitudes without risking the bomber. The B-52 modernization consisted of unifying the fleet in avionics and engines, with avionics consisting of the FB-111s Mark IIB digital suite and engines being the TF33-P-7 with 21,000 pounds of thrust. The new avionics was a rapid jump in reliability and accuracy, it also allowed for the crew to be reduced to four men with the tail gunner replaced by ECM equipment; the crew reduction allowed all members to ride on zero-zero ejection seats and the lower deck converted into a rest area with bunks and provisions. The new turbofans would provide commonality with the C-141 fleet and be a very welcome increase in thrust, range, and noise reduction. For the D-F models thrust was doubled allowing was maximum takeoff weights to be achieved in even the hottest of location, this also saw the end of water injection for SAC bombers. The TF33 upgrade would ideally be applied to the KC-135 fleet as well.

By 1975 SAC's bomber force would look like:
~260 FB-111s: Medium, supersonic bomber for strategic penetration missions
~220 B-52Is: Strategic bombers upgraded mostly from D and F models and some Es. The B-52I mainly serves in the conventional role with the "Big Belly" mod being applied and Pave Track pod fitted on an external pylon. The I model also serves in the sea control role through mining and surveillance, as well as being the first Air Force plane to carry the AGM-84 Harpoon from 1979 onwards. While initially the I model would also carry the AGM-86&69, this was dropped in the SALT I treaty and was confined to free fall nuclear bombs and depth charges.
~290 B-52Js: Strategic bombers upgraded from G and H models. The J model is SACs long range strategic platform armed with AGM-69&86 nuclear stand off missiles and eventually even larger cruise missiles. With the decrease in crew members and increase in amenities, missions over 24 hours would be possible and aerial refueling with 3,000 gallon external tanks could make it a multi-day affair. The J model would eventually be replaced by the B-2, while the I model was retired and remaining J models were converted to the conventional support mission.

Thoughts and alternative paths would always be welcome to hear :p
 

Archibald

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MOAR B-58s ! I've found on Google books the 1962 Hearings discussing production of the last BUFF and Hustlers. Tommy Power wanted them.
 

Archibald

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In my TL moar B-58s ( with some basic B-58B engines and stretch, goodies) screwed the FB-111A for a peculiar reason. By swapping the bomb-fuel-pod they could launch Agena spysats - when FB-111A undercarriage would not allow that.
McNamara end so pissed off he screws AMSA right until 1968 - so much that Nixon and Laird can't rescue it.
The more I read about AMSA - B-1A - B-1B, the more it looks like an embarassment of riches. B-52G/H with cruise missiles (including D-21B variants with MIPCC J85 or SERJ) could have hold the line until the B-2.
 

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MOAR B-58s ! I've found on Google books the 1962 Hearings discussing production of the last BUFF and Hustlers. Tommy Power wanted them.
Hmmm
Maybe a there’d be a mid 60s B-58 MLU with turbofans?

I kept the mods to the absolute minimum: B-58B fuselage stretch and F-4J J-79s GE11 engines. These two mods could eventually apply to the surviving B-58As.
 

isayyo2

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MOAR B-58s ! I've found on Google books the 1962 Hearings discussing production of the last BUFF and Hustlers. Tommy Power wanted them.
Hmmm
Maybe a there’d be a mid 60s B-58 MLU with turbofans?

I kept the mods to the absolute minimum: B-58B fuselage stretch and F-4J J-79s GE11 engines. These two mods could eventually apply to the surviving B-58As.
Hmm by the early 70s B-58Bs could exchange their big ordnance pods for a smattering of SRAMs? Ideally fund their recon pods for missions over Vietnam too.
 

CV12Hornet

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MOAR B-58s ! I've found on Google books the 1962 Hearings discussing production of the last BUFF and Hustlers. Tommy Power wanted them.
Hmmm
Maybe a there’d be a mid 60s B-58 MLU with turbofans?

I kept the mods to the absolute minimum: B-58B fuselage stretch and F-4J J-79s GE11 engines. These two mods could eventually apply to the surviving B-58As.
Hmm by the early 70s B-58Bs could exchange their big ordnance pods for a smattering of SRAMs? Ideally fund their recon pods for missions over Vietnam too.
The B-58 had four wing root pylons that should be adaptable for the AGM-69. No idea how many they could carry in place of the ordnance pod.
 

isayyo2

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The B-58 had four wing root pylons that should be adaptable for the AGM-69. No idea how many they could carry in place of the ordnance pod.
Thanks Hornet, it'd definitely be a tight fit. Maybe another 2 - 4 SRAMs in a staggered layout?

1607320532471.png
 

CV12Hornet

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The B-58 had four wing root pylons that should be adaptable for the AGM-69. No idea how many they could carry in place of the ordnance pod.
Thanks Hornet, it'd definitely be a tight fit. Maybe another 2 - 4 SRAMs in a staggered layout?

View attachment 663450
Yeah, looks like two arranged in tandem would be the best bet.

Unfortunately, this also makes the FB-111 start looking more attractive, because six was the number of SRAMs they could carry as well.
 

isayyo2

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The B-58 had four wing root pylons that should be adaptable for the AGM-69. No idea how many they could carry in place of the ordnance pod.
Thanks Hornet, it'd definitely be a tight fit. Maybe another 2 - 4 SRAMs in a staggered layout?

View attachment 663450
Yeah, looks like two arranged in tandem would be the best bet.

Unfortunately, this also makes the FB-111 start looking more attractive, because six was the number of SRAMs they could carry as well.
Exactly, and if the B-58 did serve in Vietnam perhaps the fleet would have worn itself out by 75?

The FB-111 has commonality with a larger fleet of aircraft, two fewer engines that burn fuel, and one less crewman to boot. In a low-penetration LO-LO-HI mission it is probably debatable which plane had greater range on deck and which needed more tanker and ECM support.

Though if all the TFX funds were spent on air launched missiles, B-52 & B-58 upgrades, and more conventional tactical aircraft like the F-4 and A-7 things might be different as well in hindsight.

Edit: Honestly if Skybolt as planned entered serviced how many Bomber programs could have been avoided?
 
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apparition13

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I've thought about this a fair bit, but first a designation point: there would be no B-52I. The US does not use i or o in order to prevent confusion with 1 and 0. It would be J and K. Any "i" or "o" designation you see is a marketing one by the manufacturer, not a DoD one.

Second, a lot those aircraft had been shot down in Vietnam or had crashed. the total number would be more like 500, if the the D, E, and F had been kept. If AMSA is cancelled early enough they could have been. They left the inventory starting in the early 70s. A 1970 cancellation should do it.

The other thing to keep in mind is the D, E, and F don't have wing tanks, so they have significantly shorter ranges. More in the 5-6000 mile range rather than the 8000+ of the G and H.

I don't know when the decision to cut the FB-111 program was made; that would also factor in.

As I see it there would be around 500 B-52s, split about evenly between J and K models. I'd also like to see the experimental canards worked in to the refits. They significantly reduced buffeting, allowing the BUFF to go much faster at low level, while making the ride much more comfortable for the crew, and it would prolong airframe life by reducing fatigue as well. If the USAF knows they will need the B-52 fleet much longer than they thought it would make sense to do it.

As for spending the money saved - ALCM-A, since it is small enough to be carried by FB-111s and TAC aircraft, replacing the dumb bomb nukes. ALCM-B, as was done. ASALM, to replace SRAM in the supersonic cruise missile category, while also providing an airframe for anti-air missiles, anti-AWACS for air launched, and long range anti-bomber for naval. Although I'd still like to see SRAM2, since the small form factor and longer range would make it a candidate for TAC use. While you're at it, make conventional warheads for all of the above. Then do the full production run on the AGM-129 ACM.

Spend the B-1B money on the above missiles, and on the B-2 program. Force the Air Force to stick with the high level B-2 design they initially approved. That way there is not two year delay while the B-2 is redesigned for a mission it doesn't do, and at least a billion is saved. This may keep the plane on schedule for IOC around 1990, which means with a cheaper price, no B-1, and coming into service maybe before the end of the cold war, we might get a full, or at least much larger, production run.

So that's it; spend the savings on a number of cruise missiles and on protecting and speeding up the B-2 program.

As for those 500 B-52s, SAC won't need all of them. A couple hundred with 4000 ALCMs should do the job. Let's say the G and H, so SAC won't need as much tanker support for their leg of the triad. What to do with 250 or so upgraded B-52DEFs? I can think of a couple missions.

Slowing down the Soviet Horde if Western Europe is invaded. Take off from the US, and launch a couple thousand conventional cruise missiles, with whatever exotic or not-so-exotic payloads you've developed, to hit fixed targets, air bases, radar stations, and the like. in Eastern Europe. That would free up tactical attack aircraft for interdiction and CAS. And those attack aircraft could have conventional (or nuclear) ALCM-As and SRAM-2s as well. Tornado's range problem doesn't look so bad when it can launch 2-4 cruise missile with a 600 mile range at whatever airfield or bridge they were supposed to attack.

Turning the Soviet Navy's tactics against them. Convert, let's say 100, to a PB-52 configuration, armed with anti-shipping missiles. I think I'd rather face a Backfire regiment and 100 or so missiles than an equivalent PB-52 bomber force with several times that many missiles launched from further away.

So there you go; B-52s for SAC, TAC, maybe even the USN, along with more B-2s earlier, and a host of subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles with which to arm both the bombers and also NATO tactical aircraft. Win, win, win, even at the cost* of one of the prettiest aircraft around, at least IMO.

*I suspect when all is said and done the cost would be more, but spread over more programs so it wouldn't seem as much. Except for more B-2s of course.
 

isayyo2

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@apparition13 thank you for the excellent reply!

The pre-G models had those ginormous 3000 gallon wing tanks and the 360 gallon water injection tank could perhaps be used for fuel too? With your upgraded B-52Ks, is there any reason they couldn't also use the large wing tanks?

Definitely agree with the NB-52E's canard system, though I'm trying hard to stay out of the "Megafortress" vibes :p

In addition to your PB-52Js, the standoff jamming role is tempting too as an EB-66 replacement. Perhaps that would allow for the EF-111 to focus more on the penetrating mission and finally be armed too.

Taking the PB-52J idea to the next level, we could add the Pave Mover MTI Radar for sea surveillance and be armed with ASLAM's configured for the anti shipping role. I believe ASLAM was the same form factor as SRAM so six per wing could be carried, plus the radar and mines in the bomb bay. Quite the load out! Base them out of Andersen and Loring AFBs and you'll have the sea control mission figured out nicely.
 

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Some numbers (from the top of my head)
744 BUFF were build, of which 295 (102+193) were B-52G and B-52H. 744 - 300 would be 444, minus 5 that's 449 A-B-C-D-E-F B-52s.
Counting all the retired / crashed / worned out ones, must have been around 400 BUFFs operationals that were not -G or -H.
Losses in Vietnam were not very high, perhaps two or three dozens (half of them during Linebaker II and its deadly Christmas bombings).
I checked Joe Baugher website and all those non -G and non -H were gone by 1980.

In my TL I had this idea of recycling the Lockheed D-21 as a stealth cruise missile. The War Drive had an interesting entry about it.


I just swapped the RJ43 BOMARC ramjet and the big solid fuel booster with a MIPCC J85. @RanulfC would tell you it works all the way from zero to Mach 4+

And this way B-52s got a semi-stealth, low-hypersonic cruise missile right from 1970. Who needs the B-1A then ? Even more since it can't carry such weapon on its wing pylons...

(it is amazing to think that, a decade before HAVE BLUE both Ryan and Lockheed build stealth drones (COMPASS ARROW and TAGBOARD) for the same mission: spying Lop Nur, China atomic weapon test grounds, Xinjiang.)
 

isayyo2

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In my TL I had this idea of recycling the Lockheed D-21 as a stealth cruise missile. The War Drive had an interesting entry about it.
Something along the lines of a D-21 fitted with a B53 or B41 warhead?

Stealth, Mach 3, 3000 mile range, and packing 5 - 20 megatons? Yikes, the Soviets would scream for arms control!
 

Archibald

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The irony is that the SALT and START treaties, by limiting ballistic missiles, led to development of the AGM-86 and AGM-109 (screw accronyms, the early Tomahawks from the late 70's).
 

isayyo2

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The irony is that the SALT and START treaties, by limiting ballistic missiles, led to development of the AGM-86 and AGM-109 (screw accronyms, the early Tomahawks from the late 70's).
So a single B-52 could carry 2 D-21s on the wings and 8 AGM-86s in the bay...

2 multi-megaton Mach 3 decapitation strikes followed up by 8 low level penetration missiles, multiply that by 15 bombers in one SAC Wing :oops:
 

Archibald

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Not sure there will be slow and unstealth cruise missiles in that world...
 

isayyo2

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Slow yes, but we can swap out the 86s for 129s anytime you'd like :p

Subsonics have a range, cost, and weight benefit versus their supersonic cousins; one D-21 takes up six AGM-129 per external pylon. The Soviets/Russians play with both, so it's only fair NATO has the same toolsets to counter them.
 

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Lots of good points. The USN come with the idea of the submarine launched cruise missile (AGM-109) from 1972, so it is not completely dead even if the Air Force B-52 are armed differently.
 

isayyo2

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Lots of good points. The USN come with the idea of the submarine launched cruise missile (AGM-109) from 1972, so it is not completely dead even if the Air Force B-52 are armed differently.
Oh yeah, the inter-service rivalries aren’t going anywhere unfortunately
 

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Without B-1 there would almost certainly be Boeing 747-based cruise missile carrier.

Why, if B-52s can do the job ? (of carrying loads of cruise missiles, I mean)
 
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isayyo2

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Without B-1 there would almost certainly be Boeing 747-based cruise missile carrier.
I’m definitely not against the concept of a 747 or DC-10 missile carrier, it just needs the right premise.

Again, this thread is for everyone to share their own ideas. Not just a reaction to what I first posted.
 

Michel Van

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The issue with B-58 it's very expensive Bird
That main reason there retire in 1970
Other problem was that B-58 production ended in 1960
and modernization of Design and new engines would raise the Cost
So restart production of obsolete expensive B-58 to as B-1 alternative make no sense.


Convair was already building F-111, and working on a program that became F-16.
To squeeze now a new B-58 production is contra productive...

A Boeing 747 would have two advantage as Cruise missile dispenser
"Lower" Cost compare to new B-58 or B-1
Indistinguishable a from Cargo 747
 

isayyo2

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Interesting tidbits on the 70s B-52D life extension

In accordance with Secretary McNamara's mid-sixties decision to cut down the strategic bomber force by mid-1971, SAC inactivated 3 squadrons of B-52D and B-52E aircraft during the early part of 1967. This action, however, did not spell the immediate retirement of the aircraft that had been attached to the inactivated units. Badly needed elsewhere, the Big Belly B-52Ds were immediately used to bolster the resources of the B-52D wings committed to Southeast Asia. The B-52Ds actually outlived 2 subsequent B-52 models. In 1973, a partial retirement of the B-52D fleet was planned. Based on the age and condition of their airframe, 45 B-52Ds were earmarked for phaseout by September 1974.

In mid-1973, SAC forces still counted about 130 B-52Ds. Some of these aircraft were on their way out-45 by the fall of 1974 and a few others soon afterward. But 80 B-52Ds were expected to see unrestricted service into the 1980s. The Air Force was negotiating a contract with Boeing for the Wichita fabrication of kits and the reworking of wings that would be installed on the 80 B-52Ds, during the aircraft's regular depot maintenance. The cost of extending the B-52D's operational life seemed high, over $200 million for 80 planes, but the Air Force believed it had no alternative. As explained by Secretary of Defense Elliot L. Richardson to the Senate Armed Services Committee, without the hi-density B-52Ds, the Strategic Air Command's conventional bombing capability would be at the expense of its other missions. As approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense on 30 November 1972, the modification, identified as engineering change proposal (ECP) 1581, promised to be extensive. It included redesign and replacement of the lower wing skin, to make it similar to the B-520 wing, and in the process Boeing was to use a more fatigue resistant alloy. The wing center panel was also to be redesigned and replaced. Finally, ECP 1581 called for new upper longerons and some new fuselage side skins. Also, the pressure bulkhead in the B-52D nose would be changed. Already delayed for lack of money, ECP 1581 had been programmed to take at least 2 years.
 

Archibald

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The issue with B-58 it's very expensive Bird
That main reason there retire in 1970
Other problem was that B-58 production ended in 1960
and modernization of Design and new engines would raise the Cost
So restart production of obsolete expensive B-58 to as B-1 alternative make no sense.


Convair was already building F-111, and working on a program that became F-16.
To squeeze now a new B-58 production is contra productive...

A Boeing 747 would have two advantage as Cruise missile dispenser
"Lower" Cost compare to new B-58 or B-1
Indistinguishable a from Cargo 747

It's only 58 Hustlers over FY63 - FY66. Not worse than 76 FB-111A of OTL.
 

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