Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider (LRS-B)

kaiserd

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Yes. We have still yet to see the design in the flesh, but the indications to date are troubling. (And that is leaving aside the debate whether a non-expendable small stealthy subsonic bomber is at all viable in the present day.) Smaller bomb load (ironic in light of the original 'large and flexible payload bay' requirement), but apparently with a lesser unrefueled range than, the B-2 it is supposed to replace (even more ironic). Classifying it as a nuclear capable medium bomber would be rather stretching things, especially given that its nuclear qualification is now once again supposed to only take place at least two years after it finally reaches IOC.

One of the justifications for the switch to a subsonic design was that, with the simultaneous addition of the optionally manned required requirement (it had been previously studied as part of the NGB but the proponents for such an option had been having difficulty making a case for it to be added, especially with ongoing problems in the area of UAVs) to the program, it would be much easier and cheaper to expend an unmanned subsonic bomber than a unmanned supersonic one. Another string to this was that supposedly the B-21's refueled range would be greatly increased in unmanned mode compared to manned operations. And in cases where that was not enough, well, the USAF was confident that its large network of available airbases and its healthy (cue loud laughter) tanker fleet would, together with the much larger numbers of B-21 bombers they would now be able to buy, would be easily able to cover any contingency. However, even before Obama had left office, the optionally manned capability had been shelved (officially 'delayed' for budgetary reasons, which one could consider a darkly amusing note). Added to this the various policy, procurement, and geopolitical disasters of the day along with those that have followed in the time since, and all those airily parroted justifications have either vaporised in the cold daylight of reality, or else look shakier than a drunk trapeze artist on the high wire act without a safety net.

In the present day it now seems rather unlikely that the B-21 fleet will ever have anywhere near the numbers and deployment locations required, in the light of the type's dire lack of speed, range, and payload, to be able to respond to a sudden overseas emergency in anything resembling a reasonable timeframe. And that is before we get to things like mission systems, available payload & associated delivery options. All of course assuming that the B-21 is not abruptly cancelled in the near future.

And all that is not even touching on fiascoes like the abortive planned switch to biofuel (technically the biofuel program wasn't a B-21 specific requirement).
Is there any actual evidence or any attributable sources for any of those statements of “fact”?
Any by any chance any of that has any basis in fact and/ or reality why are the Russians and the Chinese airforces moving ahead with their own equivalents (sub-sonic stealthy flying wing bombers)?
 

Hydroman

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Don't want to be rude but I agree with kaiserd, speculation is great fun but not unless you are cleared into the/a program then these are just speculation posts. China and Russia are moving forward with their so-called "stealth" bombers probably because of the USA's success with various programs plus the USA has in my opinion quite a "decades" lead with this technology which is real and dates back to the 1940's in regards to larger airframes. Russia dances to their own drum, China is nothing more than a copy-cat of other's tech, period. I will be impressed when China develops their own some day. Evidently, flying wings are the current benchmark for LO or others would not be developing their own aircraft based on wing-type designs, NGC shaping rules the day again.
 

shin_getter

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The main thing that the post is that not about poor optimization given constraints: it is "we need larger fleet of higher performing aircraft" (in ALL dimensions!) which translate to "we need much much larger defense spending" which is not something engineer or fighting men can decide.

If one thinks like a self interested tax payer, the purpose of the military must serve the self and not the notion of global empire control except when the it support the former. If a wealthy opponent is willing to pay extreme costs for someone we currently own but not essential, the realpolitik line of thinking is how to extract the most value in a sale, not how to desperately hold onto it. Defense spending is about preventing the opponent from cheating while the transaction is sorted out.
 

Bhurki

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the realpolitik line of thinking is how to extract the most value in a sale, not how to desperately hold onto it.
Sometimes, 'holding' is the only option you got.
If you stop to desperately 'hold' it to status quo, the effective weight of the opposition increases multifold like a zero sum game but losses and gains are compounded over every trade, effectively making every next step much harder to execute.

The reason people are fretting over Taiwan isn't as much to do with the island itself but contemplating how hard would it be to maintain a force posture in Asia against China once it falls.
 

shin_getter

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the realpolitik line of thinking is how to extract the most value in a sale, not how to desperately hold onto it.
The reason people are fretting over Taiwan isn't as much to do with the island itself but contemplating how hard would it be to maintain a force posture in Asia against China once it falls.
Basically sell Japan, South Korea and Australia some hypersonic delivery vehicles and call it a day.

Sure this means little influence in the area afterwards, but it is not like that sort of thing helped the average tax payer much. (unless you buy into the whole mega currency manipulation concept)

The history of the middle east intervention showed how little value the tax payer could extract out of military force when you win, nevermind when you lose.
 

bobbymike

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the realpolitik line of thinking is how to extract the most value in a sale, not how to desperately hold onto it.
The reason people are fretting over Taiwan isn't as much to do with the island itself but contemplating how hard would it be to maintain a force posture in Asia against China once it falls.
Basically sell Japan, South Korea and Australia some hypersonic delivery vehicles and call it a day.

Sure this means little influence in the area afterwards, but it is not like that sort of thing helped the average tax payer much. (unless you buy into the whole mega currency manipulation concept)

The history of the middle east intervention showed how little value the tax payer could extract out of military force when you win, nevermind when you lose.
China will not come to the arms control table IMHO without “France and UK” east. Meaning Japan, South Korea and even Australia starts to develop independent nuclear forces.
 

Grey Havoc

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s there any actual evidence or any attributable sources for any of those statements of “fact”?
Any by any chance any of that has any basis in fact and/ or reality why are the Russians and the Chinese airforces moving ahead with their own equivalents (sub-sonic stealthy flying wing bombers)?
Don't want to be rude but I agree with kaiserd, speculation is great fun but not unless you are cleared into the/a program then these are just speculation posts. China and Russia are moving forward with their so-called "stealth" bombers probably because of the USA's success with various programs plus the USA has in my opinion quite a "decades" lead with this technology which is real and dates back to the 1940's in regards to larger airframes. Russia dances to their own drum, China is nothing more than a copy-cat of other's tech, period. I will be impressed when China develops their own some day. Evidently, flying wings are the current benchmark for LO or others would not be developing their own aircraft based on wing-type designs, NGC shaping rules the day again.
Little or no speculation required on my part, I'm afraid. It is all in the public domain, including the USAF's own unclassified statements to Congress and to the media. I agree that it seems quite insane, but the Air Force has basically sacrificed pretty much everything in their quixotic quest for a 'low' unit cost ($550 million in 2010 dollars, $639 million in 2019 dollars.* Incidentally, at one stage early on the Air Force was even claiming it that would it be able to able to get that down to $500 million, apparently based on some rather optimistic cost projections from NG and in-house). A classic example of the means to an end becoming an end in itself, one could say. Speaking of the aforementioned doomed quest:
Alternate link via the FAS website in case that one goes down:
The now again delayed nuclear capability along with some of the other things I raised in my last post are mentioned in the report. I should also note that there are a few amusing 'copy and paste' errors in the report.

With regards as to the Russian and Chinese flying wing bombers, I'll note a few things before I finish up for the evening and come back another day to that issue.

The first is, based on what little information about the H-20 that has become available publicly, and what slightly better info we have on the PAK DA, is that they both appear to be actual 'heavy' bombers or at worst, subsonic medium bombers at the higher end, very unlike what we now know about the B-21, with seemingly much greater payload, endurance and unrefuelled range than that aircraft, though just by how much remains to be seen. Any attempt to estimate and compare speeds at this point would be pure speculation. The only reason we can even reliably guess that their range and payload capabilities will greatly exceed those of the B-21 is because we roughly now know how large (or rather how small) the Raider is going to be.

The second point is that all three bombers originate from and are based on wildly different national policies, economic priorities and strategic doctrines, at least some of which are now in flux.

The third and last point, and the one that may be the most controversial, is that as of late July 2021, we may not truly know what the status of the PAK DA program currently is.


*No more recent figures available, which is interesting. If it had continued to even nominally follow the original cost baseline it should have now been $663,401,000 in today's money, rounded up.
 

TomcatViP

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Don't forget that with poorer sfc any Chinese or Russian design have to be bigger than their US counterparts (more embarked fuel, more mass and volume).
Given that the next Gen of US engine could have 30% lower fuel consumption and that current F-135 are way more economical than anything both those countries have, you can probably up sfc by a safe 30%. See how the J-20 is massively bigger than the F-35.

Then there is stealth. With a probable higher refinement in the art of RCS reduction on the US side, it's a better ratio of payload to target destroyed that can be expected. Hence an increased need to carry relatively more ammo for the Russian /Chinese design.

Last but not least, as a smaller airframe will generate less drag, the increase in aero efficiency even aggravates the difference in size.

As you pointed out, the priority for the USAF beyond the technological outreach was to have a mass effect. Procurement costs have probably driven a lot of choices in what we will eventually be given to see.
 

Josh_TN

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Several points I'd like to make on the last dozen or so posts:

I don't see how we get to a supersonic bombing platform that doesn't sacrifice range or RCS. The B-21/original B-2 shape is pretty much the most optimized low RCS arrangement possible while also having superior aerodynamic efficiency at sub sonic speed. A supersonic bomber is going to have to trade those attributes off regardless of how much money you are willing to spend.

In terms of reaction time, I don't see what a supersonic design brings to the table. Most previous designs still employed a sub sonic cruise phase with a supersonic end run as a means of avoiding defenses. Reaction time of a bomber aircraft seems rather moot in an error of ICBMs and land/sea based hypersonics; I would suggest the main concerns are an ability to reach the target area (ie range and low RCS / ESM / ECM / other low observables tech) and ability to deploy a large number of inexpensive weapons for a sustained campaign (there are a limited number of million $ cruise missiles).

We have no range figures for the B-21, but I'd be surprised if it didn't have a similar range to the B-2. Engine efficiency has gone up and airframe structure weight has gone down with composites. I believe a dry thrust version of the F135 is rumored to be the engine choice. If so, perhaps future upgrades to the F35 could directly translate to B-21 improvements as well. But if nothing else, the shape of the B-21 is more aerodynamic than the B-2: the saw tooth shape was a compromise for low altitude penetration. It made for inefficiencies at normal cruising altitude.

The only figure for the B-21 payload I've seen lists it as "30,000lbs +". This seems to compare relatively well with the B-2's ordnance load, the absolute heaviest of which I'm aware is a pair of GBU-57s (about 2x). Given integration with the SDB and SDB II, I'd think the war load would be quite sufficient for most target sets, particularly if the program is sufficiently cost effective enough to go beyond the stated ~100 aircraft.

I am unaware of any listing that states the size of the PAK-DA or H-20, though someone here posted an engine choice and configuration specs that implied a bomber somewhere between the B-2 and B-21. I do think it is fair to refer to the B-21 as a medium bomber, given the size of previous US heavies. But if the range is similar to B-2, I think one might still refer to it as a strategic bomber as well.
 

Archibald

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Was reading Ben Rich memoirs this morning. He said they managed to turn the SR-71, an aircraft the size and weight of a B-58, into the RCS of a Piper Cub. Quite a notable feat !
 

Bhurki

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Yeah, but it would radically increase the amount of time it would take for the representatives to sign in to such exorbitantly priced projects. A supersonic/hypersonic analog to B-21 wouldn't cost just $600M a piece.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Yeah, but it would radically increase the amount of time it would take for the representatives to sign in to such exorbitantly priced projects. A supersonic/hypersonic analog to B-21 wouldn't cost just $600M a piece.
Indeed - it would be complex and expensive. But a supercruise bomber is technically feasible, if you were willing to pay the money.
 

Josh_TN

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Supercruise is still done at or near full military power. There would be range reduction even without reheat. That could be offset by more fuel, but there wouldn't be a free lunch.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Supercruise is still done at or near full military power. There would be range reduction even without reheat. That could be offset by more fuel, but there wouldn't be a free lunch.
Sure - it would be easier in a Tu-22M style "theatre bomber" than a strategic bomber. My point was it wasn't a B-1 analog, able to fly supersonically for a short penetration phase only.
 

In_A_Dream

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How soon do you think they'd forward deploy the B-21 to the Pacific to help counter the <2030 Taiwan concern?
 

sferrin

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Yeah, but it would radically increase the amount of time it would take for the representatives to sign in to such exorbitantly priced projects. A supersonic/hypersonic analog to B-21 wouldn't cost just $600M a piece.
Indeed - it would be complex and expensive. But a supercruise bomber is technically feasible, if you were willing to pay the money.
B-58, XB-70, etc.
 

trose213

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Supercruise is still done at or near full military power. There would be range reduction even without reheat. That could be offset by more fuel, but there wouldn't be a free lunch.
Sure - it would be easier in a Tu-22M style "theatre bomber" than a strategic bomber. My point was it wasn't a B-1 analog, able to fly supersonically for a short penetration phase only.
Not really worth it given how much the US has developed its standoff munitions. The theater bomber role IMO has almost been taken over by cargo planes using palletized munitions.
 

Josh_TN

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Yeah, but it would radically increase the amount of time it would take for the representatives to sign in to such exorbitantly priced projects. A supersonic/hypersonic analog to B-21 wouldn't cost just $600M a piece.
Indeed - it would be complex and expensive. But a supercruise bomber is technically feasible, if you were willing to pay the money.
B-58, XB-70, etc.
There's a list of successful platforms. Didn't a B-58 cost three times as much as a B-52 to operate for less than a third of the range and a third of payload? And and XB-70...that would definitely not generate an IR signature you can see from orbit with even commercial satellites.

The B-21 program is a reasonably thing that can get done that is one of the first that is within budget and time. If you think the new ICBM is threatened by congress, can you imagine what a program failure a supersonic bomber that attempted to be stealth at the same time would be? I think the B-21 is a reasonable compromise. If you need quick response, go hypersonic or redeploy IRBMs. Trying to make a penetrating bomber that is super sonic is just beyond any reasonable budget.

EDIT: Or honestly technology. Go fast, or not be detected. I don't think there is a realistic way of both.
 

sferrin

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@Josh_TN the supersonic advocates were pushing for a supercruise bomber, able to fly its mission at say Mach 1.8 without using afterburner. The real radicals wanted hypersonic. Either would definitely decrease reaction time.
Yeah, but it would radically increase the amount of time it would take for the representatives to sign in to such exorbitantly priced projects. A supersonic/hypersonic analog to B-21 wouldn't cost just $600M a piece.
Indeed - it would be complex and expensive. But a supercruise bomber is technically feasible, if you were willing to pay the money.
B-58, XB-70, etc.
There's a list of successful platforms. Didn't a B-58 cost three times as much as a B-52 to operate for less than a third of the range and a third of payload? And and XB-70...that would definitely not generate an IR signature you can see from orbit with even commercial satellites.

Wow. I guess you didn't realize the B-58 and B-52 filled completely different missions. A bit like whining that the F-16 can't carry as many bombs as an F-15E. As for the XB-70 it did everything it was designed to do. You can't say it was a failure just because the suits failed at reading the tea leaves. The complaint was a supercruise bomber was unpossible. I just gave two examples that showed that was incorrect. Complaining about it isn't going to change the facts. Neither is moving the goalposts.
 

Josh_TN

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I never said it was impossible. Reread my original post. I said it would cost range and stealth. It also would cost a lot of money.

Again, if response time is the goal, then I think hypersonic missiles are a better investment than supersonic bombers.
 

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Interview with Steve Sullivan, vice president, Strike Division, discussing how Northrop Grumman has applied new innovations in supportability to the program:

Recently the Air Force released an image of one B-21 environmental protection shelter that the Air Force is testing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and I was surprised it didn’t get more attention – not for what it is, but for what it’s not. It is a simple, low-cost shelter that’s really there to protect the maintainers who will work on the aircraft. That is a testament to the progress that government and industry have made together over the past three decades on the durability of LO materials.
[...]
The team’s use of the HIVE has additionally spawned new uses for the technology used to develop it. We now also have augmented reality (AR) goggles on the manufacturing floor that our skilled technicians use to drive efficiency into the manufacturing process. No longer does a technician have to rely solely on drawings and planning instructions on how to build our B-21; they can simply put on AR goggles and see a complete aircraft that is rendered by the thousands of released engineering drawings that make up the build. Through the goggles, a technician can see exactly how the subsystems, brackets, electrical cables, hydraulic lines and other equipment are supposed to be installed before they even pick up a tool to do their work.
[...]
Air Force maintainers could have the capability to see single or multiple layers of the aircraft when it’s in depot, so if they only want to see where all the hydraulic lines go, it’s as simple as downloading that file and walking out to the aircraft. If the maintainer is interested in understanding the separation requirements between those hydraulic lines and adjacent fuel lines or electrical harnesses, they can load those layers as well.

 
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publiusr

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Those windows look a *lot* like some windows I've gotten by projecting plan-view windows onto a fuselage that's modeled slightly "off."
It gives it the look of a hummingbird’s face:

“I know I got caught in a vise and covered in primer…stiff upper lip—-just fly it off…”
 

RavenOne

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d) refer to some LRSA or LRS-A bomber program, as mentioned a few times in the 'US Next generation bomber studies'-thread ?
Indeed, the B-21 was to be a supersonic bomber, back before the rather ill-advised decision to switch to a sub-sonic design. At least one testbed was even reportedly flown by NG.

thought that was the L-M SR-72 as sightings of scaled down unmanned. Oder being escorted by a T-38 into Palmdale or Edwards, few years back?

cheers
 

rooster

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d) refer to some LRSA or LRS-A bomber program, as mentioned a few times in the 'US Next generation bomber studies'-thread ?
Indeed, the B-21 was to be a supersonic bomber, back before the rather ill-advised decision to switch to a sub-sonic design. At least one testbed was even reportedly flown by NG.

thought that was the L-M SR-72 as sightings of scaled down unmanned. Oder being escorted by a T-38 into Palmdale or Edwards, few years back?

cheers
There is a rumor that program has been delayed because of issues with the engines.
 

F-14D

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Admittedly far out speculation on my part, but look at this:


Is it possible, unbeknownst to we common rabble, that this puppy has already been in the air for a while? From what we can see in this limited view, it does bear a resemblance to what artists' illustrations have been officially released.
 

F-14D

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Like I said, wild speculation on my part, but interesting, huh? I'm sure there's only one man who knows for sure, but we haven't heard from him in a while...

1630823413164.png .
 
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