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USAF to Retire B-1, B-2 in Early 2030s as B-21 Comes On-Line

flateric

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http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2018/February%202018/USAF-to-Retire-B-1-B-2-in-Early-2030s-as-B-21-Comes-On-Line.aspx

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Air Force Magazine

USAF to Retire B-1, B-2 in Early 2030s as B-21 Comes On-Line

2/11/2018
—JOHN A. TIRPAK​

​With the Fiscal 2019 budget request, the Air Force is beginning an overhaul of its bomber fleet, planning to extend the B-52 beyond 90 years of service while retiring its younger B-1s and B-2s earlier than planned, in the early 2030s, as it brings on stealthy new B-21 aircraft. The Air Force is eyeing a bomber fleet of roughly 175 aircraft overall, although service officials said that number could go up with more generous budgets.

The younger bombers would be retired early because the Air Force believes it must live with a bomber enterprise manpower footprint that is not much larger than it is now, meaning the new B-21 must replace—and not be additive to—much of the existing bomber fleet.

The Air Force had previously planned to operate the B-1 and B-52 until 2040, and the B-2 to 2058.

In judging which older bombers to retain, USAF chose the B-52 over its younger stablemates because of the aircraft’s versatile conventional payload, comparatively lower maintenance needs and the ability to carry the new Long Range Standoff cruise missile, or LRSO. The B-1, meanwhile, is labor-intensive and treaty-prohibited from carrying cruise missiles, and the B-2 fleet, at only 20 aircraft, is considered too expensive per airplane to retain beyond the early 2030s.

The Fiscal 2019 budget request will include the first monies necessary to begin equipping the B-52 fleet with new engines that will reduce its maintenance needs, extend its range and loiter time, and allow the aircraft to climb faster to cruising altitude. It would be retained into the 2050s.

The Air Force envisions retaining all existing bomber bases, swapping out B-1 and B-2 aircraft as B-21s become available. Very substantial military construction funds will be needed to accommodate the new aircraft, however.

The revelations were contained in USAF’s “Bomber Vector,” (previously called the “Bomber Roadmap”) which has been in development for several years and plans the phase-in of the B-21, the phase-out of older aircraft, and the timing and scope of upgrades and new munitions needed for the bomber enterprise. A draft of the Bomber Vector was obtained by Air Force Magazine. The Air Force plans to release a synopsis of the Vector along with its FY ’19 budget request supporting materials on Monday.

The Bomber Vector was to have been released last September at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. It had been briefed to members of Congress by Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin Rand during the summer months, and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein announced at an AFA event in July that it would soon be released publicly. However, service leaders decided to wait to withhold it until after release of the Nuclear Posture Review and final decisions on the Fiscal ’19 budget request.

The NPR was released in early February, validating the need for the LRSO and retaining the B-52 as its launch platform for the near future. The B-21 will also be able to carry the LRSO, and the NPR said the missile will ensure the US continues to have a means to strike any target on the globe even after adversary technological advances whittle down the B-21’s stealthiness in the decades to come.


The Air Force plans to retire the B-2, shown here at Andersen AFB, Guam, more than a decade earlier than expected to make room for the new B-21 stealth bomber. Air Force photo by A1C Gerald Willis​.

The draft version of the Vector said the B-2 would be retired “no later than 2032” and the B-1 “no later than 2036,” although service officials said those dates may have shifted somewhat.

“Included in the decision calculus to retire the B-1 and the B-2,” the service said in the draft, is the need to try to maintain a “force-neutral manning structure,” and to do it, it must “harvest manpower billets from the retiring platforms.” Even so, the service sees growth in the bomber fleet from 157 aircraft today to at least 175, in order to provide the capability required by regional commanders, and so “some manpower growth is inevitable."

Keeping all existing fleets and adding the B-21 to them—for a total of 257 aircraft—“is neither fiscally realistic nor desirable,” USAF said in the Vector draft, adding that Global Strike Command “must pursue the optimal bomber force mix.” Simply shaving down the numbers of each type isn’t effective, the paper said, since it would require keeping all four logistical trains in place, each with their separate people, parts, and vendors. The bomber force today numbers 10,500 operations and maintenance manpower authorizations.

“Enterprise-wide reallocation of money, facilities, and other resources are necessary to facilitate B-21 fielding and ensure the Air Force has a capable and effective future bomber force,” USAF said in the paper. It pegged the cost of modernizing the B-1 and B-2 to keep them capable to 2050 at $38.5 billion, “which is enough money to fund modernization upgrades for the B-52 and help fund bomber base modernization and nuclear infrastructure.”

Upgrading the B-52 to last until 2050 would cost $22 billion, USAF said, but “this figure is offset by $10 billion cost savings from re-engining, which pays for itself in fuel, depot and maintenance costs, and maintenance manpower in the 2040s.”

After the B-1 and B-2 retirements, the Air Force would field a fleet of at least 100 B-21s and 75 B-52s.The timing also suggests B-21 deliveries will average less than one a month during production. The Air Force has said it plans to have a “usable” asset when the first aircraft is delivered in the “mid-2020s.” Assuming that production of the new bomber continues until the last B-1B is retired, a production window of 2025-2036 is likely. Dividing 100 bombers over 11 years suggests a rate of about nine aircraft annually.

Former Air Force officials have hinted at such low numbers, explaining that the service wasted a lot of money tooling up to produce B-2 bombers at a high rate and then built only 21 airplanes, instead of the planned 132. At less than one B-21 a month, large savings can be reaped in facilitization, manpower, and tooling, although there would likely be offset costs in learning curve and economic quantity materials purchases.

The Air Force plans to re-engine the B-52 Stratofortress and conduct other upgrades that will keep it flying nearly a century after it was first introduced to the fleet.​ USAF photo by TSgt. Joshua J. Garcia​.​

Under the Air Force’s proposal, the 1963-vintage B-52s will receive a number of upgrades and improvements to keep them relevant in a world where they are too radar-reflective to get close to well-defended enemy airspace. With new engines, the B-52s would never have to stand down for engine overhauls, as the time “on wing” of the new powerplants would exceed the planned remaining service for the old bombers.

The B-52s would also be equipped with new standoff weapons allowing them to shoot into enemy territory from well outside the range of enemy air defenses. Among these would be the LRSO, which the Vector identified as the AGM-180/181, a possible reference to the two competing versions being developed by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Goldfein, at the July event, said the new bomber force would be paired with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk to shoot targets at long range, yet with high accuracy.

The Bomber Vector draft made no mention of hypersonic missiles or any other wonder weapons that could enhance the B-52’s lethality, although it did say the venerable aircraft would be perfectly fine in operations where enemy air defenses either did not exist or had already been beaten down by other systems.

The Air Force said the decision to retire the B-1 and B-2 instead of the much-older B-52 was based largely on the maintenance track records of the three aircraft. The B-1s and B-2s have higher non-mission-capable rates than the B-52, driven in large part by “vanishing vendor syndrome” situations where components—especially electronics—are no longer made. In the case of the B-2, the fleet is so small—only 20 airplanes—that vendors don’t want to tool up to provide parts in such low quantities. Other pieces of key gear, such as gyroscopes on the B-2, for example, “are obsolete,” the Vector reported, and maintainers are already making do by cannibalizing parts.

The B-1’s maintenance man hours per flying hour (MMH/FH) are the worst of the lot, at 74, while the B-2’s performance in this metric is 45, but that doesn’t count the hours needed to maintain its low-observable features, coatings, and materials, which the Vector did not state. The B-52’s MMH/FH rating was 62.

The Air Force said the B-52’s mission capable and aircraft availability rates consistently outperform those of the newer bombers. The B-52’s aircraft availability has averaged nearly 80 percent over the last five years, while the B-1 and B-2 averaged about 50 percent. In mission capable rates—meaning the aircraft is able to exploit its full range of capabilities, without any non-working systems—the B-52 averaged about 60 percent, while the B-1 averaged around 40 percent and the B-2 about 35 percent.

Cost per flying hour was another factor weighing against the younger bombers in USAF’s thinking. Both the B-1 and B-52 averaged about $70,000 per flying hour (USAF did not call out specific numbers and its charts were not fine-grained)—while the B-2 costs between $110,000 and $150,000 per flying hour to operate. Total ownership costs followed similar curves.

As advanced air defenses proliferate, for the time being, only the B-2 can penetrate them to hold targets at risk worldwide, USAF said. However, that aircraft will “see its technological advantages diminish in the not-too-distant future.” By contrast, the B-21 has been “designed to operate in this highly contested combat environment.” The B-52, despite not having the ability to penetrate, offers a lot of capability through “its high weapons carriage capacity and vast munitions diversity” to be of value either as a standoff platform or in “less challenging environments.” The LRSO will provide “a highly survivable, standoff nuclear weapon capability for the B-52 and B-21.” Some money can be saved by not fitting the B-2 with the LRSO, as had been planned.

The Bomber Vector pointed out that USAF’s bomber fleet has never been so small. Today’s fleet of 157 bombers (76 of which are B-52s) is only a tiny fraction of the 1960 bomber fleet of 1,526 aircraft. The Air Force said its bomber fleet is also spoken for many times over, on tap to support many missions all at the same time.

“In the last five years, [Air Force Global Strike Command] has gone from supporting one enduring COCOM [Combatant Commander] requirement to an average of 12 annually, a 1,100-percent increase. To meet this level of demand, AFGSC’s operation and maintenance personnel and bomber airframes are managed at peak utilization rates,” USAF said. These add-on missions include nonstop bomber action in the Middle East against ISIS targets and an increasing tempo of bomber deployments to the Pacific, both as a messaging device to China and North Korea and to conduct the now-routine Continuous Bomber Presence mission, out of Guam.

The Vector says that USAF’s preference is that “bombers replace bombers” at existing locations, since these bases are operationally and geographically “best suited” to the mission. Opening up new facilities or re-activating dormant ones would add a big cost penalty to build new weapons storage facilities, the service said. Even so, the price tag will be “several hundred million dollars per base” to properly modernize and add new “classified workspaces” at current bomber bases to protect B-21 technology, and to accommodate new weapons.

To help manage the manpower transition among the four systems, the Vector recommended a “hybrid ​manpower approach,” while fielding the B-21, using personnel “from retiring platforms as well as a Total Force and Contractor Logistics Support approach as necessary to minimize manpower spikes and delays” to implementation of the Bomber Vector.​
 

sferrin

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That would seem to indicate the B-21 is a heavy bomber. Replacing our two best heavy bombers with a modern B-47 would be friggin' retarded. (Or maybe it's somewhere between a B-47 and B-52. I seem to recall reading that it has to be able to carry a MOP.)
 

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Keep in mind that the types of conventional bombs that the B-1 & B-2 intended to carry were not PGMs so they had to carry a lot. That is simply not the case anymore. There is no need for the "Heavy" mission and survivability (on the battlefield and in the budget) is more important.
 

Foo Fighter

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That would seem to suggest a reduction in force numbers, perhaps greater ability will enable the holy grail of more with less or fewer airframes. Retaining the B-52 over more modern airframes, I can see why they this is suggested. The upgrade of the airframes and engines will be needed tho'. Will ALL B-52's get these upgrades?
 

SpudmanWP

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As they say, "Hindsight is 20/20".... They should have re-engined them 30 years ago.
 

Archibald

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Geez, this is completely un-be-lie-va-ble.

The gospel way of saying it
"And the B-52 was still alive, and it outlived both B-1 and B-2, plus of course the FB-111, and the B-70 Valkyrie, and also the nuclear-powered bomber, all supposed to replace it"


There was once a famous French showman, Robert Lamoureux, that had a sketch that was a major hit in France back then, with the punchline "et le canard était toujours vivant"

The sketch deals with a family buying a duck and spending a week trying to shoot it down, to no avail, only destroying their home with every atempt at killing the silly thing.

And the punchline exactly means "and the duck was still alive" in the sense "and still the problem remained unsolved"

Well, it really applies to the Buff. "Et le B-52 était toujours vivant" I can see a disgruntled B-1 and a B-2 rusting at Davis Monthan repeating that sentence again and again.
 

sferrin

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SpudmanWP said:
Keep in mind that the types of conventional bombs that the B-1 & B-2 intended to carry were not PGMs so they had to carry a lot. That is simply not the case anymore. There is no need for the "Heavy" mission and survivability (on the battlefield and in the budget) is more important.
AFAIK the MOP isn't going away anytime soon.
 

SpudmanWP

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The B-21 should be able to carry at least one MOP/MOAB.

I'll dig around for more info.
 

Sherman Tank

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I'll believe this when and if the B-21 arrives in service on time.
 

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Archibald - Sounds like a relative of "The Cat Came Back". Cisco Houston had a version of that from the early trouble-prone days of the US space program:

Well, they took him to Cape Canaveral
And they put him in a place
Shot him in a U.S. rocket
Going way out in space
Well they finally thought the cat
Was out a' human reach
Next day they got a call
From Miami Beach
 

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NeilChapman

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Foo Fighter said:
That would seem to suggest a reduction in force numbers, perhaps greater ability will enable the holy grail of more with less or fewer airframes. Retaining the B-52 over more modern airframes, I can see why they this is suggested. The upgrade of the airframes and engines will be needed tho'. Will ALL B-52's get these upgrades?
I don't know if we can draw the conclusion that a reduction in force numbers is indicated. In fact, the article contradicts that by stating mission capable bomber fleet is expected to grow to 175. Besides all the reasons stated to retire B-1 and B-2 (maintenance costs, personnel load, B-1 treaty obligations) it sounds like it could also be a change in requirements as well as some fiscal maneuvering. AF, a year or so ago said in testimony on the hill, when asked if more than 100 B-21 would be needed, stated perhaps 'more B-21 or some follow-on capability.'

It is possible that PCA, a B-21 variant, or something new is expected to be made available or better fit the strategy. Tech is changing more rapidly today than ever before. I could even see a decision being made that the current tanking regimen will not be possible in a near-peer 'altercation'. If that's the case, B-21 might light enough to handle more runways in the Pacific (and I expect considerable range) whereas B-2 and B-1 are pretty heavy - over and above the points made. The case for the B-52 is well made in the article.

What makes the most sense is that the AF is being straight up. Cost to keep B-1 and B-2 capable is just too high. You can take those funds and get new, more easily upgraded airframes as well as fund other requirements.

I actually think the decision to replace the B-1 and B-2 first makes sense. Article does seem to reinforce that B-21 is on schedule and IOC might be 2025 as originally stated. With that being the case we might see some test articles sooner rather than later. Further, now that the AF has made this decision, it may make it possible to more easily transition B-21 into the operating environment - it's planned and will sit well with the stakeholders. With that, if B-21 is moving forward well, they may find ways to more quickly integrate B-21. Find ways to increase production levels and get this capability to the warfighter sooner.

I'd be wary of the B-52 engine upgrades providing the cost savings specified. Boeing came up the the $10B figure and their track record leaves much to be desired. It's worth noting that re-engined B-52 could increase unrefueled range by 40%. AF states that unrefueled combat range of B-52 is currently 8800 miles. Forty percent increase is ~12000 miles. That will get you from Hawaii to the middle of the PRC and back or from the central US to the middle of Russia and back. That's an interesting boost in capability.

I'm of the belief that 175 is too few bombers, in the current environment. But, with hypersonics, what's happening in space, AI and other tech becoming reality, perhaps bombers, as we understand bombers, will be less relevant in 2030. Heck, Elon says we'll have humans on Mars by then. Imagine that.
 

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NeilChapman said:
Foo Fighter said:
That would seem to suggest a reduction in force numbers, perhaps greater ability will enable the holy grail of more with less or fewer airframes. Retaining the B-52 over more modern airframes, I can see why they this is suggested. The upgrade of the airframes and engines will be needed tho'. Will ALL B-52's get these upgrades?
I don't know if we can draw the conclusion that a reduction in force numbers is indicated. In fact, the article contradicts that by stating mission capable bomber fleet is expected to grow to 175. Besides all the reasons stated to retire B-1 and B-2 (maintenance costs, personnel load, B-1 treaty obligations) it sounds like it could also be a change in requirements as well as some fiscal maneuvering. AF, a year or so ago said in testimony on the hill, when asked if more than 100 B-21 would be needed, stated perhaps 'more B-21 or some follow-on capability.'

It is possible that PCA, a B-21 variant, or something new is expected to be made available or better fit the strategy. Tech is changing more rapidly today than ever before. I could even see a decision being made that the current tanking regimen will not be possible in a near-peer 'altercation'. If that's the case, B-21 might light enough to handle more runways in the Pacific (and I expect considerable range) whereas B-2 and B-1 are pretty heavy - over and above the points made. The case for the B-52 is well made in the article.

What makes the most sense is that the AF is being straight up. Cost to keep B-1 and B-2 capable is just too high. You can take those funds and get new, more easily upgraded airframes as well as fund other requirements.

I actually think the decision to replace the B-1 and B-2 first makes sense. Article does seem to reinforce that B-21 is on schedule and IOC might be 2025 as originally stated. With that being the case we might see some test articles sooner rather than later. Further, now that the AF has made this decision, it may make it possible to more easily transition B-21 into the operating environment - it's planned and will sit well with the stakeholders. With that, if B-21 is moving forward well, they may find ways to more quickly integrate B-21. Find ways to increase production levels and get this capability to the warfighter sooner.

I'd be wary of the B-52 engine upgrades providing the cost savings specified. Boeing came up the the $10B figure and their track record leaves much to be desired. It's worth noting that re-engined B-52 could increase unrefueled range by 40%. AF states that unrefueled combat range of B-52 is currently 8800 miles. Forty percent increase is ~12000 miles. That will get you from Hawaii to the middle of the PRC and back or from the central US to the middle of Russia and back. That's an interesting boost in capability.

I'm of the belief that 175 is too few bombers, in the current environment. But, with hypersonics, what's happening in space, AI and other tech becoming reality, perhaps bombers, as we understand bombers, will be less relevant in 2030. Heck, Elon says we'll have humans on Mars by then. Imagine that.
175 B2-like B21 bombers would be sufficient for the USA to fight a war against the rest of the world. We have yet to hear much about lockheeds's mach 6 aircraft that will have a strike role built into it. Don't know any about numbers or munitions/payload. We don't know how this aircraft figures into projected numbers for new heavy bombers.
 

sferrin

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Airplane said:
We have yet to hear much about lockheeds's mach 6 aircraft that will have a strike role built into it.
Because there isn't one.
 

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Airplane said:
175 B2-like B21 bombers would be sufficient for the USA to fight a war against the rest of the world. We have yet to hear much about lockheeds's mach 6 aircraft that will have a strike role built into it. Don't know any about numbers or munitions/payload. We don't know how this aircraft figures into projected numbers for new heavy bombers.

???

The 'rest of the world' is a pretty big place. Perhaps you could share how 175 B-21 bombers would be sufficient. I'm certainly not an expert but with an expected 30k pound payload, subsonic speed, and US bases, I don't see the sortie rates necessary to support your supposition.

Either way, there is no schedule for the US to fly 175 B-21 bombers. The projection is for 75 B-52's and 100 B-21's. The idea is deter others from even thinking about engaging in a war with the US. One hundred seventy-five bombers doesn't do it.
 

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RAND's suggestion for compensating for a bomber shortfall was adapting Raytheon's MCALS to aft-eject
JASSM-ER. Their platform of choice for it was the C-17 but in principle any flat-floored, rear-ramped
transport from V-22 to C-5 could accommodate an extensible/scalable, roll-on/roll-off version.

The larger concern was if you could spare those transports for standoff missile duty
during a crisis that would require strategic bombers.
 

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marauder2048 said:
RAND's suggestion for compensating for a bomber shortfall was adapting Raytheon's MCALS to aft-eject
JASSM-ER. Their platform of choice for it was the C-17 but in principle any flat-floored, rear-ramped
transport from V-22 to C-5 could accommodate an extensible/scalable, roll-on/roll-off version.

The larger concern was if you could spare those transports for standoff missile duty
during a crisis that would require strategic bombers.

Ahhh...right. And where does RAND suggest these 'unused' C-17's come from? I could be wrong, but I would expect that if the US needs strategic bombing of a single near-peer - or as Airplane suggested 'the rest of the world' - ALL C-17's are going to be a bit busy doing their job of moving cargo. The US has a shortage of Intra and Inter Theater lift already (as you stated) without suggesting C-17's as strategic bombers.
 

marauder2048

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The C-17 was RAND's go-to because it had the best-balance of O&S and payload and
you only need to carve off about 5% of the inventory to supplement the bombers.

A relatively larger percentage of the C-5 and C-130 fleet would be required but
still comparatively small (11% and 13%).

Some recent (and predictably gloomy) analysis on CMCA is there as well.
 

Attachments

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From Marauder2048's attached PDF...

"
From this analysis it is quite clear that the current bombers have a significant disadvantage
when it comes to carrying cruise missiles. Their low storage capacity contributes to the overall
issue that the current bombers may not have enough standoff firepower to handle certain
stressing scenarios. Commercial derivative and military cargo arsenal aircraft have significantly
higher cruise missile launch capacity and could provide supplemental standoff bombing capacity.
Commercial derivative aircraft have longer ranges, which would reduce the tanker demand
especially in the Pacific where longer ranges of operation are necessary. On the other hand,
commercial derivatives have a larger weight penalty relative to military cargo derivatives due to
the weight of the launching system. Military cargo derivatives might then have a more efficient
use of payload due to this differential weight penalty.
"

First C-17's are coming up on 25 years of service. No doubt there will be a SLEP for them at some point. 99% of AF aircraft replacement budget is already in use for F-35, B-21, KC-46, T-X (coming up), etc.

If the AF decides it wants additional intertheater airlift, I'm all for dual-using them as arsenal planes. It would be an interesting experiment to build a C-17 gen II aircraft using additive manufacturing. It's very likely it would be 5-10% lighter which would probably translate into performance improvements. I'd expect it could be done in a much quicker time frame than people realize. If the AF wants to use existing aircraft I think it would be a horrible idea to dual-task the ~220 aircraft in use today. They're too critical and the demand on them is much higher than expected.

The requirement for airlift has only increased since the last USAF C-17 was produced in 2010. I'm guessing that a case for additional airlift capacity is not a difficult argument to make. Traversing the Pacific is a long trip. It's probably a VERY difficult argument to make when prioritizing vs above new aircraft and current budget requirements.

C-130 is a different calculus. Since that production line is hot it's not a significant budget/political issue. Additional purchases would assist in intratheater airlift and dual-use as arsenal aircraft would be an option. Plus, they're relatively inexpensive.

Of course, the problem is that the military is never funded adequately. The likelihood of over reliance on arsenal aircraft (cutting into AMC capacity) is very real.
 

sferrin

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NeilChapman said:
From Marauder2048's attached PDF...

"
From this analysis it is quite clear that the current bombers have a significant disadvantage
when it comes to carrying cruise missiles. Their low storage capacity contributes to the overall
issue that the current bombers may not have enough standoff firepower to handle certain
stressing scenarios.
The B-1B can carry 24 JASSM-ERs. ???
 

lastdingo

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marauder2048 said:
RAND's suggestion for compensating for a bomber shortfall was adapting Raytheon's MCALS to aft-eject
JASSM-ER. Their platform of choice for it was the C-17 but in principle any flat-floored, rear-ramped
transport from V-22 to C-5 could accommodate an extensible/scalable, roll-on/roll-off version.
Do you have a link or study title for this?
 

marauder2048

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lastdingo said:
marauder2048 said:
RAND's suggestion for compensating for a bomber shortfall was adapting Raytheon's MCALS to aft-eject
JASSM-ER. Their platform of choice for it was the C-17 but in principle any flat-floored, rear-ramped
transport from V-22 to C-5 could accommodate an extensible/scalable, roll-on/roll-off version.
Do you have a link or study title for this?
It's the improving_standoff.pdf attached above but here's the direct link.

https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/rgs_dissertations/RGSD300/RGSD363/RAND_RGSD363.pdf
 

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I suppose it might make a lot of sense to retire the 20 B-2 airframes if the B-21 is pretty much a modern version of it as it appears to be but I wouldn't mind seeing the B-1 fleet receive another major upgrade/overhaul and serving for longer. If they're not going to be flown down in the weeds anymore why not swap out the engines and give them new intakes? A speed of Mach 1.5 or greater at altitude might be good to have for more time sensitive missions.
 

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Considering the upgrades to F-15 and F-22, could the B-2 be given similar upgrade to get them closer to the B-21?
 

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Foo Fighter said:
Considering the upgrades to F-15 and F-22, could the B-2 be given similar upgrade to get them closer to the B-21?
It seems like the issue is maintenance and the infrastructure required to maintain a distinct airframe.

Recall that B-2 is a 30yo design. The maintenance regime is very time consuming and $$$. Which limits sortie rates.
There are 20 of them. You'd have to specify maintainers for this platform.
The stealth coating tech is much different today than it was then.
B-2 is very heavy which limits the runways available to it. It might make it more vulnerable.
It wasn't designed with an open architecture so upgrades are 'different' than those for B-21/F-35.

There's an option. You can replace them w/B-21's. Whereas with F-22 there is no option - and there are more F-22's.

It's like owning a 1998 V-12 Merc. Yes, it's in great shape. Yes, it's fast. But, it has a cell phone in the center console, no bluetooth, no usb ports, a nav system you can't update, tires specific to the car, and an oil change with basic annual maintenance is $2200.00. Then, if you have to replace an alternator, it's $1800.00. It's going to $1000 and $1500 you to death.

And, you can buy a new Tesla for $125k that's faster, way more cool and will basically drive itself.

What would you do?
 

lastdingo

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marauder2048 said:
lastdingo said:
marauder2048 said:
RAND's suggestion for compensating for a bomber shortfall was adapting Raytheon's MCALS to aft-eject
JASSM-ER. Their platform of choice for it was the C-17 but in principle any flat-floored, rear-ramped
transport from V-22 to C-5 could accommodate an extensible/scalable, roll-on/roll-off version.
Do you have a link or study title for this?
It's the improving_standoff.pdf attached above but here's the direct link.

https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/rgs_dissertations/RGSD300/RGSD363/RAND_RGSD363.pdf
thanks.
I added the link here
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2017/03/the-y-20-and-transport-bombers-in.html
 

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Colonial-Marine said:
I suppose it might make a lot of sense to retire the 20 B-2 airframes if the B-21 is pretty much a modern version of it as it appears to be but I wouldn't mind seeing the B-1 fleet receive another major upgrade/overhaul and serving for longer. If they're not going to be flown down in the weeds anymore why not swap out the engines and give them new intakes? A speed of Mach 1.5 or greater at altitude might be good to have for more time sensitive missions.
They might be useful as AEW platform:
;D
 

marauder2048

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Colonial-Marine said:
I wouldn't mind seeing the B-1 fleet receive another major upgrade/overhaul and serving for longer. If they're not going to be flown down in the weeds anymore why not swap out the engines and give them new intakes? A speed of Mach 1.5 or greater at altitude might be good to have for more time sensitive missions.
The loss of Blue's best maritime strike aircraft in an era where the Navy doesn't appear
to be taking air-launched ASuW very seriously (limited LRASM buy, OASuW Inc II punted indefinitely) is a big issue.
 

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marauder2048 said:
The loss of Blue's best maritime strike aircraft in an era where the Navy doesn't appear
to be taking air-launched ASuW very seriously (limited LRASM buy, OASuW Inc II punted indefinitely) is a big issue.
I agree that the Navy's efforts seem half-hearted at best, what was OASuW Inc II supposed to be exactly?
 

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From the above article...

"The Air Force’s Bomber Vector calls for retiring the B-2 fleet by 2032, well before its successor, the B-21, is fully on line. The B-21, which is still in development, will be similar in shape and design to the B-2, but only about two-thirds the size. "


Where did the idea that the b-21 was going to be 2/3 the size of B-2 come from? I've always thought it was going to be smaller but was something released that defines 2/3rds size?
 

Forest Green

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From the above article...

"The Air Force’s Bomber Vector calls for retiring the B-2 fleet by 2032, well before its successor, the B-21, is fully on line. The B-21, which is still in development, will be similar in shape and design to the B-2, but only about two-thirds the size. "


Where did the idea that the b-21 was going to be 2/3 the size of B-2 come from? I've always thought it was going to be smaller but was something released that defines 2/3rds size?
I think people are going from the payload capability, which was quoted at about 24,000-36,000lbs maximum somewhere. The B-2 is more in the 40,000-50,000lb range.
 

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Was there ever the thought to replace the B-2's low-observable coatings? The B-2 even without the coatings will still be orders of magnitude stealthier than a B-52 and if all you need is a cruise missile launch platform (once the B-21 arrives) then why not keep the 30 year old plane and not the 90 year old plane?

Alternatively why not a cruise missile platform version of the KC-46? Its been doable to install bomb bays in commercial airliners (P-8) and it would not be introducing a new aircraft into the Air Force's fleet, and I bet the KC-46 maintenance costs will be significantly lower than the B-52s.
 

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Was there ever the thought to replace the B-2's low-observable coatings? The B-2 even without the coatings will still be orders of magnitude stealthier than a B-52 and if all you need is a cruise missile launch platform (once the B-21 arrives) then why not keep the 30 year old plane and not the 90 year old plane?

Alternatively why not a cruise missile platform version of the KC-46? Its been doable to install bomb bays in commercial airliners (P-8) and it would not be introducing a new aircraft into the Air Force's fleet, and I bet the KC-46 maintenance costs will be significantly lower than the B-52s.
Presumably because the older plane is much cheaper to maintain, more numerous and will carry more LRSOs, and against a peer adversary, it will be launching them from outside contested airspace, so stealth isn't a requirement.

Launching missiles out the back of cargo planes has been considered and tried.
 

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Would not the arrival of the B21 mean that the B2 could be used more in roles that are seen as too risky today? Kind of like today how we keep the F117 around for roles we don't want to waste a F22 or F35 on?
 
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