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

marauder2048

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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.
It's been completely done-to-death...most recently by RAND in 2015.

Palletized launchers (MCALS) for flat-floored military cargo aircraft and the displaced 463L pallets go
on the KC-46s that aren't MC for tanking.
 

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kaiserd

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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?
Not unless you consider the B-2s crew members more expendable at that stage.
Such use of the F-117 is highly speculative at this stage and it certainly wouldn’t be a case of being used in speculated scenarios because it and it’s pilot are now considered expendable.
 

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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?
Not unless you consider the B-2s crew members more expendable at that stage.
Such use of the F-117 is highly speculative at this stage and it certainly wouldn’t be a case of being used in speculated scenarios because it and it’s pilot are now considered expendable.
More likely that the F-117 might be turned into a drone for such missions. The F-117 has basically no EW, which against a peer adversary makes it more suited to drone-like work with no pilot.
 

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So you would never use them for a surprise raid on terrorist locations in someplace like Afghanistan or Somalia and use their stealth to avoid friendly nations from tipping off the raid? You would use high end B21 raiders and let countries like China and Russia view them in action and potentially data collect? I think its more important to keep the raider unused and unseen by China and Russia for as long as possible. The B2 still can have importance even though it isn't critically important to guard its secrets as is the raider.
 

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The entire B-2 life span is fast turning into a farce... particularly with the B-52 outliving it. By this point (hidsight always 20/20 of course) one could make a point, the program should have been canned rather than building 20 airframes. That number was too low right from the beginning...
 

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You can blame Congress and the (in practice mythical) Peace Dividend for that.
The crazy thing is, the RD&T costs were still there anyway, so they saved very little by cutting B-2 numbers to 1/7th and F-22 numbers to 1/4 and then they spent at least 10x what they saved in Iraq and Afghanistan. So there was no dividend or peace.
 

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And those R&D costs have been leveraged in advancements for F-35, B-21, and the new stuff being worked on. Not a loss.
 

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It's like they Pentagon didn't even try to sell the elected leadership on the benefits of the B-2. Hey look, it can replace the ageing B-52 fleet with a more survivable platform that doesn't need as many support aircraft for a mission. Hey look it can replace the F-117 and carry more bombs a greater distance. Hey look it can effectively take over the role of the F-111 and the F-15E. Just give us 72 and we can (the USAF) do more with those 72 airframes than hundreds of others.

I recall is was rather abrupt in the Democratic side of congress even during the rollout of the B-2. They were just like, why the hell do we need a stealth bomber to drop nukes on a fading fast USSR when we have plenty of B-52s with cruise missiles?

21 airframes at least gave the supplier base some experience in building and fielding large composite LO aircraft that was likely invaluable experience for Northrop. In one sense it was a wasted effort. Think of what Northrop learned that they are putting in the B-21.

[Removed more political stuff - Admin]
 
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marauder2048

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The entire B-2 life span is fast turning into a farce... particularly with the B-52 outliving it. By this point (hidsight always 20/20 of course) one could make a point, the program should have been canned rather than building 20 airframes. That number was too low right from the beginning...
If you need to drop nuclear earth penetrators or other glide weapons at strategic range and in the face of modern defenses it was going to be B-2 or nothing.
 

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A properly prepared military is a prophylactic: most of the time it's not necessary. But when you need it; you better have it, it must be fairly new, you've got to know how to use it, and, you better have adequate supplies.

;)

Stealth with dumb bombs was the answer at the time of B-2's development. Stealth with open systems and standoff weapons are the current answer. Lasers are the perceived answer to deep magazines. Isn't one always looking for an advantage to negate the other guys advantage? That cycle doesn't stop. It's actually speeding up.

The idea behind F-35, B-21 and the follow-on platforms seems to be open systems to rapidly and constantly integrate new "advantages". The Danes have something akin to this in their naval StanFlex modular system; whatever the new system, put it in a module and plug it in. I think the trick will be enabling constant upgrades even when your adversary is not. A good example of this are E. Musks' companies. All are rapidly prototyping and fielding upgrades as quickly as possible. This requires vision beyond your current endeavor. For autocracies, this is far simpler. Democracies need to spark the imagination of their people to sustain interest. I think space could be that spark. We interact daily with the tech that flowed from the Apollo program.
 

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The problem is that people are stuck in a WWII mindset of, "we'll increase military power when a war comes." Nope, you won't have time, and reduced military power might actually cause the war, like it did with the Falklands.
That is half the problem. The other half are the politicians that hate the military. Then the average citizen just assumes the US military is the best it can be with the best that money can buy. 30 years ago I watched a fighter plane documentary with grandad. He was astonished that the 15 and 14 had origins in the 1960s. People just assume our stuff is new and the latest technology available. The wifely and I lived by an airbase that did annual airshows. I would tell how each of those planes we saw doing aerobatics were almost as old as her and some like the buff were pushing 50 years and she would be like No that doesn't make sense. That's the mindset of the populace et large.

Honestly if it were not for nukes we would likely have fought some real wars post Vietnam.

Nukes have been keeping the peace all these years.

Sometimes being a nerd i run numbers on the costs of what we would have had to spend on a few more mudhens, a few more spirits and stuff like that. Its minuscule compared to what has to be spent rebuilding the military. Really troubling to me that that is our elected leadership.
 

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Just a reminder: Discussing, which weapons should be used from a platform, which platform does best in delivering which
weapon on so on is perfectly fine, but some of the last posts are straying in the field of politics in a way, we know just too
well and have not the best experiences with.
So, please, avoid politics !
 

kaiserd

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It's like they Pentagon didn't even try to sell the elected leadership on the benefits of the B-2. Hey look, it can replace the ageing B-52 fleet with a more survivable platform that doesn't need as many support aircraft for a mission. Hey look it can replace the F-117 and carry more bombs a greater distance. Hey look it can effectively take over the role of the F-111 and the F-15E. Just give us 72 and we can (the USAF) do more with those 72 airframes than hundreds of others.

I recall is was rather abrupt in the Democratic side of congress even during the rollout of the B-2. They were just like, why the hell do we need a stealth bomber to drop nukes on a fading fast USSR when we have plenty of B-52s with cruise missiles?

21 airframes at least gave the supplier base some experience in building and fielding large composite LO aircraft that was likely invaluable experience for Northrop. In one sense it was a wasted effort. Think of what Northrop learned that they are putting in the B-21.

[Removed more political stuff - Admin]
But more B-2s could never has taken over the role of the F-111 or the F-15E (a high value, but high maintenance and support aircraft just incapable of the sortie rates and flexibility required to “take over” from these smaller tactical jets, even just leaving to one side the stupendous costs).
And politicians (or anyone else) skeptical of buying more than a hundred B-2s at that time could also have pointed to the delivery of the last B-1B in 1988. And the very salient fact that the USSR was then starting to collapse/ collapsed, removing the need/ justification for a large 100 plus fleet of B-2s (and paying the associated costs).
We can all have our own pet programs that we may have liked to not be curtailed or to have seen extended but the B-2 is one of the harder to justify, particularly given the likely opportunity costs (no B-1B, few if any B-52 left, all money spent trying to keep the B-2 fleets availability rates up to anything not embarrassing, no close support missions by heavies in recent wars etc.)
 

marauder2048

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Given the near 87x (eighty-seven times ground delivery) cost premium for in-flight refueling, a B-2 bomber heavy force might
very well have paid for itself pretty quickly.
 

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It's like they Pentagon didn't even try to sell the elected leadership on the benefits of the B-2. Hey look, it can replace the ageing B-52 fleet with a more survivable platform that doesn't need as many support aircraft for a mission. Hey look it can replace the F-117 and carry more bombs a greater distance. Hey look it can effectively take over the role of the F-111 and the F-15E. Just give us 72 and we can (the USAF) do more with those 72 airframes than hundreds of others.

I recall is was rather abrupt in the Democratic side of congress even during the rollout of the B-2. They were just like, why the hell do we need a stealth bomber to drop nukes on a fading fast USSR when we have plenty of B-52s with cruise missiles?

21 airframes at least gave the supplier base some experience in building and fielding large composite LO aircraft that was likely invaluable experience for Northrop. In one sense it was a wasted effort. Think of what Northrop learned that they are putting in the B-21.

[Removed more political stuff - Admin]
But more B-2s could never has taken over the role of the F-111 or the F-15E (a high value, but high maintenance and support aircraft just incapable of the sortie rates and flexibility required to “take over” from these smaller tactical jets, even just leaving to one side the stupendous costs).
And politicians (or anyone else) skeptical of buying more than a hundred B-2s at that time could also have pointed to the delivery of the last B-1B in 1988. And the very salient fact that the USSR was then starting to collapse/ collapsed, removing the need/ justification for a large 100 plus fleet of B-2s (and paying the associated costs).
We can all have our own pet programs that we may have liked to not be curtailed or to have seen extended but the B-2 is one of the harder to justify, particularly given the likely opportunity costs (no B-1B, few if any B-52 left, all money spent trying to keep the B-2 fleets availability rates up to anything not embarrassing, no close support missions by heavies in recent wars etc.)
Wonder how the ATF survived the ax in the 90s after the USSR collapsed?
The B52 was an old airplane in the 90s that should have been replaced just for the simple fact it was old and would be worn out. 100 bones was not sufficient to take on the mission. In retrospect maybe the solution was to cancel the B2 and buy more (more) advanced B1s. But still, our industrial base learned a lot with the B2 that is likely invaluable today to the raider.
 

marauder2048

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Probably helped that ATF wasn't part of the START treaties which convulsed three administrations during the period.

The bomber warhead counting rules were also completely incoherent between START I and START II which I think goes a long
way to explaining why the current bomber force has some of the same feel.

Under START I, there was a plan to retain an ALCM + penetrating B-1B (SRAM II + glide bomb) force, retire the B-52
and buy the B-2 in some quantity since START I was, by design, intended to heavily favor a penetrating bomber force.
 

kaiserd

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It's like they Pentagon didn't even try to sell the elected leadership on the benefits of the B-2. Hey look, it can replace the ageing B-52 fleet with a more survivable platform that doesn't need as many support aircraft for a mission. Hey look it can replace the F-117 and carry more bombs a greater distance. Hey look it can effectively take over the role of the F-111 and the F-15E. Just give us 72 and we can (the USAF) do more with those 72 airframes than hundreds of others.

I recall is was rather abrupt in the Democratic side of congress even during the rollout of the B-2. They were just like, why the hell do we need a stealth bomber to drop nukes on a fading fast USSR when we have plenty of B-52s with cruise missiles?

21 airframes at least gave the supplier base some experience in building and fielding large composite LO aircraft that was likely invaluable experience for Northrop. In one sense it was a wasted effort. Think of what Northrop learned that they are putting in the B-21.

[Removed more political stuff - Admin]
But more B-2s could never has taken over the role of the F-111 or the F-15E (a high value, but high maintenance and support aircraft just incapable of the sortie rates and flexibility required to “take over” from these smaller tactical jets, even just leaving to one side the stupendous costs).
And politicians (or anyone else) skeptical of buying more than a hundred B-2s at that time could also have pointed to the delivery of the last B-1B in 1988. And the very salient fact that the USSR was then starting to collapse/ collapsed, removing the need/ justification for a large 100 plus fleet of B-2s (and paying the associated costs).
We can all have our own pet programs that we may have liked to not be curtailed or to have seen extended but the B-2 is one of the harder to justify, particularly given the likely opportunity costs (no B-1B, few if any B-52 left, all money spent trying to keep the B-2 fleets availability rates up to anything not embarrassing, no close support missions by heavies in recent wars etc.)
Wonder how the ATF survived the ax in the 90s after the USSR collapsed?
The B52 was an old airplane in the 90s that should have been replaced just for the simple fact it was old and would be worn out. 100 bones was not sufficient to take on the mission. In retrospect maybe the solution was to cancel the B2 and buy more (more) advanced B1s. But still, our industrial base learned a lot with the B2 that is likely invaluable today to the raider.
Subsequent history proved and is proving that the B-52 is not worn out - it will outlive the B-1B and quite likely the B-2 too.
Personally I think the mix B-52/ B-1B/ B-2 mix arrived at actually turned out quite well given the wars they ended up having to fight, and was certainly better combination of capabilities (positives and negatives) in that context than a fleet of only 1 or 2 of these aircraft types.
 

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Personally I think START will (and should) go the way of the INF Treaty. Until China can get roped in as well it's just stupid. I'd like to see the B-1B's hard points reactivated and the ability to remove the bulkhead between the forward two bays put back in as well.
 

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The B-1B bulkhead is relocatable but not removable. Moving it gives you the ability to carry either 8 ALCM's or 4 ACM's internally. The exterior pylons were for 12 ACM's (would have been 14 except for START I). The ALCM could not survive the acoustic environment under the B-1B so it could only carry the ACM. Only one aircraft, No. 28, was modified and tested. With the ACM's scrapped there is nothing to carry on the hardpoints unless the JASSM-XR is designed for that tough environment. The bigger problem may be in all the avionic mods for the conventional mission upgrades. I have no idea but wonder if those were EMP hardened or not? The bottom line in my opinion is that they are using the B-1B and its problems for the reason why we need the B-21. If so I don't expect anything more than bandaids for the B-1B's unless the B-52H falls apart.
 

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Personally I think START will (and should) go the way of the INF Treaty. Until China can get roped in as well it's just stupid. I'd like to see the B-1B's hard points reactivated and the ability to remove the bulkhead between the forward two bays put back in as well.
38xJASSM-XR payload.
 

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Personally I think START will (and should) go the way of the INF Treaty. Until China can get roped in as well it's just stupid. I'd like to see the B-1B's hard points reactivated and the ability to remove the bulkhead between the forward two bays put back in as well.
38xJASSM-XR payload.
When the US and Russia were “allies” after the Cold War we should have decoupled our arsenal numerically from theirs at START I levels. Around 1200 launcher and 6000 warheads.
 

kaiserd

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Personally I think START will (and should) go the way of the INF Treaty. Until China can get roped in as well it's just stupid. I'd like to see the B-1B's hard points reactivated and the ability to remove the bulkhead between the forward two bays put back in as well.
38xJASSM-XR payload.
When the US and Russia were “allies” after the Cold War we should have decoupled our arsenal numerically from theirs at START I levels. Around 1200 launcher and 6000 warheads.
Does that mean 6,000 warheads in total? Deployed only? Including stockpiled? Plus including retired/ being dismantled? If the later that's approx what the US currently has.
If the former it's curious how that current total and your apparent propossed deployed-only numbers number so closely match with the later appearing unconnected to any independent threat analysis or other credible basis.
And that's before any discussion of the political realism of any such proposal.
But way beyond all of that I would suggest actually staying on the actual topic of this discussion -
"USAF to Retire B-1, B-2 in Early 2030s as B-21 Comes On-Line"
 

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Does that mean 6,000 warheads in total? Deployed only? Including stockpiled? Plus including retired/ being dismantled? If the later that's approx what the US currently has.
If the former it's curious how that current total and your apparent propossed deployed-only numbers number so closely match with the later appearing unconnected to any independent threat analysis or other credible basis.
And that's before any discussion of the political realism of any such proposal.
But way beyond all of that I would suggest actually staying on the actual topic of this discussion -
"USAF to Retire B-1, B-2 in Early 2030s as B-21 Comes On-Line"
It means 6,000 strategic range warheads deployed.
 

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US commentators speak of how soon Russian interceptor missiles will reach +1000miles. The ability of stealth to overcome IADS dimishes by the day. The idea the expensive almost boutique aircraft are ready for the next 20yrs is laughable. This does not even include the emerging the terminal defenses systems which threaten the almost boutique ASMissiles w/near complete ineffectiveness in the twenty years. Some unconventional thinking is way past being in order.

"The A-235 will replace the A-135 Amur, with the added capability to engage satellites. Firing range is doubled, to some 1,000 nautical miles. The system is said to be able to intercept incoming ballistic missiles approaching at speeds up to Mach 10, compared to Mach 4-to-5 for the previous generation. "
 

sferrin

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US interceptors reach 3000+ miles right now. I don't get the impression that anybody thinks that makes the country impervious.
 

kaiserd

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US commentators speak of how soon Russian interceptor missiles will reach +1000miles. The ability of stealth to overcome IADS dimishes by the day. The idea the expensive almost boutique aircraft are ready for the next 20yrs is laughable. This does not even include the emerging the terminal defenses systems which threaten the almost boutique ASMissiles w/near complete ineffectiveness in the twenty years. Some unconventional thinking is way past being in order.

"The A-235 will replace the A-135 Amur, with the added capability to engage satellites. Firing range is doubled, to some 1,000 nautical miles. The system is said to be able to intercept incoming ballistic missiles approaching at speeds up to Mach 10, compared to Mach 4-to-5 for the previous generation. "
I would again suggest actually staying on the actual topic of this discussion -
"USAF to Retire B-1, B-2 in Early 2030s as B-21 Comes On-Line"
 

jsport

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SAMs at 1000miles against stealth aircraft the US does not have..

Spending on marginally survivable, low numbers of expensive boutique aircraft to replace the current bombers force is the only issue for retiring the already few B-1s and B-2s.
 

marauder2048

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Hardened and Deeply buried targets: the equipment and materials required to make them are comparatively cheap and
readily available.

The estimated number of such targets is very high (thousands at strategic depths/hardness), the estimated number of such targets
has only been revised upwards and they can likely only be prosecuted by penetrating bombers with nuclear earth penetrators.
 

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I like how those articles are still trying to operate in Mach numbers. In, eghm, exoatmospheric interceptions...
 

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I like how those articles are still trying to operate in Mach numbers. In, eghm, exoatmospheric interceptions...
Not to mention the fact that the figures are all wrong anyway. Are they seriously saying the A-135 was designed to intercept Mach 4-5 targets with a nuclear warhead? I.e. the A-135 was only for use against SRBMs?? That is one stupid article.
 

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Nonetheless the line between SAMs and ABMs has always been fuzzy in Russian developments. Mobility and numbers are not fuzzy ie the 20yr threat to aircraft, to missiles, to aircraft launched missiles etc you choose it goes up and up.
 

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Hardened and Deeply buried targets: the equipment and materials required to make them are comparatively cheap and
readily available.

The estimated number of such targets is very high (thousands at strategic depths/hardness), the estimated number of such targets
has only been revised upwards and they can likely only be prosecuted by penetrating bombers with nuclear earth penetrators.
The conclusion argues for retaining the 52s, 1s, 2s, and building a lower cost 21, and bomber hybrid FA-XX and a FB-XX, and most importantly as many unconventional approaches to suppressing IADS as possible.
 
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Please stay on topic ! The last posts are outside the scope of this thread and are suitable to turn it into one of those nuclear weapons threads, that generally lead to problems here.
 

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What the US should have done was pursue a BWB platform to replace the KC-135s and KC-10s, such a plane would have been perfect to replace the B-52. That is one area where a "joint" program would have had more chance of success than the JSF.
 

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What the US should have done was pursue a BWB platform to replace the KC-135s and KC-10s, such a plane would have been perfect to replace the B-52. That is one area where a "joint" program would have had more chance of success than the JSF.

Maybe KC-Y to replace KC-10s.
 

marauder2048

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In re-reading some of JHUAPL's publications on LRSO (they did some classified analysis for the Air Force on it),
they indicated that a earth penetrating warhead version of LRSO (penetration depth of 10 feet into hard rock)
might be physically too large for the bay constraints of B-2 or the B-21 but when scaled to the standoff distances
required for the B-52 might be prohibitively large or costly for that platform as well.

So maybe a split-the-difference on signature reduction approach platform is useful. If that can't be the B-1 then
the BWB might be attractive.

"NONSTRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES: Moving beyond the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review"
 

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jsport

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In re-reading some of JHUAPL's publications on LRSO (they did some classified analysis for the Air Force on it),
they indicated that a earth penetrating warhead version of LRSO (penetration depth of 10 feet into hard rock)
might be physically too large for the bay constraints of B-2 or the B-21 but when scaled to the standoff distances
required for the B-52 might be prohibitively large or costly for that platform as well.

So maybe a split-the-difference on signature reduction approach platform is useful. If that can't be the B-1 then
the BWB might be attractive.

"NONSTRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES: Moving beyond the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review"
Thank you for doing the homework for us. The idea that the B-21 (likely expensive ) and smaller than the B-2 always seemed like a horrible idea.
 
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