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

rooster

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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.
Is it factually smaller than the "2"? Isn't the F22 smaller than the F15 by a smidge?
 

Forest Green

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The F-22 is marginally shorter but has a longer wingspan and far more wing area.
 

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.
Is it factually smaller than the "2"? Isn't the F22 smaller than the F15 by a smidge?
The issue. of course, is that a a BWB nearly the size of the B-52 (concepts were proposed) could come close to accomplishing the LRSO deep and hardened structure mission.
 

rooster

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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.
Is it factually smaller than the "2"? Isn't the F22 smaller than the F15 by a smidge?
The issue. of course, is that a a BWB nearly the size of the B-52 (concepts were proposed) could come close to accomplishing the LRSO deep and hardened structure mission.
Can the US mass produce and field hundreds of very large very LO BWB aircraft that can serve as tankers and bombers in different variants? I mean in terms of costs in large composite structures and maintaining stealth coatings? Or would they be hangar queens to maintain and bankrupt the USAF? Might be a dumb question to some of you I realize.
 

Foo Fighter

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It strikes me that removing a weapons platform is a simple thing. Replacing it is a whole new ball game and much more expensive.
 

Desertfox

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Can the US mass produce and field hundreds of very large very LO BWB aircraft that can serve as tankers and bombers in different variants? I mean in terms of costs in large composite structures and maintaining stealth coatings? Or would they be hangar queens to maintain and bankrupt the USAF? Might be a dumb question to some of you I realize.
Do they have to be LO if they are replacing KC-10s and B-52s? The B-21 already has the LO role, if they will just be missile trucks perhaps LO wont be as big of a need. A BWB should have a lower RCS just on shape alone over a B-52, Im sure adding a B-1B style treatment could really drop the RCS without significantly increasing cost.
 

rooster

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Can the US mass produce and field hundreds of very large very LO BWB aircraft that can serve as tankers and bombers in different variants? I mean in terms of costs in large composite structures and maintaining stealth coatings? Or would they be hangar queens to maintain and bankrupt the USAF? Might be a dumb question to some of you I realize.
Do they have to be LO if they are replacing KC-10s and B-52s? The B-21 already has the LO role, if they will just be missile trucks perhaps LO wont be as big of a need. A BWB should have a lower RCS just on shape alone over a B-52, Im sure adding a B-1B style treatment could really drop the RCS without significantly increasing cost.
I thought people were talking about a mass produced (100s) of very LO BWB craft. Is there a point in semi stealth like a superbug? When I hear aegis can track a golf ball at hundreds of miles, semi stealth seems like why even bother with today's radars?
 

_Del_

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Yes, there is. The lower your signature, the more effective your countermeasures.
 

marauder2048

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Building a missile truck BWB with B-1B like signature reduction is going to be justifiable if (and probably only if):

a. Campaign modeling shows a massive shortfall in strategic airlift that can't be mitigated (e.g. leasing/borrowing/boneyard)

and

b. Fuel probing tacair and buying/joint owning the MQ-25 and/or B-21 with buddy refueling system in the bomb bay is cost prohibitive

and

c. The target set for earth penetrating weapon posited above or similar (i.e. too large for B-21 but too costly to range extend to B-52s standoff reqs)
can't be serviced any other way.
 

kaiserd

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Can the US mass produce and field hundreds of very large very LO BWB aircraft that can serve as tankers and bombers in different variants? I mean in terms of costs in large composite structures and maintaining stealth coatings? Or would they be hangar queens to maintain and bankrupt the USAF? Might be a dumb question to some of you I realize.
Do they have to be LO if they are replacing KC-10s and B-52s? The B-21 already has the LO role, if they will just be missile trucks perhaps LO wont be as big of a need. A BWB should have a lower RCS just on shape alone over a B-52, Im sure adding a B-1B style treatment could really drop the RCS without significantly increasing cost.
I thought people were talking about a mass produced (100s) of very LO BWB craft. Is there a point in semi stealth like a superbug? When I hear aegis can track a golf ball at hundreds of miles, semi stealth seems like why even bother with today's radars?
It really goes back to the roles such an audience craft was intended for and the threats it was intended to survive against.
But I agree conceptually this all sounds somewhat muddled; why do these airlifter/ tankers need “semi-stealth” (pardon the terminology) while all your other airlifters and tankers lack this given the effect this will have on cost and capacity (for example necessarily buried engines eating into internal volume) - if every other tanker and airlifter is dead then are your logistics irretrievably broken anyway, how stealthy and survivable can any loitering taker with a flying boom be (does “semi-stealth” really offer much benefit versus the cost in this tanker scenario), in replacing the B-52 as a cruise missile carrier how much “stealth” is really required in the carrier aircraft (and depending on that answer why not just buy more B-21s) -how much should you instead build such aspects into its missiles (including longer range if required) etc.

BWB probably needs to sell itself as being a step change in pure tanker/ airlift capacity.
Trying to sell it on “stealth”/ LO given that, for example, it is likely to have great big exposed turbofan engines (or trade off a lot of its natural advantages by burying them in otherwise valuable and costly gained internal volume) sounds misconceived given that while it will likely be better in this regard than the conventional airliner or airlifter configurations it may not make that much difference and be all that more survivable.
 

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If that's the case then what country does have a 'go-to' bomber?

US
B-1, B-2, B-52

Russia
Tu-95, Tu-160

China
H-6
 

TomcatViP

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The argument here is that NONE OF both Tu-160 and H-6 have been used to the bones :rolleyes: by a decade of front-line deployment.

Edited (capitals).
 
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Foo Fighter

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If the B1 and the B2 are ageing, what the H is the B-52 doing? Starting at the beginning again?
 

rooster

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If the B1 and the B2 are ageing, what the H is the B-52 doing? Starting at the beginning again?
I think the issue from reading is the bones swing wings and cracks. Plus low altitude flight is rough in the thicker air.
The b2 i read is ageing very slowly because its basically a slow speed high altitude cruiser unlike the bone.
The b52 I imagine was over engineered in the days of slide rulers.
Does that sound right to anyone?
 

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If the B1 and the B2 are ageing, what the H is the B-52 doing? Starting at the beginning again?
I think the issue from reading is the bones swing wings and cracks. Plus low altitude flight is rough in the thicker air.
The b2 i read is ageing very slowly because its basically a slow speed high altitude cruiser unlike the bone.
The b52 I imagine was over engineered in the days of slide rulers.
Does that sound right to anyone?
The B-52 is going to get the engine upgrade that it has been needing for years, I have seen two adverts in this month’s Combat Aircraft from Pratt and Whitney and General Electric.
 

Foo Fighter

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I imagine the replacement of spars etc would be a pretty phenomenal investment which is a shame imho. A long range high altitude stand off support platform could be useful
 

kaiserd

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I imagine the replacement of spars etc would be a pretty phenomenal investment which is a shame imho. A long range high altitude stand off support platform could be useful
Isn’t that exactly what the B-52H still is? :)
 

Foo Fighter

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I have no real idea of just WHAT they are planning for the BUFF but I doubt long range high altitude stand off for strike aircraft is part of the mix. I thought they wanted it for striking secondary and low defencive ability ground targets with iron bombs. As they have done for some time now.
 

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I have no real idea of just WHAT they are planning for the BUFF but I doubt long range high altitude stand off for strike aircraft is part of the mix. I thought they wanted it for striking secondary and low defencive ability ground targets with iron bombs. As they have done for some time now.
B-52s haven't been dropping dumb bombs in years. I think 1991 was probably the last gasp for "carpet bombing" with iron bombs. For quite a while, they were limited to the weapons they could hang externally (mostly JASSM and JDAM) but they've been improving internal carriage of smart weapons over the last few years. Not a match for the B-1 but much better than the past.
 

Foo Fighter

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Thank you, I must try harder to stay up to date.
 

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I have no real idea of just WHAT they are planning for the BUFF but I doubt long range high altitude stand off for strike aircraft is part of the mix. I thought they wanted it for striking secondary and low defencive ability ground targets with iron bombs. As they have done for some time now.
My understanding is that the B-52 hasn’t routinely flown at low altitude for decades (at least in actual combat; a low altitude capacity probably being maintained via training).
It been a medium-to-high altitude bomb-truck and stand-off missile carrier.
As has the B-1B but it’s only just got back into the (conventional only) cruise missile carrier role. And the B-1B is not any more suited to a high altitude role than the B-52 (arguably it’s the B-1B that is substantially more tailored to the low altitude role).
 

Foo Fighter

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Thank you,I shall conside rmyself better informed. Did they change the engines from the A to the B models of the Bone?
 

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Thank you,I shall conside rmyself better informed. Did they change the engines from the A to the B models of the Bone?
No, the engines didn't really change. The intakes did, going from variable-geometry supersonic ones to fixed intakes with radar-blocking vanes. This reduced RCS at the expense of high supersonic performance.
 

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I have no real idea of just WHAT they are planning for the BUFF but I doubt long range high altitude stand off for strike aircraft is part of the mix. I thought they wanted it for striking secondary and low defencive ability ground targets with iron bombs. As they have done for some time now.
My understanding is that the B-52 hasn’t routinely flown at low altitude for decades (at least in actual combat; a low altitude capacity probably being maintained via training).
It been a medium-to-high altitude bomb-truck and stand-off missile carrier.
As has the B-1B but it’s only just got back into the (conventional only) cruise missile carrier role. And the B-1B is not any more suited to a high altitude role than the B-52 (arguably it’s the B-1B that is substantially more tailored to the low altitude role).
Aren't the engines in the buff basically the same as the starfighter? Along with a much bigger wing, I've heard from buff pilots (now automotive engineers) they could fly upwards of 60k feet. I don't think the bone could do that. I was told they built the buff to fly that high because when it was designed it was going to drop bombs with megatons of energy and needed the altitude for the crew or airplane to survive. The B is heavier than the A right? That and the small wing, seems like it can't fly very high when loaded up.

Bombs are a lot less energetic from my understanding. We aren't dropping 5 megaton bombs from spirits or whatever the yields were in the 50s 60s.
 

mkellytx

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B-52s haven't been dropping dumb bombs in years. I think 1991 was probably the last gasp for "carpet bombing" with iron bombs. For quite a while, they were limited to the weapons they could hang externally (mostly JASSM and JDAM) but they've been improving internal carriage of smart weapons over the last few years. Not a match for the B-1 but much better than the past.
During OEF BUFF's were dropping Mk117's from the bays on concentrations of troops.

Actually, the BUFF carries more types of guided weapons than the Bone, namely it can carry LGB's which were never qualified on the Bone (other the laser JDAM). The main difference lately is 1760 in the bay which increases the number of JDAM's the BUFF can carry, 20 2,000 bombs versus 24 for the Bone.
 

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My understanding is that the B-52 hasn’t routinely flown at low altitude for decades (at least in actual combat; a low altitude capacity probably being maintained via training).
It been a medium-to-high altitude bomb-truck and stand-off missile carrier.
The last hooray for low level in the BUFF was 1991, it's fallen out of fashion now in the CAF. Out at Edwards we still maintained currency and I quite often flew low levels on proficiency missions back in the day...

kaiserd said:
As has the B-1B but it’s only just got back into the (conventional only) cruise missile carrier role. And the B-1B is not any more suited to a high altitude role than the B-52 (arguably it’s the B-1B that is substantially more tailored to the low altitude role).
The Bone is decidedly less capable of high altitude than the BUFF, smaller wings and higher bypass engines make it struggle above 30 kft. The BUFF is perfectly happy anywhere in the 30's, although lack of RVSM keeps them below 30 in national airspace usually.
 

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Aren't the engines in the buff basically the same as the starfighter? Along with a much bigger wing, I've heard from buff pilots (now automotive engineers) they could fly upwards of 60k feet. I don't think the bone could do that. I was told they built the buff to fly that high because when it was designed it was going to drop bombs with megatons of energy and needed the altitude for the crew or airplane to survive. The B is heavier than the A right? That and the small wing, seems like it can't fly very high when loaded up.

Bombs are a lot less energetic from my understanding. We aren't dropping 5 megaton bombs from spirits or whatever the yields were in the 50s 60s.
The A-G model BUFF's all used versions of the J57 which was on the F-100 and F-102, these were straight turbojets and were quite happy at high altitudes and Mach numbers. The H's went to TF33's which are a low bypass turbofan, basically a fan in front of a J57 core (over simplification, but good enough description). The H's start to struggle up in the 40's due to the turbofans, which don't like high altitudes and high Mach numbers, and because they're limited to .86 M. Prior to putting all of those bumps and blisters on the nose the BUFF was a .92 M aircraft, after all that stuff got there it messed up the pitot static system so it got limited to .86 M. FWIW I've been in an H at .92 M and 390 KCAS to drop a MALD, but we had a pacer aircraft to make sure that we didn't exceed either. Basically we started at 23 kft and .92 M and descended until we hit 390 KCAS.

Generally the BUFF's wouldn't fly above 50 kft since the regs required wearing pressure suits, the older A-G's probably could go higher than 50 kft, but in practice rarely would.

FWIW I helped mission plan the X-51 drops and to get the plane up close to 50kft we had to keep the plane dangerously light to get up that high.
 

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I bet they had to be careful not exceed mach 1 in a shallow dive in those old models! What was the reason for the engine change? Sounds like it got worse performance with a lower altitude and cruise speed. Even if range was somewhat improved the original range was great. I am just a former civilian private pilot and my wish was always for more performance than range. But I suppose with cruise speeds of 130kts one always wants more speed!! And yes heard about pressure suits needed as the one guy flew early models when talking about high altitude capability. Its hard to tell with some guys if they are embellishing. What was the weight of a loaded x15? Was it more or less than the heavy nukes they carried? And what about the weight all being on one wing? Did they compensate with fuel distribution? Plus having all the drag from the x15 on just one side. Wonder if they had to use a lot of rudder.
 
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NeilChapman

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From the article.

"Those who question the cost of investment in a strong bomber force should instead consider the cost of a bomber gap. In an era where peer competitors are posing risks the U.S. has not had to consider since the Cold War, the consequences could be severe. "


Isn't the issue that the B-1 MCR has already created a bomber gap? There are supposed to be 62 B-1's, with a MCR of 80%. Does that not equate to ~48 B-1's ready to fight tonight? But that's not the case. There are projected service life ratings for the lower wing surface, wing carry, forward and aft fuselage, etc, and in June, the Air Force said it was conducting an extensive engineering review of the B-1 fleet. This should help it determine what workloads and timelines are needed to get back to full capacity and some understanding of service life left. This jockeying seems to be laying the groundwork for that reports release. e.g. All that is proposed in that report.

Who doesn't support maintaining the current number of B-1 bomber squadrons if possible? Other than obsolescence or safety, I don't understand upgrading airframes that will be available for less than a few years after they exit the upgrade program. It is documented that maintaining aircraft fleets of less than 150 is disproportionately expensive. If B-21 production will produce possibly 50 or even 30 B-21's by 2030 and 8-10 per year ($5b-$7b) after, then what is the case to upgrade all B-1's? It will make no sense to anyone to spend upgrade money on B-1's once B-21's and hypersonics become operational, especially with the bow wave of new aircraft acquisition costs in the early 2030's - including PCA btw. It seems more reasonable to focus on achieving then maintaining 80% MCR for the next 7 years.
 
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