back to article Northrop wins $55bn contract for next-gen bomber – as America says bye-bye to B-52

The US Department of Defense has announced that Northrup Grumman will be supplying its next generation of Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to replace the aging B-52 and B-2 fleets. Youtube video "Over the past century, no nation has used air power to accomplish its global reach -- to compress time and space -- like the United …

  1. Sampler

    Why not give the money to NASA

    And then if any enemy pops up use them to nuke it form orbit, it's the only way to be sure..

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Why not give the money to NASA

      Space based weapon systems are specifically forbidden by international treaty.

      1. Google
        Mushroom

        Re: Why not give the money to NASA

        Though the US is not too keen on it.

        The Space Preservation Treaty was a proposed 2006 UN General Assembly resolution against all space weapons. Only the United States of America voted against the treaty, with Israel abstaining.

        The resolution No first placement of weapons in outer space, which emphasizes the prevention of an arms race in space and that "other measures could contribute to ensuring that weapons were not placed in outer space." 126 countries voted in favor to 4 against (Georgia, Israel, Ukraine, United States),

        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militarisation_of_space#Outer_Space_Treaty

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Why not give the money to NASA

        Space based weapon systems weapons of mass destruction are specifically forbidden by international treaty.

        It is within the bounds of the Outer Space Treaty to develop space-based platforms using conventional weapons, which would presumably allow a country to place a large mass in orbit and simply nudge it down onto the heads of whomever that country happened to be having an argument with at the time. I would prefer that this loophole be closed as I would not want the chance of falling rocks to be included in my local weather report, but it seems to be on the table.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Why not give the money to NASA

          which would presumably allow a country to place a large mass in orbit and simply nudge it down onto the heads of whomever that country happened to be having an argument with at the time.

          A set of smaller masses which resist ablation and can reach earth surface. No explosive necessary. Several hundred ceramic slabs hitting the ground at a few hundred m/sec can deliver a combined energy of a decent size nuke.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Why not give the money to NASA

            I'll just leave this here

          2. Random Yayhoo

            Re: Why not give the money to NASA

            No. The energy dissipated by the projectiles must be less than the fuel required to give them that energy...call it 100t of hydrazine at the upper limit of a large ICBM. The tiniest nukes generally admitted have yields of 1kton of TNT, which equates to around the same mass of Hydrazine. Yes, spreading the effects broadly is more efficient. But the dissipation of energy in reentry drops that right back to a fraction of the original 100t....IOW, no nuke.

            PS a "decent" nuke means typically 100-200kton TNT equivalent. The figure is higher for most nuclear gravity bombs.

            1. Random Yayhoo

              correction, energy

              Meant to say not the mass but the chemical energy available in mass of the given propellant, e.g. in hydrazine.

            2. Vic

              Re: Why not give the money to NASA

              The energy dissipated by the projectiles must be less than the fuel required to give them that energy

              Sure - but it's not about the energy. There's plenty of that, even if it's less than a nuke.

              The weapon is effective because you don't see a boost phase - that might have happened years before. One little retro rocket on an orbital vehicle and you've got a super-fast strike with almost no notice...

              Vic.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Why not give the money to NASA

        > Space based weapon systems are specifically forbidden by international treaty.

        Someone still thinks "international treaty" is in force.

        The US alone has raped "international treaty" so hard in the last two decades (and with impunity) that its ears are bleeding.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Why not give the money to NASA

          Even the US isn't brazen/stupid enough to risk a spacebased weapons system race with Russia and/or China. The whole MAD strategy goes out the window if you or your opponent can launch a strike that lands in minutes, well before you can properly react. This stuff wasn't just shelved because it was a bad idea. It was such a bad idea that even the US and USSR realised it was a Bad Idea™.

    2. Sampler

      Re: Why not give the money to NASA

      erm...all those replying with serious comments on space based weapon treaties do realise I was just quoting Aliens right?

      I find the whole rather hypocritical, we're going to spend an unimaginable amount of money on planes to kill people over resources rather than fund flying out into space where unimaginable amounts of resources exist..

  2. ElectricFox
    Mushroom

    replace the aging B-52 and B-2 fleets?

    I don't see this paying its way in asymetrical warfare, and I'd hate to be a GI in a war where such capabilities were really needed....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: replace the aging B-52 and B-2 fleets?

      No, you would hate to be a GI trying to knock out, say, a clandestine nuclear weapons installation from the ground. We have our version of asymetrical warfare, you see.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Bleu

        Re: replace the agわing B-52 and B-2 fleets?

        Clandestine nuclear weapons facility?

        Only one around is called Dimona.

        Fat chance of the USA bombing that any time soon, let alone acknowledging that it exists.

        Not that I am saying it should be bombed, only that their bomb-making should be shut down.

        Nuclear-weapons free Middle East?

        What a joke, and their USA colony sabotages any diplomacy to that end.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: replace the aging B-52 and B-2 fleets?

          Clandestine nuclear weapons facility?

          Only one around is called Dimona.

          "Clandestine" rather implies that you don't know whether there are others.

          (Which is not to say that I'm necessarily in favor of spending billions of dollars on new bombers, mind. It's a complicated area, in technical, political, social, and ethical dimensions, and somehow I don't expect a few sentences in an online forum are going to contribute anything significant to the discussion.)

  3. Herby Silver badge

    Just remember...

    The current fleet of B52's are typically older than the flight crews that actually fly them. Many of the original airframes date from the 50's or 60's. Something needs to be done, and it will cost $$$. Of course, they could modify a 767 airliner and add bomb bay doors, and it might just work. That would be too simple.

    1. IvyKing
      Mushroom

      Re: Just remember...

      A modified 767 probably would not work, being low wing, the wing box is in precisely the place you want the bomb bay to be. There's a reason that the big bombers such as the B-36, B-47 and B-52 had high wings. The 767 airframe was not designed the take the stresses of combat flight. Finally, the big fans on the 767 engines make really nice radar reflectors.

      The newest B-52 airframes rolled out of the Boeing doors in 1962, although the avionics have been replaced many times since then.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Just remember...

        I wouldn't want a replica, but I wonder how a Vulcan-shape would work as a design starting point.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Just remember...

          "I wonder how a Vulcan-shape would work as a design starting point."

          Badly.

          It doesn't have the carrying capacity for high level bombing and it's not strong enough for the turbulence encountered in sustained low level operations (which is what eventually forced them to be retired)

          Vulcans were obsolete within 3 years of their introduction. Ever since then the missions they were given were ways of justifying keeping them flying.

          1. Vic

            Re: Just remember...

            it's not strong enough for the turbulence encountered in sustained low level operations

            The Vulcan was pretty good at low-level ops; it was the Victor that couldn't handle the stress. So they were converted into tankers.

            There was concern about stress-cracking in the wings, so a modification was developed to patch the wing root after a certain number of flying hours. Only one Vulcan was ever actually patched - XH558, and that just a couple of years ago.

            Vulcans were obsolete within 3 years of their introduction

            Well, I spent some time with Martin Withers last year, and he doesn't agree with you.

            Vic.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Vic

          Re: Just remember...

          I wouldn't want a replica, but I wonder how a Vulcan-shape would work as a design starting point.

          Looks good so far. You can see how it performs in the (short) documentary on the airframe here.

          Vic.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Just remember...

      At one point back in the 70's, Ithere was much discussion about re-opening the line at Boeing and rolling out new B-52's. as the bomb weight and the range were needed. The cost of re-tooling the line was prohibitive. Per Wikipedia, they will probably be in the inventory until around 2040.

      The B2 can carry about half the bomb load of the B-52 but can carry the "bigger bombs" that the 52 can't carry and flies faster and higher. As it is now, there's only 21 B-2's even though more were proposed.

      I imagine this new plane will be very stealthy, very fast, and carry less of a load. Unless it ends up like the F-35...

      1. Fazal Majid

        Re: Just remember...

        The cost was prohibitive because Boeing would rather sell $800M bombers than $55M ones, and invented excuses. The whole concept of advanced manned bombers is as archaic as battleships or horse cavalry. The Russians can shoot them down whenever they want, and you don't need the fancy tech to bomb the likes of ISIS, just a cheap, cost-effective warhorse like the B-52.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Just remember...

          The cost was prohibitive because the development costs for a 100 aircraft programme became spread over 21 aircraft when some bright spark decided they needed to make cost savings. Once you've done the R&D you don't save much, if any, by cutting back on the production run. A lesson the bean counters on either side of the Atlantic seemingly refuse to learn.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Just remember...

        "I imagine this new plane will be very stealthy, very fast, and carry less of a load. "

        And it's probably there will be less than 21 of them, even though 90% of the cost is in R&D, not manufacture.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. naive

      Re: Just remember...

      I would hate to see them go, my earliest memory of them is the footage on the 8 o'clock news, where they were bombing the hell out of commies in Vietnam, for me the B52 is the image of American power, probably like the Iowa's were to an earlier generation. The 8 JT3D (a.k.a. TF33) engines make great sound, i miss them since the Greentards banned them for use on the nearby commercial airport some 25 years ago. If there was a Nobel prize for engineering, the engineers at Boeing designing the B52 and the 707 (KC-135 and Awacs) would have been awarded with it, since both airframes are both still in use 60 years after conception, same goes for the engineers at P&W designing the JT3D (TF33) engines.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just remember...

        where they were bombing the hell out of commies in Vietnam

        Ineffectually, whilst also raining napalm on civilians, and spraying dioxins all over the environment in the bizarre defoliation programme.

        for me the B52 is the image of American power,

        Errr... the US was kicked out of Vietnam, so that's not really a good image of American power, is it? And arguably the B52 plus B1 and B2 didn't stop the US getting kicked out of Afghanistan or Iraq (ignoring the token forces still there), didn't help deter the Russians in Ukraine, and have been largely ineffectual in defeating IS. On the basis of the evidence, the new bomber is a pointless piece of military bling, a bit like the Ford class carriers and my own country's QE class carriers.

        Now, given that the US government spend more than they take in tax, to the tune of $10,000 dollars per second, or thereabouts, how will they afford this new toy?

        http://www.usdebtclock.org/

        I'm sorry if this comes across as anti-US, it isn't intended to be. Your and my government have virtually indistinguishably stupid foreign and defence policies, and because both of our countries have entrenched political classes they repeat the same expensive mistakes time and again, whilst enthusiastically spending money that our children will have to repay (in addition to any student debt our kids may start their careers soaked in). Spending money on assets that really defend your interests is a good thing. Spending money on exporting death-from-the-sky to distant lands doesn't pass that test in my book.

        1. MondoMan
          Mushroom

          Re: B52s/B2s...

          Actually, B52s and B2s are quite effective when used properly, as in the 2001 air attacks that helped drive the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan. The big bombers are able to loiter for many hours at high altitudes out of range of guns and portable AA missiles, providing on-demand precision bombing using the (relatively) ridiculously cheap GPS-guided JDAMs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: B52s/B2s...

            as in the 2001 air attacks that helped drive the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan

            Up to a point and temporarily, as it now appears.

            I would agree that the air force softened up and supported, but the only reason that the Taliban were temporarily removed from power was actually the grunts on the ground taking and holding territory. About 5,000 allied soldiers didn't come back, and in excess of 20,000 were wounded, which shows the limits of air power even for the richest country on the planet, with the most heavily armed and technologically advanced military on the planet.

            Doesn't look like all that high glamour air power was too effective fighting against a bunch of bearded rag heads, mostly armed with improvised explosive devices, carrying a light machine gun designed seventy years ago, and some propelled grenades designed fifty five years ago.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: B52s/B2s...

              Ledswinger is correct.

              Airpower can suppress opposition but ground forces are needed to drive them out and political will is needed to keep them out. You can't indefinitely occupy a country whose inhabitants don't _want_ to be occupied and you don't win hearts and minds by dropping bombs on some bystander's family (on the other hand, doing so is one of the best recruiting tools for terrorists that exists)

              1. Fatman Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: B52s/B2s...

                Alan,

                I wish more people understood what you do. For the PowerPoint educated masses, allow me to """bullet point""" what you have said:

                1) Airpower can suppress opposition but

                2) ground forces are needed to drive them out and

                3) political will is needed to keep them out. (Didn't the USofA get schooled in that lesson in VietNam?)

                4) You can't indefinitely occupy a country whose inhabitants don't _want_ to be occupied and (Soviets in Afghanistan?)

                5) you don't win hearts and minds by dropping bombs on some bystander's family (again USofA in Iraq and Afghanistan)

                6) (on the other hand, doing so is one of the best recruiting tools for terrorists that exists) case in point: ISIS

                What is a shame is the USofA's BIG DICK military mentality.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: B52s/B2s...

                  1) Airpower can suppress opposition but

                  The opposition comes from your own voters.

                  Stealth aircraft look cool and you don't get many dead pilots if you stay high enough.

                  2) ground forces are needed to drive them out and

                  Why would you want to drvie them out, good enemies are hard to find these days.

                  3) political will is needed to keep them out.

                  Commies are funny now and since we have fracking we don't even want to keep them out of countries that have oil

                  4) You can't indefinitely occupy a country whose inhabitants don't _want_ to be occupied and (Soviets in Afghanistan?)

                  That's why the Brits always split the country and let them fight each other - works for centuries.

                  5) you don't win hearts and minds by dropping bombs on some bystander's family

                  Only hearts and minds of congress matter. As long as you build the bomber in their constituency they will support you.

                  6) (on the other hand, doing so is one of the best recruiting tools for terrorists that exists) case in point: ISIS

                  ISIS mostly kill other people that we would be killing. We will get round to re-doing the terrorist league tables next year.

                  1. Youngone Silver badge

                    Re: B52s/B2s...

                    @ YAAC

                    You make the very good point: Only hearts and minds of congress matter. As long as you build the bomber in their constituency they will support you.

                    The point here is not to build bombers, the point here is to provide pork to the right Congressmen's constituency.

                    If some bombers come out of the programme, that will be a nice bonus.

                    1. Bleu

                      Re: B52s/B2s...

                      and ridiculously expensive, *if* it is made, it will be in very small numbers, and make no difference to the plans to maintain B-52s until the middle of this century.

                      Pork indeed.

            2. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: B52s/B2s...

              Doesn't look like all that high glamour air power was too effective fighting against a bunch of bearded rag heads, mostly armed with improvised explosive devices, carrying a light machine gun designed seventy years ago, and some propelled grenades designed fifty five years ago.

              Yep.. that's why the grunts love the A-10 for air support. The B's are strategic and use them for tactical just doesn't make any sense. It's like tossing a nuke when a hand grenade will do the job.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Just remember...

          Ineffectually, whilst also raining napalm on civilians, and spraying dioxins all over the environment in the bizarre defoliation programme.

          Ah.. no. I was there. Attack aircraft did napalm for the most part. C-130's did the Agent Orange as you needed something low and slow for that.

          However, I do agree with the rest of this.

        3. PaulFrederick

          Re: Just remember...

          Do not mistake the USA withdrawing from conflicts with us being kicked out. We leave when we want to leave, and not before. No one has ever kicked us out of anywhere. At least not permanently.

        4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Just remember...

          Errr... the US was kicked out of Vietnam, so that's not really a good image of American power, is it?

          Well, if by "good" you mean "accurate"...

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Crew

    The lack of mention about the new aircraft being uncrewed must mean that it will be supervised by a sack of meat. The big question is: Why?

    You need lots of systems to keep the sack of meat alive, and it's not very good PR back home when you loose a sack of meat. If this is a long range bomber, the sack of meat is going to have a real dull job for the flight out and back watching the autopilot.

    Why can't you use a drone or a cruise misisile?

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Crew

      You can pin a medal on a pilot, but an award for bravery/service looks more plausible if they were in the plane at the time.

      Oh, and situational awareness, electronic warfare and other reasons.

    2. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: Crew

      Because you don't want a computer making the final decision about whether or not to release potentially nuclear ordnance, A Non e-mouse.

      Drones can be jammed. If they have to be sent up against a technologically advanced country like Russia, there is a non-trivial chance their command systems can actually be spoofed, allowing the enemy to turn them back on you, or at least give them orders to (a) nosedive into the ground, or (b) turn off their radio and land at an enemy airbase to be captured properly. Hell, some asshole in Iraq with a laptop figured out how to tap into the video feeds from the damn things.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: some asshole in Iraq

        Obviously, were he an American tapping into Russian drones, he'd be a hero instead.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: some asshole in Iraq

          As opposed to some French Asshole Pascal? Your anti-American pro-Islamist slip is showing

    3. MondoMan

      Re: Crew

      They will be able to fly without crew, but having the ability to crew them is a requirement for missions like nuclear strikes.

      1. elDog Silver badge

        Re: Crew

        @MondoMan - I'll accept your explanation at face value.

        The first reason that came to my mind for having crew on board was to have someone to blame if the nuklear weapon were to be dropped on the wrong city, the wrong country. Can't be blaming the upper chain of command, can we?

        1. MondoMan

          Re: Crew

          Well, it WOULD be embarrassing if the Chinese and Russian hackers promptly took over the new bomber fleet to attack Ukraine/attack anyone who sails the South China Sea. Presumably, there will be a hard-wired switch for manual mode.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Crew

        >but having the ability to crew them is a requirement for missions like nuclear strikes

        We salute the brave pilots of our ICBMs

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. DougS Silver badge

      The only reason they're crewed

      Is because the guys making these decisions used to fly planes and think you need people to fly a plane, because it devalues their career if computers can do their job now. They might reluctantly support drones for boring stuff you don't get medals for like surveillance, but they'll insist to their dying breath that fighters and bombers will always need to be manned.

      Remove the meatbags and you can fly above any clouds. Then you can communicate with them via laser from our satellite network and you don't need to worry about hacking or jamming. They can operate pretty autonomously, you upload a flight plan and they'll go there. No need for constant communication, basically tell them where to go and someone has to make the call to release their bombs or not when they get there.

      They'll be too high for fighters to bother them, and could be far more maneuverable not having to worry about human issues with G force so they can do a better job of evading missiles etc. Because they could be made so much cheaper you don't even have to care if you lose a few, since you could fly ten for the cost of one of these gold plated human rated bombers.

      1. Vic

        Re: The only reason they're crewed

        Remove the meatbags and you can fly above any clouds

        Manned aircraft routinely fly above any clouds. Clouds typically form up to 40,000ft. The Vulcan - from 1952 - has a ceiling height of 55,000ft.

        They'll be too high for fighters to bother them, and could be far more maneuverable not having to worry about human issues with G force

        Typhoon has a service ceiling of 65,000ft. Flying higher than that is going to be pretty tricky for a bomber - the air is a bit thin for the wings to generate much lift. The B-2, for example, has a service ceiling of 50,000ft. And maneuvrability is far more about the bending moments on the airframe from the high masses carried; fighters are limited by their crew's G-capability, but bombers aren't...

        Because they could be made so much cheaper you don't even have to care if you lose a few

        The cost of the airframe is more about building the airframe and putting engines in it; making drone versions of these aircraft is unlikely to make them any cheaper. There's no difference to the R&D cost, there's a small reduction in the price of not having to have a pressurised aircraft (it doesn't need quite so much hoop strength), there's a tiny reduction in not having to contain the (cheap) life-support kit for the crew, and there's a large increase in having to have resilient comms/nav kit. I reckon the price will be pretty much equal.

        Vic.

  5. s5PGmU
    Black Helicopters

    America's bottom line

    "The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation's security company's profits," said Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman.

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Direct energy weapons

    They can barely get direct energy weapons working well enough on ships. So why do they think they can get them working in the weight, size & power constrained space in an aircraft?

    Do they really think they'll crack this problem in the next decade? How much time & money did the American's waste/spend on their Star Wars/SDI program?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Direct energy weapons

      These are specialized DEWs.

      OK, really they're just laser pointers, in case we get invaded by Space Cats.

  7. ShadowDragon8685

    I just hope they don't pull the same retarded crap they pulled with the F-22, where they get way into development, then Congress decides it's costing too much and cuts their order number... Which OF COURSE means the price-per-unit goes up, so you don't wind up spending less money, you wind up spending the same amount of money on less materiel.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      I hope you don't believe that $55 billion number

      Something like this that is that far out will triple or quadruple in price even before the order number is cut. The real problem is that we are building gold plated bombers because we think there's a need for them to be crewed.

      Meanwhile opponents like Russia and China that build next gen bombers will build them at 1/10th the price because they won't be manned, they'll fly higher (above the clouds) because of the lack of the crew and their life support / protection systems and thus be harder to shoot down, and they'll communicate with them via lasers from overhead satellites so you don't need to worry about jamming, spoofing or hacking.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    So...

    Instead of spending money on getting us *off* the planet, the DoD would prefer to spend it on making the place potentially uninhabitable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...Neil Barnes

      So, you would rather that other nations have the upper hand in the Nuclear weapon delivery arena? The moniker DoD, is rather definitive of it's purpose and mindset isn't it? Department of DEFENSE? Perhaps you are looking for NASA

      Please tell us who you favor to have improved bombers?

      The Iranians with Russian supplied bombers or Iranian made Ballistic Missiles?

      Or just the expansionist Russians with their direct use of bombers and missiles?

      Or perhaps North Korea with their Ballistic Missiles?

      1. Santa from Exeter
        FAIL

        Re: So...Neil Barnes @ AC

        Defense, as in defending Murica's "right" to impose their retarded values globally?

        1. MondoMan
          Trollface

          Re: So...Neil Barnes @ AC

          Everyone is free to try and stop our activities, but nobody except the Chinese and Russians seems to be willing to pay to play. Is it true the new British carriers will be "armed" only with Amazon delivery drones? :)

    2. PaulFrederick

      Re: So...

      We have already proved that humans aren't worth the lift cost to get them off the planet. Although if you disagree you are free to get yourself off the planet using your own funds. Bear in mind that the most inhospitable place on Earth is still far better than anywhere else in the neighborhood. So I really don't know where you think you can go.

  9. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...packed with the latest technology..."

    Define 'latest'.

    It'll be packed with specific PNs as listed on the proposal, as defined in about 2013. So they'll be at least 12 year old technology by first flight in 2025, likely delayed till 2032. Obsolete at first flight.

    If humans were smarter, the Contract folks would have figured out by now how to have a funded tech refresh/insertion at the last possible month in the design phase. But they're not.

    If humans were smarter, they'd design in more flexibility in how the avionics are installed. IT folks have standardized 19" racks, plug a box in in ten minutes. Installing a box into an airplane requires months, 'OMG, we'll need power for this shelf spot...' Cringe-worthy lack of 'larger picture' cleverness.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

      You've never heard of "gold-plating" then in the defense industry? It's where halfway (and even later) in the design and testing process that specs start changing. Things get added, mission gets changed, etc. The added cost becomes the infamous "cost overruns".

    2. TheWeenie

      Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

      If humans were smarter, we probably wouldn't need to spend $55bn on bombers in the first place.

      1. PaulFrederick

        Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

        Unfortunately most folks in this world are not too bright. So we have to bomb some sense into them sometimes. Who have we ever intentionally bombed that didn't really deserve it?

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

      There are standards for avionics, shockingly, the issue is you don't want lots of redundant wiring in an aircraft if you can avoid it as it takes away from the available payload, be that fuel, passengers or weapons.

      As for a tech refresh in the last possible month in the design phase, they probably did, it can take a few years to fully assess the tenders once they're in on such a complex programme. You don't want to be too cutting edge or you'll end up with an F-35 style FUBAR.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

        The "cutting edge fubar" with the F35 isn't the technology, it's the lifting fan which necessitates a tubby body to hold it and stubby wings to keep the weight down, imposed on the non-VSTOL versions.

        It's a classic example of a horse designed by committee.

        It seems that lessons learned from the F111-B (which gave us the F14/15/16) were never learned (or that the lesson taken home by some was "make sure it's so embedded that they _can't_ cancel it")

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

        "There are standards for avionics, shockingly..."

        The nice thing about standards is that there are so many from which to choose.

        "...you don't want lots of redundant wiring in an aircraft if you can avoid it as it takes away from the available payload..."

        You only put in the "redundant" (sic) wiring that any idiot can foresee will be required. You just put it in early to make your life easier down the road.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

          'You only put in the "redundant" (sic) wiring that any idiot can foresee will be required. You just put it in early to make your life easier down the road.'

          The B-52 has been in service for over 50 years, if you can see that far into the future for wiring requirements could you tell me next year's grand national winner?

          Incidentally the lift fan on the F-35 was a known compromise, the FUBAR is the data fusion on the sensors which has not gone to plan. The lag on the helmet's synthetic vision (lets you see through the floor) makes you wonder how Oculus Rift do it.

    4. Dave Hilling

      Re: "...packed with the latest technology..."

      They have a lot more standards than people realize. They commonly have civilian equipment buses that are very similar to airline comm buses called ARINC-429, and many military airplanes even use many of the same radios etc between planes. Aircraft are most definitely moving to a more open standard even between models because believe it or not these companies do understand how cost conscious the government is getting with these designs, sadly much of the cost craziness these programs incur is government created IE the 3 models of F-35, or cutting B-2 production to 21 airframes, or cutting the F-22 to 140 airframes vs the 700+ original order. R&D especially for advanced aircraft is expensive, supposedly much of the LRS-B tech is already created and there are rumors in the industry that both Boeing and Northrop flew demonstrators during the competition and personally I wouldnt be surprised if thats true as most of the tech needed this time around already exists or is very far in development.

      20 Years Air Force F-16, C-130, C-5, and C-17 avionics technician.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    More pork for the taking

    $55 billion ? $80 billion ?

    Why stop at 80 ? Make it an even 150 by the time all is said and one.

    This is typically the kind of project where things can really get out of hand, and nobody is really able to stop it.

    I look forward to seeing the reports on this project's progress. The Northrop Grumman board is probably looking forward to renewing their fleet of personal Learjets (at that level, a Mercedes is pocket change).

    1. Mike Richards

      Re: More pork for the taking

      Heres a sobering thought - even if it goes to $150 billion, it'll be pocket change compared to the F-35 programme.

      1. Dave Hilling

        Re: More pork for the taking

        In many ways an unfair comparison when you consider the total amount of airframes being built. Lockheed has already delivered over 150 F-35s and the number over its life could go well over 2000 vs the 100ish B-3s

    2. ravenviz

      Re: More pork for the taking

      "First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?"

      SR Hadden, Contact (1997)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: More pork for the taking

        When it comes to spacecraft and the like, the cost of 2 is about 0.5% more than the cost of one.

        When you're making a few hundred prototypes (which they do) the final item (singular) hardware cost is pure accounting noise.

        For that reason (amongst others), a complete spare set is ALWAYS made unless it's a production line-craft such as Boeing's geostationary comsats (and in that case 90% of the craft is available as off-the-shelf spares anyway)

  11. Efros

    Farewell to the BUFFs

    I remember seeing a couple of these take off a long time ago, my god were they noisy. Their acronym nickname was adopted almost universally although it's full meaning tended not to be used apart from the U rated Big Ugly Fat Fellows... Fellows... yeah right.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Farewell to the BUFFs

      Australian pilots called it "the pig" - because it handled like one as well as the "vark" bit of the name.

  12. MartG

    What do folk reckon the chances are of this project surviving long enough to reach service ? Hostory indicates that the next change of administration will probably see it cancelled, then perhaps restarted under a different name at an even greater cost and delay

  13. Andrew Newstead

    A few comments

    I've read the above with interest but I wonder if many commentards have actually read the reports and releases that have been circulated in the last few days. A few points I have picked up on.

    1. The aircraft is not being seen as a big tech driver (in the same way as F35). The thinking is that USAF "really" needs these and doesn't want a big development holdup developing new tech.

    2. The aircraft is being designed so that new tech can be added later, as it is developed. They are calling this an "open architecture", a "black box" aeroplane (not a particularly new trick, this is how the Tornado GR1 became the Tornado GR4).

    3. Northrop apparantly got this gig based on the work done on two previous projects, The B2 stealth bomber and a very secret recce drone that seems to be in operation. Don't know much about the drone (obviously...) but the tech developed for the B2 would obviously be applicable without much change.

    4. USAF has put a lot of effort and resource in up front during the competition between Northrop and Boeing/Lockheed to ensure the proposals would be mature enough to proceed to the next stage without compomising the aims of the project, a new bomber aircraft within the stated budget.

    5. The individual flyaway cost of the aircraft is aimmed at being less that than that of the B2, whether it makes it of not is a moot point of course.

    For reference;

    http://aviationweek.com/defense/lrs-b-why-northrop-grumman-won-next-us-bomber?NL=AW-05&Issue=AW-05_20151028_AW-05_970&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1&utm_rid=CPEN1000001529824&utm_campaign=4155&utm_medium=email&elq2=f7479ce6bf80427eb8b8ba998f6da578

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: A few comments

      How dare you come and comment here with all your so called facts. This place is for unsubstantiated here-say and biased non-fact based commentard opinion.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: A few comments

        This place is for unsubstantiated here-say and biased non-fact based commentard opinion.

        It's "hearsay". As in "hear and say".

        But yeah. Some people just insist on injecting some signal into the noise. If this keeps up some of us might learn something. Won't anyone think of the adults?

    2. annodomini2

      Re: A few comments

      B2's are about $2Bn each.

  14. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Timeline

    "The first prototypes of the new bomber won’t take to the skies until 2025 at the earliest, and is unlikely to be operational for years after that.

    20 EUR say:

    - rollout of mock-up: 2027

    - first prototype in the air: 2030

    - start of deployment: 2035

    - first sighting of chinese dead ringer: 2023

    ... any takers?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Timeline

      The Chinese aren't dumb enough to copy a manned bomber. Theirs will be unmanned, and superior to ours because they'll have 3x as many at a quarter the price.

  15. Lars Silver badge
    WTF?

    The video

    Off topic, but I have started to get the error message 2035 when trying to play videos on theregiter. Anybody with the same problem (and a solution). Konqueror doesn't work either while Youtube and similar work.

  16. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Never interrupt your enemy whilst he's making a mistake

    Especially when it's a spectacularly expensive and pointless one.

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Why not dust of the blueprints for a few more of these.

    But seriously, the applications for a fast, high altitude, long range bomber will be seriously constrained by the relative low cost of better SAMs, radar, etc. Add to that the lower cost of cruise missiles that can be dumped out of a 747 or military cargo plane at a suitable stand off range. There really isn't much use for a dedicated bomber anymore.

  18. Speltier
    Mushroom

    Golden the Ship Was- Oh! Oh! Oh!

    It doesn't have to work, only has to barely fly. It is deterrence that is needed.

    After all, how many have actually seen with a mark 1 eyeball an actual nuclear explosion? Sure, lots of videos and pictures, but those can be faked. The current bombs, even if the old ones actually were field tested and worked, are only simulated. But everyone believes they do work, which is currently sufficient.

    So for this 'bomber', take a Globemaster, wrap some weird shapes around it, put in some way to eject munitions so people think it is capable of carrying conventional weapons, and put the savings into the black budget space based unmanned weapon deployment system called "Skynet", er... "Voyage to Mars" or some such.

  19. YARR

    Why wasn't the B52 replaced by the B1 / B2 / cruise missiles long ago?

    If they have to have a plane that size, why not convert them into drones? Drone B52s could be kept in storage until needed, preserving the remaining life of the airframes.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Three simple reasons that were talked about at the time... stealth, cost, and payload capacity. The payload was the reason the B-52 raids were called Rolling Thunder. Nothing gives the grunt on the ground a good feeling like hearing it hitting the enemy positions.

  20. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    B2

    The B2 is considered "aging" now? Damn. Glad I'm not a plane or they'd already have me rusting in the Arizona desert...

    1. Dave Hilling

      Re: B2

      well I know your being sarcastic but thats exactly why they are in the arizona desert because they dont rust nearly as fast so they can use them for parts or use them in case of an emergency large war.

      1. Pirate Dave
        Pirate

        Re: B2

        Thanks for that. That's what I figured, but wasn't sure.

        On a completely unrelated note, I was at an airshow earlier this month and got to see (and touch, but. err, shhh...) an F-18 up close. I was amused that on the front of the airplane, at the very tip of the nose, is a phillips-head screw. Just struck me as funny that this big, death-dealing figher jet that costs millions of dollars is lead around by a phillips-head. Not an allen/hex, or a Torx, or something that requires a $5000 custom-made bit to remove. It's just a regular #2 phillips that looks like it came from Home Depot.

  21. PaulFrederick

    Bye Bye B-52?

    We've plans to fly B-52s at least until the year 2070. Who's going to stop us? Before we put a BUFF into enemy airspace we'd destroy their entire air force anyways. Those Iraqis couldn't get out of their tanks fast enough after they saw what one BUFF strike did to an armored column. They came out, put their hands over their heads, and ran! Now why would we stop using a weapon like that?

    The B-52 ain't going no place any time too soon.

  22. briesmith

    Good Idea Son

    A warplane, with people in it, in 2030?

    Now there's a good idea if I ever heard one.

    Not.

  23. Dave Hilling

    Until someone invents jam proof technology, and ai that makes better decisions than people all front line aircraft will be manned. Drones only are safe when the airspace is relatively safe or uncontested and you can afford the latency of transmitting signals back and forth to an operating location. I think the next "revolution" will be drones controlled by other front line manned aircraft. Say one or two manned b3s managing 5-10 others flying in front of them. Gets rid of the latency and probably makes jamming tougher if they could use some sort of combo AI/manned control method.

    1. Vic

      I think the next "revolution" will be drones controlled by other front line manned aircraft.

      That's hardly a revolution - we've got a Meteor at the museum that was used in exactly that role (albeit only for training).

      Vic.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019