The Air Force isn’t saying much about its future Long-Range Strike Bomber, which will probably be designated B-3 after the development contract is awarded this Summer. All it has really disclosed is that it wants 80-100 planes at an average cost of $550 million each, with initial operating capability in 2025. But based on what the bomber will need to do and what technology will be available within the stated timeframe, the basic outlines of the program become pretty clear. First, it will have an unrefueled range of over 5,000 nm. Second, it will have less payload than previous bombers. Third, it will probably cost $900 million in then-year dollars, counting R&D. Fourth, it will rely mainly on mature technologies rather than new innovations. Fifth, it won’t be supersonic since that would reduce stealth. Sixth, it won’t be unmanned, despite claims to the contrary. Seventh, it will look a good deal different from the bat-winged B-2 bomber. Eighth, it will rely on off-board capabilities for some functions. Ninth, it will probably end up replacing the whole bomber fleet, meaning over a hundred will be bought. And tenth, it will be built by Boeing, not Northrop Grumman. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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