Technology Readiness for a New Long-range Bomber

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On the cover, close up detail of the F-35’s inlet shows a technology advancement that meets aerodynamic and low observable requirements through a less complex design. The F-22, F-35 and unmanned vehicle programs have advanced technology readiness for a new bomber in many areas in the quarter-century since the design of the B-2. Te c h n ology R e adi n ess Executive Summary A merica has counted on bombers for tough missions for decades, but the bomber fleet will struggle to do its job as
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On the cover, close up detail o\ue001 the F-35\u2019s inlet shows a technology advancement that meets aerodynamic and low observable requirements through a less complex design. The F-22, F-35 and unmanned vehicle programs have advanced technology readiness \ue001or a new bomber in many areas in the quarter-century since the design o\ue001 the B-2.Technology Readiness 1 Executive Summary America has counted on bombers or tough missions or decades, but the bomber eet will struggle to do its job as a capability void opens ater 2015. Talk o a new bomber has come in fts and starts since the Pentagon reached the decision to curtail the B-2 program over fteen years ago. However, new threat assessments and the relative decline o older systems have made a new program urgent. According to General John D. W. Corley, Commander, Air Combat Command, direct attack o mobile or moving targets will grow difcult ater 2015 and the new threat environment will be at ull ush by 2020. The eet o 20 B-2 bombers is just too small or persistent attacks in heavily deended airspace, and the B-1s and B-52s are not survivable there. In February 2006, the Department o Deense called or a new long-range bomber to be felded by 2018. Since then, there have been signs o activity, but questions linger. Is the Air Force ready to settle on requirements or a new bomber? Can industry partners really produce a bomber that ast? The Air Force has set clear top-level criteria or the new bomber. It will have a combat radius o between 2000 and 3000 miles, high subsonic speed, improved survivability, and a whole new approach to the battlespace inormation architecture. Despite the dark threat orecast, there is a silver lining in the orm o increased technology maturity which has grown out o the stealth fghter and unmanned vehicle programs. As the paper discusses, early stealth programs like the F-117 and B-2 assumed considerable risk to pioneer new technologies. The B-2 was an example o a major weapons program explicitly designed to mature critical technologies. The F-22 closed many gaps, but still took on the challenges o supercruise, better maintainability and more integrated avionics. By the time o the Joint Strike Fighter downselect in 2001, the art o stealth had matured to the point where customers deliberately set requirements so as to control risk and cost. Most technologies or the 2018 bomber are already closer to the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7 than or any previous stealth aircrat program. Old obstacles such as the integration o antennae, improved maintenance, and the best in lean manuacturing have largely been mastered. Focused program management in government and industry can drive orward technology maturation in critical areas. Four decades o investment in research and development o stealth combat aircrat since the 1970s are about to pay o in rapid felding o a vital new system. This report grew out o working group sessions held to discuss bomber concepts and technology readiness. Members o the group included General John Jumper, USAF, Ret., General William Hartzog, USA, Ret., General Gregory S. Martin, USAF, Ret., Admiral John B. Nathman, USN, Ret., Lieutenant General Gordon Fornell, USAF, Ret., Lieutenant General Lansord Trapp, USAF, Ret., Major General Don Sheppard, ANG, Ret., and Major General Rick Lewis, USAF, Ret. The author grateully acknowledges their insights and observations, while remaining responsible or all conclusions wise or wayward. – Rebecca Grant
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