Thomas Ehrhard, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has published a fascinating monograph today with a recommended long-haul strategy for the US Air Force. The paper covers a lot of ground, but contains a particular focus on the USAF's deeply classified plans to start fielding a next-generation bomber force within the next 10 years. Ehrhard, who previously helped resuce the US Navy's X-47B program from cancellation, proposes his ideal strategy for a notional B-3 next generation bomber force of 130 aircraft, with a $16 billion development bill and a flyaway cost per aircraft of about $425 million.
- Block 10: 24 aircraft "... extremely stealthy, manned, nuclear capable bomber with low-risk components such as F-35 engines, sensors, and data links; and B-2 weapons, conformal sensors, and advanced laser infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM), towed decoys and jammers for self-protection"
- Block 20: 36 aircraft ... Integrate "first generation variable bypass engines" to increase endurance by 30%, active stealth, modular strike/ISR payload
- Block 30: 24 aircraft "... improved variable-bypass engines, high-altitude, low-drag 'Aeroservoelastic' (ASE) wings ... and sophisticated adaptable automated flight controls"... may also include directed-energy defensive systems
- Block 40: 36 aircraft ... "state-of-the-art processors, autonomous mission planning and avionics software and order-of-magnitude flight reliability"
- Block 50: 10 aircraft ... long-endurance, high-altitude for clandestine, penetrating ISR