Northrop Grumman is responding to a three-year schedule drift in US Air Force plans for a long-range strike (LRS) capability with optimism, viewing the delay as a second chance to push ambitious next-generation bomber concepts.

LRS emerged last year as part of a plan to field an "interim" bomber starting in 2015, rather than wait until after 2035 for a new bomber. But the USAF was unable to squeeze the new-start programme into the five-year budget plan, delaying a firm commitment until perhaps FY2008. Northrop concepts include an unmanned regional attack system based on a bomber variant of the X-47B, and a vehicle with 11,100km (6,000nm) range, Mach 2-2.4 sustained cruise and a C-130-sized payload.

Source: Flight International