Advertising
  • News
  • USAF leader confirms manned decision for new bomber

USAF leader confirms manned decision for new bomber

The US Air Force has confirmed for the first time that the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) will be manned on entry-into-service, one of a few new details revealed about the classified programme.

Several military experts have predicted the LRS-B programme would eventually become optionally-manned but enter service with a flight crew or a pilot, but the USAF has never revealed such details publicly.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said today at a Defense Writers Group breakfast that the service will initially field the new stealth bomber as manned aircraft. "It's likely that we'll start the bomber programme as a manned programme," Donley says. "It'll have the option to be unmanned at some point and so I think that option will be protected."

 USAF next-gen bomber Boeing

 Boeing

The USAF is still some distance away from awarding a contract for the new aircraft, but Donley there have been no major changes in design or requirements since the programme was launched. "We're still a year or two away from those, what I would call a downselect decision," Donley says.

The USAF still hopes to build anywhere from 80 to 100 LRS-B aircraft which would become operational in the mid-2020s. "Cost is a major factor for us," Donley says.

Donley says he is not yet sure when the service will disclose more about the Pentagon's acquisitions strategy for the LRS-B, but he did say contract details are under review. "We are developing a contract strategy at the air force and AT&L [acquisitions, technology and logistics], that work is ongoing," he says.

"We're going to protect the capabilities of this airplane," Donley says. "I think several years down the road [we might disclose more details] because we think the capabilities that it will have represent advantages not unlike those that we have enjoyed with the [Northrop Grumman] B-2."

When the B-2 was new in the early 1990s, that aircraft represented a revolutionary leap in capability for strategic bombers. Even now, nearly two decades after the bat-winged aircraft was declared operational, the USAF is still tight lipped about the stealth bomber's exact performance and capabilities.

"We have not talked about B-2 capabilities in great depth, we did not reveal the existence of the B-2 programme until it rolled out of the hangar," Donley says. "We're years from that."

Related Content
Advertising

Advertising