|Boeing/Lockheed Martin "2018 Bomber" concept image|
|Project for||Stealth bomber|
|Issued by||United States Air Force|
|Successor programs||Long Range Strike Bomber|
The Next-Generation Bomber (NGB; formerly called the 2018 Bomber) was originally a program to develop a new medium bomber for the United States Air Force. The NGB was originally projected to enter service around 2018 as a stealthy, subsonic, medium-range, medium payload bomber to supplement and possibly—to a limited degree—replace the U.S. Air Force's aging bomber fleet (B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer). The NGB program was superseded by the Long-Range Strike-B (LRS-B) heavy bomber program.
The sinking of ex-USS Schenectady as a test during Operation Resultant Fury in 2004 demonstrated that heavy bombers could successfully engage naval targets on their own. This led to the requirement for a new bomber that could survive against modern defenses. In 2004–06, the USAF Air Combat Command studied alternatives for a new bomber type aircraft to augment the current bomber fleet which now consists of largely 1970s era airframes, with a goal of having a fully operational aircraft on the ramp by 2018. Some speculation suggested that the next generation bomber might be hypersonic and unmanned. However, these were put to rest when US Air Force Major General Mark T. Matthews, head of ACC Plans and Programs stated that available technology indicates a manned subsonic bomber at a May 2007 Air Force Association sponsored event. He later stated that a manned subsonic bomber provides the "best value" to meet the required range and payload performance by 2018. The 2018 bomber was expected to serve as a stop-gap until the more advanced "2037 Bomber" entered service.
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), directed the Air Force to develop a new long-range precision strike capability by 2018. Since then, the Air Force and Strategic Command have decided that the best initial option is to pursue a manned bomber to be designated B-3.
USAF officials expect the new bomber to have top-end low-observability characteristics with the ability to loiter for hours over the battlefield area and respond to threats as they appear. Major General David E Clary, ACC vice-commander, summed it up by saying the new bomber will be expected to "penetrate and persist". Deployment of cruise missiles is another issue for the new bomber. The B-52 is the only aircraft currently in the Air Force inventory allowed under treaty to be armed with nuclear cruise missiles. Major consideration was paid to operation readiness and flexibility. In 2006, the program expected that a prototype could be flying as early as 2009. In September 2007, Air Force generals stated that even though the development schedule for the bomber is short, it could be fielded by 2018.
On 25 January 2008, Boeing and Lockheed Martin announced an agreement to embark on a joint effort to develop a new US Air Force strategic bomber, with plans for it to be in service by 2018. This collaborative effort for a long-range strike program will include work in advanced sensors and future electronic warfare solutions, including advancements in network-enabled battle management, command and control, and virtual warfare simulation and experimentation. Under their joint arrangement, Boeing, the No. 2 Pentagon supplier, would be the primary contractor with about a 60% share, and Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense contractor, would have around a 40% share, according to sources familiar with the companies' plans. Northrop Grumman, another major defense contractor, received $2 billion in funding in 2008 for "restricted programs" – also called black programs – for a demonstrator that could fly in 2010.
The Air Force was expected to announce late in 2009 its precise requirements for a new bomber that would be operating by 2018. In May 2009, testimony before Congress, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mentioned that the Pentagon is considering a pilotless aircraft for the next-generation bomber role.
Move to LRS-B
In April 2009, Defense Secretary Gates announced a delay in the new generation bomber project that would push it past the 2018 date. This was caused not only by budget considerations, but also by nuclear arms treaty considerations. On 19 May 2009, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said that the USAF's focus in the 2010 budget was on "Long-range strike, not next-generation bomber" and will push for this in the QDR. In June 2009, the two teams working on NGB proposals were told to "close up shop". On 1 March 2010, Boeing said that the joint project with Lockheed Martin had been suspended and on 24 June 2010, Lieutenant General Philip M. Breedlove said that the term "next-generation bomber" was dead and that the Air Force was working on a long-range strike "family" that would draw on the capabilities of systems like the F-35 and F-22 to help a more affordable and versatile bomber complete its missions.
On 13 September 2010, U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said that long range strike would continue cautiously with proven technologies and that the plan to be submitted with the 2012 budget could call for either a missile or an aircraft. The bomber is to be nuclear-capable, but not certified for nuclear use until later. On 24 February 2012, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced that a competition was under way with a target delivery in the mid-2020s. On 27 October 2015, Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to build the new bomber.
The design goals in January 2011 were:
- Total program cost estimated at $40 to $50 billion.
- Fleet size of 175 aircraft: 120 for ten combat squadrons, plus 55 for training and reserves.
- Subsonic maximum speed.
- Range: 5,000+ nautical miles (9,260+ km).
- "Optionally manned" (for non-nuclear missions).
- Total mission durations of 50 to 100 hours (when unmanned).
- Ability to "survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory".
- Ability to carry thermonuclear weapons.
- Designed to use commercial off-the-shelf propulsion, C4ISTAR, and radar technologies.
- Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and aerial reconnaissance along with command and control gear to enable the crew to direct other aircraft and forces.
An August 2008 paper by Northrop Grumman highlighted the following trends and requirements:
- Airfields available for American use have declined since the Cold War.
- Hostile cruise and ballistic missiles could shut down the few available airfields.
- Fewer fighter aircraft will be available to escort the bomber force.
- Advanced fighter aircraft and surface to air missiles are being made available to potentially hostile states.
- The current USAF bomber force is small and largely outdated.
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- "Affecting the Strategic Battlespace with Effects-Based Public Affairs", Air chronicles (Air force), Spring 2006.
- "Bombs Away: How the Air Force Sold Its Risky New $55 Billion Plane", Wired, Mar 2012.
- Grant 2007, pp. 17–20.
- Grant 2007, pp. 6–7.
- Warwick, Graham. "USAF says next bomber will be subsonic and manned". Flight International, 3 May 2007.
- Warwick, Graham. "Speed bump: USAF sets modest goals for new bomber". Flight International, 12 June 2007.
- "RL34406, Air Force Next-Generation Bomber: Background and Issues for Congress". Congressional Research Service. 22 December 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- "Why the US Wants a New Bomber", The Diplomat, 6 May 2012.
- Ehrhard, Tom. "An Air Force Strategy for the Long Haul". Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 17 September 2009.
- Hebert, Adam J (October 2006). "The 2018 Bomber and Its Friends". Air Force magazine. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- "Senior Air Force Generals To Skeptics: We Can Field A New Bomber In 2018". Defense Daily, 26 September 2007.
- Boeing, Lockheed to work on new bomber, UPI, Jan 25, 2008.
- Boeing and Lockheed Martin Team for Next Generation Bomber Program (press release), Boeing, 2008.
- "Boeing, Lockheed team up on bomber project", The Star.
- "Ultra Stealth", Aviation Week, 26 May 2008.
- "Boeing, Lockheed to team up against Northrop for bomber contract", Seattle Times (NW source).
- "Gates says next-generation bomber might fly without pilot", Congress Daily (Government Executive), 14 May 2009.
- Gates sees more changes to US weapons in 2011, Reuters.
- "USAF Bomber Grounded by More than Budget", Aviation Week.
- Schwartz: Service needs long-range capability, Air Force Times, May 2009
- RL34406, "Air Force Next-Generation Bomber: Background and Issues for Congress". Congressional Research Service, 18 September 2009
- "Boeing, Lockheed Put Bomber Partnership on Ice". Defense news. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
- "Leader says future bomber won't go solo". Air Force Times. Jul 2010.
- "Air Force secretary: 'Make hard choices now'". Govexec. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
- "State of the Air Force" (speech). US: U.S. Air Force. 2010. Archived from the original on Jul 19, 2012.
- Reed, John. "AFA: New bomber program 'underway'." DoD Buzz. 24 February 2012.
- "Northrop Grumman wins Long Range Strike Bomber contract". The Washington Post. 27 October 2015.
- Majumdar, Dave. "U.S. Air Force May Buy 175 Bombers." Defense News, 23 January 2011.
- Grant, Greg. "Air Force chief describes future bomber." Government Executive, 31 October 2007.
- "U.S. Air Force: No 2009 Money for Next-Gen Bomber". Defensenews.com. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
- Majumdar, Dave. "New bomber could conduct long-range missions." AirForce Times, 12 February 2011.
- The 2018 Bomber: The Case for Accelerating the Next Generation Long-Range Strike System
- Grant, Dr. Rebecca (February 2007), Return of the Bomber, The Future of Long-Range Strike (PDF), Air Force Association.
- Rose, William ‘Bill’ (2010), Secret Projects: Flying Wings and Tailless Aircraft, Hinckley, England, UK: Midland.
- "Long-Range Strike in a Hurry", Air Force Magazine, November 2004.
- "USAF Weighs Four Skunk Works Designs for Interim Strike", Aviation Week, 28 November 2004.
- "The 2018 Bomber and Its Friends", Air Force Magazine, October 2006.
- "Great Expectations", Air Force Magazine, August 2007.
- "B-3" Long Range Strike Platform, Global Security.
- "‘Issue Brief’, 2018 Bomber", Air Force Magazine, March 2008.
- 2018 Bomber, Boeing.
- Air Force Next-Generation Bomber: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, 22 December 2009, RL34406.
- US Air Force Bomber Modernization Plans: An Independent Assessment (PDF), CSIS.
- The Case For Long-Range Strike: 21st Century Scenarios (PDF), Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
- Gunzinger, Mark (September 2010), Sustaining America's Strategic Advantage in Long-Range Strike (PDF), Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
- "Stealth Reborn", Popular Science, January 2009.
- "The US Air Force Is Pushing Ahead With One of Its Most Secretive Programs", National Defense Magazine (Business insider), August 2014.