Between the years 2004-2006, the United States of America Air Combat Command (ACC), studied alternatives in respect of innovative new aircraft bomber designs. They would serve the purpose of augmenting their current aircraft bomber fleet, which mainly consisted of 1970s era airframes.
Introduction - Still Manned Aircraft
The Air Combat Command (ACC) reviewed a goal of having one of the new aircraft bomber designs fully operational by the year 2018. There was speculation that this new and innovative bomber aircraft would be hypersonic and unmanned. However, these theories were dismissed, when the ACC head of “Plans and Programs" announced that they believed that this bomber of the future should be “manned" after all.
Possibly one of the most revolutionary and admired new aircraft bomber designs is the B-2 Spirit, or as known by its popular name, the Stealth Bomber! This American heavy bomber, built by Northrop Grumman, has “stealth" technology, designed to provide it with abilities that render it much less observable to any enemy. Therefore, it has the capacity for penetrating into the heart of anti-aircraft defenses and deploy either its conventional or even nuclear weapons. It does, in many ways, epitomize the popular perceptions of a space age design and formidable weaponry.
A new aircraft bomber designs program that was under the auspices of the United States Air Force, was originally known as the “2018 Bomber". This program was subsequently re-named the “Next Generation Bomber", with the projection of it being ready to enter service in about 2018. It was classified as super stealth and subsonic, with a medium range and payload. The perception was that this aircraft would augment and, to a limited degree, replace the United States' aging fleet of aircraft bombers.
During 2010, various statements were made concerning future bomber aircraft for the United States Air Force. This included long-range capabilities and more versatile and cost effective air strike power. The statement was later expanded on, when it was made known that the long range capabilities design would be continued with proven technologies. It was later confirmed that while the bomber will not have nuclear capabilities, it will form the basis for future aircraft with nuclear abilities.
Supersonic Bomber? No, Thanks!
Regarding the decision for the next generation of bombers to be subsonic; the additional cost factor was an influence, but the real cause was the complexity and limitations placed on the aircraft by a supersonic speed, especially for a penetrative bomber aircraft. Examples of this are made with the B-52H, which has remained in use, as opposed to the B-58, XB-70 and FB-111, that were supersonic aircraft and are currently out of service.
Over the past few years, different concepts have been studied with regard to the development of bomber aircraft in the future. In some instances, while improvements have evolved through normal development processes, it is recognized that it may be necessary to change the actual configuration concept, especially to meet the new demands being placed on military aircraft. These new aircraft bomber designs prove to be important features of the future of warfare.
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