It turns out the Air Force's next-gen bomber really isn't much of a bomber at all. While the next iteration of stealth bombers is still but a sketch on the drawing board, the DoD and top Air Force command know what the wars of the next century will call for: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as the ability to deploy non-kinetic weapons to disrupt enemy operations, all while reserving the ability to drop the occasional ordinance -- and do it all at the same time with a single, stealthy super-weapon.
That's not to say the next bomber won't conduct any conventional bombing, but the Air Force is looking for something far more versatile than what our current fleet offers. For one, the Pentagon is working to tear down the barrier between intelligence and operations, instead looking for combat solutions that can gather intel, inform good decisions making and then implement combat decisions all in one stride (funding also dictates that a single multi-role aircraft is better than separate planes for recon and combat/bombing). Commanders also want to be prepared for conflicts in which America squares off with developed nations with advanced air defenses contesting U.S. air superiority.
The new plane will be a long-range intelligence and strike aircraft that can carry conventional ordinance as well as directed energy and network attack weapons. Directed energy weapons could include several currently under development, including laser weapons like Boeing's Airborne Laser or pulse weapons that deliver directed doses of high-power microwaves. Other non-kinetic weapons could include communication and sensor jamming exotic-waveform weapons that can sever the connections between tactical weapons systems on the ground.
Of course, the relative success of unmanned aerial drones in Iraq and especially Afghanistan begs the question: should future bombers be manned or remotely piloted? Even in that the Air Force seeks flexibility. If they can make it work, commanders would like an aircraft that can be either manned or unmanned, depending on the nature of the mission and the variables involved. Having a human at the sticks ensures the ability to deal with an infinite number of scenarios, while the ability to go unmanned cuts down on manpower as well as risk of casualty.
So what we're really looking for is an optionally manned/unmanned long-range intelligence-gathering, laser-firing, high-speed stealth bomber. It doesn't sound easy, but it definitely sounds cool.
The aircraft in the picture is a B-2 Spirit. Not to be confused with the B-52 Stratofortress.
They could just drop pennies out of that thing and kill everybody. From that height, a penny can go straight through to your foot!
@ Betty, the terminal velocity will slow down the penny so much that the most it could do is give a bad bruise, a cut, mabye a little break in your head, nothing much.
Terminal velocity is the maximum speed a falling object reaches and is determined by the object's weight and air resistance. Because a penny is lightweight and not aerodynamic, air resistance slows it down so much that its terminal velocity is quite slow. So... it probably wouldn't hurt at all. But something aerodynamic could go really fast and kill somebody.
you would be hard pressed to confuse a B-2 with a B-52, but either way this new concept sounds pretty dang cool.
The U.S. military is really coming out with great advancements in our arsenal and this is one of those contributions. What this plane will be capable of if manufactured will be limitless.
Drop lawn darts out of the bastard with cheap little "wii-mote"esk guidance systems that'd punch through a ceiling and then somebody and not hurt anyone else around. If it misses the collateral damage is like what? 200 bucks? The chance of civilian casualty goes way down. You could drop like a dozen at one or more targets simultaneously and even increase the number you can drop at more and more targets just by upgrading software.
There ya have it. Super cheap and effective personnel remover. For when you need that quick, light touch of death. ^.^
Carpet bomb with aerodynamic lead weights. that would be pretty cheap!
@A_rock: They used to do that up until the Vietnam War (I think) but with unguided flechettes - putting some kind of guidance system in them would be a nice twist. Something the size of a soda bottle might even disable a vehicle and would definitely make a mess out of a soft target. Of course, you could always just say screw it and use the Rods from God system...
Carpet bombing is out. Mass soft targets no longer exist. You could have thousands of exploding fleschettes (DIY with pub darts and shot-gun shells). Wouldn't do much against today's targets - unless you want to "rain on somebody's parade."
Bombing has become a sniper's sport - few shots, known targets, and high lethality. Sure, going against a developed nation would remove some air superiority and increase the "spray and pray" pattern of bombing, but only until cruise missiles and artillary weakened air defences.
What the govt wants is something that can patrol a developed country, and, if needed, bring some punctuated pain to a key target (or more likely eliminate a first strike missile shot).
didn't Secretary Gates cut the airborne laser funding early this year?
Where's the fun?
Don't forget to secure communications so that the enemy can't eavesdrop with 26 dollar software. I mean those people at DoD feel so superior that they tend to overlook the small and easy stuff that may cost them winning a war, another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.
That's why people shouldn't really rely on UAV's, because people can hack and maybe in the future, controling them to aattack the US. The compromise is to upgrade the UAV's.
no, the compromise would be to rule the world as one global country so that we wouldn't have to worry about enemy hackers.
quatra, your on the right page. Are we starting to go down the " Death Star" path ? Make sure we shield the damn cooling vents better.
I don't know who you trust to do the Global Government thing, but whoever it is, you're a fool.