|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Jul 21, 2014 06:58 AM EDT|
The U.S. Air Force is accelerating development of its next generation “Long Range Strike-Bomber” or LRS-B marked by very long range and the ability to loiter for extended periods over distant targets such as those in the South China Sea and Asia.
Not much has been revealed about the USAF’s stealth “China bomber” but what is known is that the LRS-B will likely be a very long-range subsonic aircraft with broadband stealth capability.
It is being designed to defeat low-frequency radars as effectively as high frequency sets. More ominously, the LRS-B will eventually be capable of delivering the entire range of air delivered nuclear weapons in the US arsenal, a capability only currently afforded USAF B-52 bombers.
Ultimately, the USAF will transform the LRS-B into the world’s first unmanned or robotic strategic bomber with unmatched endurance.
In the unmanned role, the LRS-B will be used in non-nuclear combat to rain down guided missiles or guided bombs onto land or naval targets. The nuclear capable versions of the bomber will be manned.
What will distinguish the LRS-B from the current B-1or B-2 bombers is the LRS-B’s enhanced stealthiness and its capability to loiter or hover over a battlefield for long periods of time, attacking multiple targets of opportunity with precision.
It is being designed to survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory. The LRS-B will carry a weapons load of 14,000 lbs. to 28,000 lbs (6,350 kg to 12,700 kg).
The LRS-B is intended to “manage” China in a future conflict, said Andrew Krepinevich, a defense policy analyst who currently serves as President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
A few years ago, Krepinevich questioned the USAF’s reliance on short range aircraft like the F-35 stealth fighter in a future conflict against China and called on reducing purchases of the F-35 in favor of a new long range bomber. That bomber is now the LRS-B.
Last January, former Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz said the Pentagon should abandon plans to arm the F-35 with nuclear weapons and give this role to the LRS-B.
In February, the USAF reaffirmed its commitment to a manned bomber and said its next generation bomber, now the LRS-B, will be fielded in the mid-2020s. It intends to buy between 80 and 100 of the radar defeating bombers.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James recently said the LRS-B “is a top modernization priority for the Air Force.”
Once in service, the LRS-B is expected to receive the designation, B-3.