USAF may seek supersonic and unmanned capabilities for bomber
By Caitlin Harrington
After playing down expectations of a next-generation long-range bomber in recent remarks, US Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley offered a surprisingly far-reaching and ambitious long-term plan for the bomber in an exclusive interview with Jane's.
Gen Moseley told Jane's on 14 October that he would ask contractors to design an open-architecture airframe that can accommodate the most sophisticated modifications: a supersonic engine and a cockpit capable of both manned and unmanned flight.
"When we get closer to this thing for contract, I want to have a discussion [to say] ... 'Do not negate the notion that we may ask you to build a B model somewhere down the road that may be unmanned'," he told Jane's.
Gen Moseley and other USAF officials have previously said the new long-range stealth bomber would be subsonic and manned to meet an ambitious 2018 deadline for initial operation. Contractors would focus mostly on integrating existing technology - datalinks, sensors and low-observable radar - and also making the aircraft more stealthy than its predecessor: the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
Now, however, it is clear that Gen Moseley wants companies competing to build the new bomber - Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman - to build an airframe that can meet not only basic requirements for 2018 (such as a near-invisible radar signature), but also to take into consideration future modifications that will involve new technology.
Image: General Michael Moseley (USAF) 235 of 642 words
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