Next Generation Long Range Strike (NGLRS)

On 10 March 2009 Josh Rogin, CQ Staff writer reported that the the Office of Management and Budget given the Pentagon guidance to delay procurement of aerial refueling tankers by five years and cancel plans for a new long-range bomber.

The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directed speeding up efforts to develop a new land-based, penetrating long-range capability to be fielded by 2018. The report stated "To achieve the future joint force characteristics and build on progress to date, the Department plans to: Develop a new land-based, penetrating longrange strike capability to be fielded by 2018 while modernizing the current bomber force." But there is no near-term requirement for a new bomber, since the existing fleet of heavy bombers can satisfy requirements through around the year 2035. An FY2018 initial operational capability would be roughly two decades premature.

The Next Generation Long Range Strike (NGLRS) program [0604015F] develops and demonstrates a next generation Long Range Strike capability in support of Air Force Global Strike and Global Persistent Attack Concept of Operations. Program efforts support the Air Force three-phase long range strike strategy. This program will provide capability improvements in the areas of strike responsiveness, persistence, survivability, lethality, connectivity, and affordability. A wide variety of concept options are being considered for a Long Range Strike air platform. Funding supports Capability Needs Assessment, Analysis of Alternatives, operational and system architecture development, maturation and risk reduction of advanced Long Range Strike related technologies, and integrated system concept development and demonstration.

As of 2008 the Air Force wanted the new bomber to be able to travel for 2,000 miles without refueling (compared with about 2,000 nautical miles for a fully loaded B-2) and to carry up to 28,000 pounds of payload (compared with about 34,000 pounds of payload for a fully loaded B-2).

In a step to develop future long-range strike capabilities, Air Combat Command conducted a study that is looking at aircraft platforms and weapon improvements. Air Force leaders will use the study to decide the best pathway for providing long-range strike capabilities for the future Air Force. This process normally takes about two years, but the 2018 target requires accelerated efforts. The new bomber is necessary to recapitalize the Air Force's fleet of B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer "legacy bombers," and to counter advanced anti-access systems of America's enemies. Modern enemy anti-access systems, such as surface-to-air missiles and enemy aircraft, are emerging and becoming common.

The platform should also meet the needs of a leaner Air Force by reducing aircraft, sorties and fuel needed to put bombs on target. Fuel efficiency and longer range are important features, because they reduce dependency on the Air Force's in-flight refueling tankers - most of which are approaching 50 years in service. Also, because bomber forces aren't typically based in theater, long-range bombers fly long distances to deliver their weapons and thus face much longer flying hours.

The NG-LRS is the Air Force's answer to its aging bomber fleet, which in the cases of some aircraft have experienced more than 40 years of service. The first B-52 rolled off the assembly line February 1955 and the 51-year old aircraft design makes up more than half of the Air Force's bomber inventory. That's equivalent to a police department using a 1955 Dodge Monaco for its patrol car. The B-52 will be more than 90 years old before it retires. Long-range bombers have become the foundation of what makes up a lethal Air Force. Because of this, the new bomber planned [as of 2006] for 2018 won't be the end of long-range strike technological investment. Range and payload are the soul of an Air Force. These elements form the foundation of strategic military deterrence. The LRS mission, a primary reason the Air Force became a separate Service in 1947, continues as a vital and unique Air Force contribution to national defense. The Air Force has a three-phased strategy to help ensure the US meets its enduring LRS capability requirements.

  • Phase I: Continue to modernize legacy bombers to improve capability and reliability. Phase One includes near-term maintenance and modernization of current bombers and air-to surface weapons.
  • Phase II: Develop/field next generation bomber by 2018 by leveraging all available technology development efforts. By 2018 and in accordance with the Quadrennial Defense Review goals, Phase Two will deliver a new LRS bomber incorporating highly advanced technologies. This next generation bomber will combine speed, stealth, payload, and improved avionics/sensors suites. This new bomber will bring America's bomber forces up to the same high standard set by the F-22A an d F-35A fifth-generation fighters. It will ensure the bomber force will continue to be effective in meeting COCOMs' global needs across the full range of military operations. The Analysis of Alternatives will be complete in the spring of 2007.
  • Phase III: Field transformational advanced technology capability in 2035 timeframe. In Phase Three, the Air Force plans to field a revolutionary LRS capability in the 2035 time frame using an advanced system-of-systems approach. Technology maturation is expected to yield advancements in several areas, including hypersonic propulsion, advanced materials and non-kinetic weapons.

In FY 2005, Congress added $30M for Bomber Development. This program is categorized as Budget Activity 4, Advanced Component Development and Prototypes, since advanced technologies will be explored and integrated for demonstration in a realistic operating environment applicable to Long Range Strike. In FY 2006 and out, the Air Force added funding to continue next generation Long Range Strike efforts in support of Air Force Concept of Operations. If required, funding will be adjusted after the Analysis of Alternatives is complete and the Department determines which alternatives it will pursue. The The AoA will determine specifications for the next generation platform; such as whether it will be manned or land-based.

In FY 2005 the program worked to refine system concepts and operational/system architectures. Perform Joint Capabilities Analysis. Formulate integrated concept for auto-target recognition, data fusion, and crew interface technologies. Test materials and structures for performance at high temperatures associated with high-speed platforms. Develop engine inlet and nozzle flowpath components for high-speed variable cycle propulsion. Develop fuel-cooled turbine components for improved range.

In FY 2006 the program worked to refine system concepts and operational/system architectures, and prepare Technology Development Strategy. Conduct Analysis of Alternatives to identify preferred Long Range Strike option. Develop radio frequency/electro-optical/infrared sensor technology for rapid and accurate target detection and identification capability. Develop data fusion algorithms and crew interface techniques for multi-platform sensor cueing/management and net-centric operations. Develop blended wing aero-control and structural load databases to characterize aero-propulsive efficiency. Determine large-scale composite airframe manufacturing approaches. Demonstrate acoustic suppression and enhanced weapon separation technology. Develop lightweight thermal structures components for air platform concepts. Conduct small-scale wind tunnel experiments of tailless aero-configurations. Validate performance of engine inlet and nozzle flowpath components for variable cycle propulsion. Demonstrate high temperature engine core components.

In FY 2007 the program continued refinement of system concepts and designs and operational/system architectures. Continue Analysis of Alternative to identify preferred Long Range Strike option. Continue preparation of the Technology Development Strategy (TDS). Initiate projects to mature key technologies including mitigating risk by developing and demonstrating key concept attributes of the preferred option. Begin initial development of acquisition documentation including, as a minimum: Life Cycle Management Plan, Systems Engineering Plan, Modeling and Simulation Support Plan, Capability Development Document and Test and Evaluation Strategy. Initiate execution of the Modeling and Simulation Support Strategy to ensure robust analytic support across the concept life cycle. Continue development of radio frequency/electro-optical/infrared sensor technology for radio and accurate target detection and identification capability. Develop high temperature and variable cycle engine core components, sensor/aperture integration technology, and advanced weapon integration technology.

The FY2008 budget request included no funding for the program from FY2008 through FY2010, though did fund the program at $81 million in FY2011. The NG-LRS will replace the USAF's current bomber inventory beginning in 2018. Air Combat Command and the Air Force, have established the NG-LRS initiative as an important pre-Milestone A major defense acquisition program.

By April 2007 the Analysis of Alternatives for the next-generation long-range strike system identified a new manned, subsonic bomber aircraft as the best option to pursue to meet a 2018 fielding goal. The Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center (SURVIAC) provided analysis to the USAF ACC, Langley, Virginia, for the development of requirements documentation and the conduct of AoA's in support of the Next-Generation Long Range Strike's (NG-LRS) Acquisition Milestone Program. SURVIAC's work on requirements documentation and AoA's identified features considered desirable in the NG-LRS: flexible payload, including precision and nuclear weapons; high survivability through defensive systems and stealth; global situational awareness; an ability to operate autonomously; variable geometry (swing wings), supersonic dash, and stealthy low observable characteristics capability are also possibilities for the new system. SURVIAC successfully crafted a requirements strategy and authored a detailed AoA Study Plan for the NG-LRS. The resulting AoA Study Plan sets forth and publishes the standard for how future AoA's will be conducted in support of the NG-LRS. SURVIAC's AoA Study Plan was so well-received that the USAF Office of Aero Space Studies, Kirtland AFB, it was designated it as the Air Force standard for conducting AoAs. In producing the Study study plan, SURVIAC provided numerous subject matter experts, across multiple domains of expertise and led many critical efforts in operations concepts, and cost-effectiveness analyses to provide research and insight into the development of the study plan. In addition, SURVIAC helped ACC establish several working groups including (e.g.,Milestone Working Groups), to coordinate requirements, acquisition, and test efforts for NG-LRS. Input and lessons learned from each working group were fed directly into the AoA Study Plan to help improve established processes and procedures.

On 25 January 2008 the two largest defense contractors -- Boeing and Lockheed Martin -- announced that they will team on an effort to make the Air Force's next generation of bomber aircraft. Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin announced they will team to perform studies and system development efforts including collaborative research and development in pursuit of the anticipated U.S. Air Force Next Generation Bomber program. 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. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have formed teams for several high profile programs including the F-22 Raptor and Small Diameter Bomb Increment II.

"Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working closely at all levels to capture the best of industry to develop and provide an effective and affordable solution for the warfighter," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Advanced Systems. "The work performed by the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team is designed to help the Air Force establish capability-based roadmaps for technology maturation and date certain timelines for the Next Generation Bomber program." Frank Cappuccio, Lockheed Martin's executive vice president and general manager Advanced Development Programs (the Skunk Works(R)) and Strategic Planning stated "The combined technical strengths of Boeing and Lockheed Martin offer the best possible team to provide a new long range capability to the USAF by 2018".

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