Long-Range Strike Aircraft X (LRSA-X)
SECAF directed an updated Long-Range Strike Aircraft (LRSA) White Paper in October 2001 that includes the following areas: Long-Range Bomber Force Structure Plans; Modernization; Capabilities; Concept of Operations; Replacement Timeline. The purpose of the LRSA White Paper is to provide a "snapshot" update and serve as a basis for a bomber roadmap currently in development by Air Combat Command. It calls for an acquisition program to begin in 2019 to support an operational system in 2037. In addition, the Air Force is conducting a Long-Range Strike Aircraft X (LRSA-X) study to examine bomber replacement timelines. It is unclear whether once fielded that the need for current bombers will diminish. LRSA-X envisions the next generation of long-range strike platforms and weapons will rely on revolutionary technology. The Air Force is actively engaged in analysis of the path to retain the best attributes of current platforms. These efforts will be closely connected to AF concept of operations (CONOPs) for the Global Strike Task Force and other CONOPs under development. The study goal is to start an acquisition program in the 2012 to 2015 timeframe. This appears to be at odds with current airframe lifetime projections for the current bomber force.
AFRL's Air Vehicles Directorate, Integration and Operations Division, Technology Integration Branch at Wright-Patterson AFB is pursuing high-speed aerospace system concepts that provide guidance for integration and technology assessment studies. These integrating concepts, Long Range Strike Aircraft (LRSA) and Space Operations Vehicle (SOV), will deliver revolutionary capabilities to the Air Force in rapid global strike and responsive space lift. Through research, systems development, and space launch operations personnel, the Air Force seeks to develop a system-of-systems capable of delivering routine access to space in the 2015-2025 time frame.
The LRSA is a system-of-systems to provide responsive global force projection and precision force application for military utility in the 2020+ time frame. The program was in the requirements analysis and concept definition stages as of late 2002. The Air Force has formed a joint government and industry team to generate air vehicle configurations and a common theater campaign model to assess effectiveness against future threats. Key technologies will enable rapid global delivery of force from bases located in the continental United States. Researchers are examining solutions that span the Mach range from supersonic through trans-atmospheric. Additional attributes of the system will be a sufficient complement of stealth and speed to penetrate next-generation Integrated Air Defense Systems, defeat fixed and hardened targets, and neutralize asymmetric threats. The Air Force is also examining the need for a new global strike system to provide operational capability in the 2020-2025 time frame.
Thrust vectoring is an enabling technology for tailless air vehicle designs and is currently under consideration for research under the Long Range Strike Platform (LRSP) initiative.
One idea coming back into serious consideration under the Long Range Strike Platform (LRSP) is the Missileer, a cargo plane already in production modified to carry three dozen or more cruise missiles. Such a platform would have to have a range of 9,000 miles with one refueling. It would need the advanced Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. Once th US had destroyed enemy air defenses, the Missileer could fly directly over the enemy with vast numbers of Small Diameter Bombs. The aircraft might even fire its weapons out of the rear cargo hatch, allowing it to serve as a regular transport aircraft. One choice would be a missile armed version of the C-17 cargo plane - the new B-17.
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