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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


FB-111H

On June 30, 1977, President Carter canceled the production of the B-1 as the priority shifted to the development of the cruise missile. After the Carter administration refused to fund the mass production of the new B-1A, manufacturers began vying with one another to offer their own versions of its low-cost replacement. In 1977 the firm General Dynamics offered a heavy modification of well-proven front-line bomber F-111 - the FB-111H, with the larger engine F101 intended for the B-1A. The internal compartment could accommodate up to 12 missiles SRAM. But the new Reagan Administration opted for an improved version of the B-1 - B-1B, so the project FB-111H remained on paper.

The Carter decision to discontinue development of the B-1 was met by rapid aerospace industry response. Rather than undertake the design of a single strategic system to perform the manned strategic mission, two separate systems were proposed. The operational FB-111A would be redesigned, adopting B-1 technology to provide a new manned penetrator. Concurrently, proven wide-body transport engineering would combine with rapidly advancing cruise missile technology to produce a cruise missile carrier large enough to provide mass to an attack. This bifurcation of the strategic bomber function provided a simplification of the engineering challenge, but, more significantly, it could, in the view of aerospace industries, represent a tactic more penetrator offers a modest improvement over likely to get an affirmative production decision through the machinery of government for at engine technology enabled an increase in least one of the two approaches. The B-52 force could continue to perform the part of the mission not possible for whichever of these systems goes into production.

The FB-111 proposed as the manned penetrator offered a modest improvement over the FB-111A in terms of range and payload. B-1 engine technology enabled an increase in airframe capacity for an airframe that had otherwise approached its limits of useful growth. The new aircraft should retain the excellent low-level penetration characteristics of the FB-111A and may even increase its capabilities incrementally by employing some avionics designed for the B-1. The FB-111H would still rely on significant air refueling to complete most missions and will probably not have the mission flexibility and electronic warfare expandability of the B-52 or B-1. The FB-111H would not be a practical cruise missile carrier because of bomb bay volume constraints and range degradation if they are carried externally.

The FB-111H suffered from essentially the same limitations that caused its predecessor, the FB-111A, to be held to one-third of the originally intended production run. Its payload was clearly subject to an unfavorable trade-off with range, with most missions probably limited to internal SRAMs or, at most, partial underwing stores. The FB-111H, just as the FB111A, bears the burden of structural design intended for supersonic flight not essential or usable in its primary mission profile. The FB111H, even if it possesses a respectable degree of capability today, would be at the limits of its design and would respond to tomorrow's missions and threats only with the greatest difficulty and expense.

The wide-bodied cruise missile carrier, on the other hand, profitted from the great potential growth in capability of the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) and the immense payload potential of existing commercial transport. Using an existing wide-bodied transport as the basic airframe will reduce development costs and lead time, but it may saddle the operational vehicle with the range limitation and highfuel consumption resulting from large fuselage diameter unnecessary for this mission. The cruise missile carrier is, however, essentially not a war-fighting aircraft and must stay well clear of enemy defenses. Consequently, its deployment was rigidly constrained at the outset.

Past experience indicated that Soviet response to deployment of such a system will be quick. Development of the ability to detect, identify, and destroy such a basically vulnerable aircraft is strictly within the current state of the art. The uniquely large size of this aircraft may even enable the Soviets to monitor its presence to facilitate interception by long-range missiles or fighters well before reaching optimum firing position.




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Page last modified: 21-04-2016 19:23:26 ZULU