Washington: The United States will very likely field a next-generation sub-sonic bomber by 2018, a top Air Force general said Wednesday. He also said that he was confident that development of the bomber would take place within this tight schedule. Typically, development of new aircraft takes, at the very least, a decade.
"We have technologies we can exploit quickly," said Lt Gen Robert Elder Jr, the commander of the 8th Air Force, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Joint Functional Component commander for Global Strike and Integration at the US Strategic Command. "There's been a lot of technology development that can be plowed back into this airplane ... (which allows us) to be able to do the types of things that drive you to a subsonic bomber. But it achieves what you are looking for."
According to the USAF commander, the subsonic bomber will absorb technologies developed in the course of the F-22 programme, and also from other "black" or secret programmes. These technologies will allow the new aircraft to penetrate heavily protected enemy territory, be able to fly long distances and also be able to remain on station for longer.
The new sub-sonic bomber would be an interim step to a "global precision strike" platform called for in the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review. The Global Strike Platform is a yet to be defined effort, which seeks to threaten any target in the world within minutes with conventional weapons, unlike nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
According to Gen Robert Elder, the sub-sonic bomber's stealth capabilities would be well beyond the 20-year-old technology that currently provides service in the bat-wing B-2 Spirit bomber.
"We are so much further ahead with what we can do with stealth now," he said.