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Northrop Grumman Makes the Case for a 2018 Next-Generation Bomber

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Northrop Grumman
: 15 September, 2008  (Special Report)
Research paper from company think tank outlines military, operational benefits of a new stealthy, long range strike system
Within a decade, U.S. military forces will be forced to operate from air fields thousands of miles from enemy territory, with a shrinking inventory of fighter aircraft, against adversaries equipped with increasingly sophisticated air
defense systems.

A research paper published by Northrop Grumman Corporation's Analysis Center suggests a way for the nation to ensure its ability to project military power worldwide amid these deteriorating geopolitical conditions: develop a next generation
long-range strike system (NGLRS) by 2018.

The paper, 'The 2018 Bomber: The Case for Accelerating the Next Generation Long Range Strike System,' was presented today by Michael Isherwood, one of its authors and a senior analyst with the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center, at a media briefing at the National Press Club.

'The Quadrennial Defense Review concluded in 2006 that the Air Force should accelerate the development and fielding of the NGLRS system,' said Isherwood, who co-authored the paper with Robert Haffa, Jr., director of the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center. 'Our paper identifies the many benefits that will accrue for theater commanders and joint warfighters if the Air Force pursues this strategy.'

Northrop Grumman is currently the Air Force's prime contractor for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the flagship of the nation's long range strike arsenal. The B-2 is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2058 as the nation's largest payload, longest range bomber. The company is also prepared to compete for a next generation bomber, which is expected to complement the role of the B-2.

According to the Analysis Center paper, the proposed NGLRS, a stealthy, subsonic aircraft, will overcome the lack of friendly airfields by being able to deliver its payload at ranges exceeding 2,000 miles, unrefueled. Its enhanced survivability features will make it extremely effective at penetrating enemy airspaces undetected. And its enhanced communications systems and ability to carry up to 28,000 pounds of ordnance will allow it not only to drop more weapons with fewer sorties, but also to work either alone or as part of a 'wolfpack' of networked manned and unmanned weapon systems to 'swarm' over hostile

'NGLRS will be the first bomber since World War II designed primarily for conventional operations,' explained Isherwood. 'As such, it will be expected to generate more sorties per day and have a maintenance concept that will support a high operational tempo.'

NGLRS' advanced communications systems will also allow it to take on roles not conventionally assigned to bombers, added Isherwood. In addition to handling in-flight re-tasking to deal with time-sensitive targets, the aircraft could also set up an airborne 'wide area network' for distributing critical information to warfighters, just as the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System serves as a distribution hub for the air-to-air operational picture.

The 2018 bomber will also have the size and electrical capacity to provide options for non-kinetic and cyber operations. Its advanced antennas might be used, for example, to sever communication links used to trigger improvised explosive devices, monitor enemy communications or conduct other types of Electronic warfare operations.

At a strategic level, NGLRS offers U.S. leaders a unique and compelling capability: the ability to hold at risk any target worldwide -- hostile leadership, weapons facilities, infrastructure or enemy forces -- with a prompt, precise, man-in-the-loop global strike capability.
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