Warplanes: August 2, 2001

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Vision Force To Include B-17s?- As the Air Force continues to study what weapons it wants in its "toolbox" for conflicts in the future, one old idea is coming back into serious consideration, the Long Range Strike Platform (LRSP). This would be 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. It would not need to be armed or stealthy (if its missiles were long-ranged enough for it to stay outside the envelope of the Russian-built S300 missile). With advanced missiles and communications, it could abort an attack after the missiles were launched, or change the target selection while the missiles were in flight. (This could create interesting tactics. If the aircraft fired 30 of its missiles in the first wave and the other 10 half an hour later, there would be time to retarget the second wave on targets that escaped destruction in the first wave. This would be more effective than reattacking the missed targets the next day.) New hypervelocity missiles (which do not exist today, even as prototypes) could in theory destroy enemy missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction before they hit their targets, or rip apart air defenses to allow manned fighters access to the enemy heartland. If the US dominates the enemy skies and has destroyed its air defenses, the LRSP could fly directly over the enemy with vast numbers of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Small Diameter Bombs, Joint Standoff Weapons, or Joint Air to Surface Missiles. The aircraft might even fire its weapons out of the rear cargo hatch, allowing it to serve as a regular transport aircraft in peacetime. Top choice of the generals is a missile armed version of the C-17 cargo plane, of which not enough are on order to satisfy military needs. The generals have already taken to calling it "the new B-17".--Stephen V Cole

 


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