Warplanes: Breaking Silence About the B-3

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March 10,2008: Stung by rumors that they were not serious about developing a new heavy bomber, the U.S. Air Force announced that it was developing such an aircraft, that it would be in service by 2018, and would be able to operate with, or without, a crew. The implication was that the design of the new bomber was already quite advanced, and that it was, like the B-2, being handled as a "black project" (all work done in secrecy, until ready for production.)

The new bomber would be similar to the current B-2 in many ways. That is, it would be stealthy, have a crew of only two, and be capable of staying in the air for over 24 hours at a time. The "B-3" would probably also be capable of super-cruise (travelling long distances at very high speeds), and would definitely have a full array of the latest sensors and communications capabilities. The biggest potential problem is cost. The B-2 bombers were so expensive that only 21 were built. One recently crashed. Adding in the development expenses, each B-2 cost about two billion dollars. If the B-3 costs a lot more, the air force will have a hard time selling it to Congress. This would be the case even if the air force came up with a design that amounted to a "semi-space" ship, that travelled at hypersonic speeds (enabling it to reach any point on the planet in a few hours). Price has definitely become a factor, and that may be why the air force has been reluctant to release any details on the next generation heavy bomber.

 


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