Why the successor of B-52 won’t be a drone

Boeing_B-52FThe U.S. Air Force has launched the tender for its future bomber. The LRS-B (Long-Range Strike Bomber) will replace both the B-2 stealth bomber, but also the legendary B-52 which first flew in 1952.
The Air Force should buy between 80 and 100 of this future bomber whose theoretical price is expected to reach $ 550 million (excluding development costs). The program indicates that the future will no nuclear bomber as optionally dronised.

The Succession of the B-52, but also the B-2 stealth bomber

They are still 76 to fly under the colors of the USAF B-52 will finally join the aeronautical museums. Finally in 2040, when the future LRS-B is fully operational. The bomber future also replace the B-2 stealth bomber whose Air Force bomber 2 billion rooms including Air Force was unable to enter into service 20 copies and she wants to get rid as soon as possible.

Le B-52 et le B-2 seront remplacés par l'appareil qui émergera de la compétition entre Boeing/Lockheed-Martin et Northrop-Grumman.

The B-52 and B-2 will be replaced by the unit that emerges from the competition between Boeing / Lockheed-Martin and Northrop-Grumman.


The LRS-B program indicates that the future will be American bomber himself as stealth, but also optionally piloted. A decision that seems surprising knowing that the camera will enter into service in the 2020s when the program takes its time. If, for conventional mission this bomber can fly without a pilot. Nevertheless, the doctrine of employment of nuclear weapons of the army of the U.S. Air requires a human element in the chain of command and control. The future will be a bomber cockpit to carry out its missions to “nuke”. In addition, a report from the think tank of the U.S. defense CSBA emphasizes that the benefits of drone in terms of aerodynamics and weight are much lower for a long-range bomber of action for a plane single-seater combat. Finally, there is the reliability of the drone on long distance flights, involving multiple in-flight refueling and long overview of enemy territory. Scenarios considered in the CSBA evoke flights to Tehran or Beijing …

Lockheed Martin has partnered with Boeing to counter the designer of the B-2

For now, Northrop Grumman, the designer of the B-2 will compete against Boeing has partnered with Lockheed Martin. The draft so far revealed are fairly close, knowing that the track originally dug by Lockheed-Martin, the 100% drone is now ruled out. These images broadcast by the manufacturers should be taken with some caution since the program is of course classified top secret and the B-2 has been found that 2 years after the bomber had taken the air.


The USAF should determine the winner of the competition in spring 2015 and the unit should start to be visible on U.S. bases around 2020, unless the first demonstrators are already flying over… Area 51.

Sources :
“USAF bomber contest under way”, Jane’s, 10 juillet 2014
“Budget Highlight: Air Force Long Range Strike Bomber”, CRS Insights, 2 juillet 2014
“USAF leader confirms manned decision for new bomber”, FlightGlobal, 23 avril 2013
“Sustaining America’s Strategic Advantage in Long-Range Strike”, CSBA, 14 septembre 2010

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