The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) is probably the second-most anticipated aircraft of the decade, right after the F-35 Lightning II which has recently entered service with the US Marine Corps, and will follow suit with the US Air Force and Navy in the coming years. Designed to compliment the Air Force’s B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit fleet, while gradually superseding the B-52 Stratofortress in service, the LRS-B will likely take the best of the B-2’s design features and greatly expand on them, revolutionizing aerial global strike capabilities and ushering the US Air Force’s bomber commands into the next generation. According to Andrea Shalal, reporting for Reuters, Air Force officials offered a few more details on the highly classified project without getting into specifics which would compromise the tight security surrounding the bomber’s development. From what we know so far, the two major competitors vying for the LRS-B contract are Northrop Grumman (the B-2 Spirit was originally a Northrop product), and a joint Lockheed Martin-Boeing team. Both designs have been tested extensively, and the Air Force is expected to award the contract within the month at the very minimum.
Though it probably wouldn’t be out of the question to consider the mysterious aircraft spotted over Texas and Kansas early last year as being part of the LRS-B development program, the Air Force confirmed that neither design from both teams had reached the flight stage. However, the Air Force has conducted wind tunnel and survivability tests on both designs. The Air Force also claims that the two designs are far stealthier than the B-2, which is saying something considering just how effective the B-2 is. This also bodes well for the Air Force’s technological advantage over countries like Russia and China, which are expected to be able to overcome the B-2’s anti-detection capabilities by the 2020s. Ed Gulick, an Air Force spokesman, was reported as saying that the LRS-B can be remotely piloted, and both the Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin-Boeing designs can be adapted to carry newer types of smart/guided munitions as they become available in the future. Additionally, the final product will possess a strong electronic attack capability, and will not be immediately certified for nuclear strike roles, though it will be equipped with the necessary software for such missions and the delivery of the appropriate nuclear-tipped weaponry to go along with it. Granted, this all doesn’t look like much, but considering the classified nature of the program, it’s a heck of a lot more than what we’d normally hear.