The B-1B Bomber Could Bulk Up on Long-Range Weapons
Two proposed upgrades will allow the bomber to carry nearly 50 percent more missiles.
- Stealth planes like the F-22 and F-35 can carry limited weapons loadouts.
- The will act like one big flying magazine.
- The Air Force wants to transform in its inventory into the Arsenal Plane.
The U.S. Air Force is carefully considering what plane is the best fit for its new Arsenal Plane concept. The Arsenal Plane, a large aircraft packed with semi-autonomous flying weapons, is designed to provide extra firepower for fighter jets that spot targets but don’t have the weapons to take them out. The Air Force has a variety of airframes to choose from, but choosing the right one is harder than it sounds.
The B-52 Will Fly and Fight for 100 Years
The 1960s-era bomber will fly into the 2050s, but not without a lot of help. The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of B-52H Stratofortress bombers is receiving vital upgrades that will keep the planes battle worthy into the 2050s. First flown in the early 1960s, the B-52H will see nearly a century of continuous service. The big bomber is getting new radars, communications equipment, and maybe even hypersonic weapons to keep it relevant to the battlefields of the future. The B-52H fleet, already nearly 60 years old, has been the recipient of a steady but slow stream of upgrades to keep the planes useful.
The Arsenal Plane concept goes back to the 1990s, when the U.S. Navy briefly considered an “Arsenal Ship.” The Arsenal Ship would have been a ship that looked like a supertanker, with a long flat deck covered with missile silos. The Arsenal Ship would have acted as a floating magazine for the rest of the fleet, providing a reserve of literally hundreds of missiles that destroyers, cruisers, and task force commanders could call upon.
The Arsenal Plane is a very similar idea, using an airplane instead of a warship. Modern fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II are extremely stealthy and difficult to detect but carry their weapons internally, in order to preserve the jets’ stealthy profile. A F-35, for example, can only carry four air-to-air missiles, whereas previous fighters could carry up to eight. The air-to-ground weapons loadout similarly takes a hit.
The U.S. Air Force's Secretive New Drone Is a B-2 Lookalike
But it follows in the footsteps of spy planes like the SR-71 and U-2. The U.S. Air Force's secretive new RQ-180 drone is flying from a base in Northern California.The drone reportedly resembles the B-2 bomber. The RQ-180 was designed and flown at Area 51 and is rumored to have flown to the North Pole as a graduation test. The U.S. Air Force is secretly flying a huge new drone from a base in Northern California. The RQ-180 a high altitude, long endurance drone reconnaissance drone, is reportedly operating from Beale Air Force Base, the former home of the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 spy planes.
Developed by the Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office, the Arsenal Plane would likely be a bomber, transport aircraft, or perhaps even a converted civilian aircraft stuffed with air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons. A bomber like theor B-52H Stratofortress is a good choice because it already has a large bomb bay, a long range, and in the case of the B-1B is somewhat stealthy. Both bombers have external weapons pylons for carrying even more weapons, especially air-to-air missiles. A C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport also has a large carrying capacity. A civilian aircraft, perhaps something like the A380, would be relatively cheap to fly.
There’s no perfect solution, though. The B-1B is decades out of production and providing difficult to maintain. The B-52H is still needed as a vanilla bomber and there are only about seventy five planes left. C-17s would likely be needed in a major conflict as transports, and a civilian plane would need extensive, expensive modifications to become a military aircraft.
Is the Air Force Hiding a Secret New Warplane? .
Satellites spotted strange objects at a mysterious airfield near Area 51.The War Zonefirst detected the objects in imagery taken by Planet Labs' PlanetScope earth observation satellites on December 6. Planet Labs maintains a constellation of optical surveillance satellites worldwide, snapping pictures daily and beaming them down to Earth. The satellites have 3.7-meter ground sample resolution, meaning each pixel represents 3.7 meters, or 12 feet. Planet Labs uses these satellites for remote sensing purposes, allowing governments and corporations access to daily images of virtually every point on Earth.