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Washington is creating multi-bombing long-range flying arsenal

This post was published in Gazeta. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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WASHINGTON, (BM) – The US Air Force wants to create an arsenal designed to launch large-range air-based cruise missiles. For this, the military is asked to submit ideas and concepts for creating such an apparatus.

The U.S. Air Force wants to create a prototype aircraft that can carry on its board and massively launch long-range air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), writes Flight Global.

The US Department of Defense’s Strategic Opportunity Office and related services are currently surveying the ideas market and exploring the technical maturity, feasibility, and practical utility of using such an arsenal for combat use of ALCM. This is reported by the US Air Force.

The U.S. Department of Defense says it prefers prefabricated aircraft designs that can be turned relatively quickly into experimental and prototypes for rapid development and subsequent deployment.

Prototypes will help the US Air Force explore the idea of ​​an “arsenal aircraft,” that is, an aircraft that can carry and launch long-range air-launched cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles outside the range of a potential enemy air defense systems and air defense.

The U.S. military is discussing how effective such aircraft will be in military operations against China or Russia, which have an effective air defense system, which in most cases makes it impossible for aircraft to fly over their territory and the more effective the use of aviation weapons.

“The ability to dramatically increase firepower in future conflicts increases the range of possible solutions and operational plans against opponents with equal combat and operational capabilities,” the US Air Force said in a statement.

“The massive supply of unconventional platforms for delivering weapons to the air force is one of the options for providing unrivaled firepower, which can play a decisive role in future armed conflicts,” the US military said.

Arsenal aircraft (carrier ALCV) can be a project from scratch. However, the US Air Force is also considering reprofiling military transport aircraft such as Lockheed Martin C-130 or Boeing C-17 to launch the ALCM, and it is assumed that these aircraft can subsequently be used for other purposes.

At the end of May, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Special Operations Command announced that they had successfully tested a new aircraft munition called CLEAVER.

As previously reported by “Gazeta.Ru”, the bomb was dropped from an aircraft of the MC-130J Commando II type, which is mainly intended for participation in special operations. Commando II is a highly modified version of the C-130 Hercules four-engine military transport aircraft, which has established itself as a surprisingly effective bomber during the Vietnam War.

Testing the new CLEAVER ammunition is not just about dropping heavy ammunition on weakly protected targets. The name CLEAVER means Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range, which can be roughly translated as longer-range aviation ammunition launched from a transport aircraft.

However, the use of military transport aircraft as bombers can be very effective, but only if the enemy of the United States is a partisan type armed with only small arms.

If the United States armed forces encounter an enemy with approximately equal combat and operational capabilities, and his air defense system is organized according to all the rules of military science, equipped with modern anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-aircraft artillery systems (such as “Derivation-Air Defense”), then all BTA type S-130 aircraft will be destroyed in the first minutes of the war.

Regardless of whether the U.S. Air Force chooses to design from scratch, or a modified military transport aircraft, or whether they don’t have an arsenal at all, an ALCM carrier, partly the outcome will depend on the results of further research, Flight Global writes.

“There is a significant range of possible solutions that will take into account the number of weapons placed on the carrier, the flight range of the aircraft and, of course, the cost of the project as a whole. All potential options must be compared,” the Office of Strategic Opportunities said in a statement.

These studies will be used to continue the debate in the US Air Force. The question is: is further investment in a very expensive Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider strategic low-visibility strategic bomber more cost-effective or are other, less costly options possible?

In theory, the B-21 should operate in the contested airspace over China and Russia. However, American experts raise the question of whether it is better to launch air-based cruise missiles outside the active zone of active air defense.

As previously reported by “Gazeta.Ru”, several decades ago in the United States the idea was expressed that military transport aircraft located far beyond the zones of destruction of air defense systems would be able to launch a large number of cruise missiles to destroy enemy targets. Thus, this is by no means a new concept.

Back in the 1970s, disputes arose in the United States about the possible rejection of adopting the problematic B-1 bomber and the development of possible alternatives, that is, other aircraft platforms armed with cruise missiles.

It was argued that the aircraft – the carrier of new cruise missiles with a range of several thousand kilometers – could be a transport aircraft. Why settle for a B-52 with 20 missiles if you can get something more comparable to the capabilities of an aircraft like the Boeing 747, military experts in the United States claimed.

At one time, Boeing put forward a proposal to create a Cruise Missile Carrier Aircraft (CMCA) carrier aircraft based on a modified Boeing 747 airliner, in which instead of a passenger cabin, turret launchers for eight cruise missiles each would be installed.

One carrier of the CMCA type could carry 72 cruise missiles in this case. This is more than three times the similar load of the B-52, and the already impressive range of the Boeing 747 would make possible the global combat use of vehicles of this type.

The costs of purchasing and operating a CMCA would be only a fraction of the total cost of a modern strategic bomber.

Cruise missiles in this case would be launched from the hatch in the rear of the fuselage of the transport aircraft, and each launcher would be alternately shifted by the corresponding control system as the previous installation was emptied.

However, in the end, the CMCA was never built, and the B-1 Lancer was adopted, despite its high cost, followed by the even more expensive B-2 Spirit bomber, which cost a record $ 2 billion.

Now the US Air Force has once again revived this idea: an airplane – a flying arsenal of cruise missiles. The plan, as before, is that such a carrier will be equipped with a large number of cruise missiles and this aircraft will not enter the enemy’s air defense zones during combat missions.

Today, a heavy military transport aircraft C-17 can be used as a similar air platform.

Such an aircraft could be considered as a direct competitor to the promising strategic bomber B-21 Raider, made using technologies with low radar visibility. The cost of building this bomber is still optimistic at $ 550 million (in 2010 prices), which causes considerable skepticism.

It is possible, according to the publication of Flight Global, that ultimately in the United States a decision may be made on the purchase of both those and other aircraft.

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