Bomber Variants

There will be a number of “variants” of the new Long-Range Strike Bomber, Air Force acquisition executive William LaPlante told Air Force Magazine in an interview. The design chosen will follow an “adaptable strategy” allowing for changes to the aircraft over time, he said. “The decision was made—and we’ve stuck to it … to go with relatively mature technologies” on the first version of the LRS-B, then “build in design points and an adaptable strategy that allows us to do block upgrades to future variants” that can accommodate new threats or technologies. Not all future versions have been mapped out. “We don’t necessarily know exactly what sensor or weapon or capability we’ll put on it, but we do know that we want to build ‘hooks’ in the system” and an open architecture to make it easy to adapt to changing conditions. “One of those for sure is going to be the nuclear … variant,” LaPlante said. He challenged the notion that nuclear hardening must be designed into the aircraft from the start, saying the issue is “not black and white,” but that adequate provision will be made to make it “easier” to make a future nuclear version of the bomber. Why wasn’t the nuclear model first? “From a schedule and a national perspective, [the nuclear model] wasn’t the first version we needed,” he said.