Killer Drone, Dead; New Bomber Lives

Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems -- the shared Air Force and Navy program to develop a killer drone -- has been cancelled, Inside Defense is reporting. "Instead, the Defense Department will begin work this year on a next-generation long-range strike aircraft, accelerating its bomber modernization plans by nearly two decades in an effort to quickly enhance the Air Forces effectiveness across the Asia-Pacific region."x45a_overhead.jpgJ-UCAS was supposed to produce an armed drone that could knock out enemy air defenses, conduct surveillance, jam enemy radars. On the side, it might do some strike missions. But it would mainly pave the way for manned aircraft.This new project would focus more directly on taking the enemy out, Inside Defense says."The action to accelerate work on a new bomber tracks closely with a recommendation last fall for a new, long-range strike aircraft program made by Andrew Marshall, the Pentagons director of net assessment, who called for developing capabilities necessary to deter China."That means striking at targets thousands of miles from any U.S. bases, Robert Work, with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, noted in a recent presentation. "Reach the combination of range and persistence is especially important in the Pacific theater of operations.""U.S. Strategic Command, which has responsibility for an evolving concept dubbed 'global strike,' strongly advocated the need for a new bomber" to obtain that reach, according to Inside Defense.Here's how Globalsecurity.org describes the concept:

The new capabilities ensure that the Air Force can strike a variety of targets, including hardened or deeply buried targets (HDBTs) as required in non-permissive environments... Capabilities should provide the ability to operate at extended distances from the theater of conflict with an effective and flexible payload (e.g., nuclear and conventional precision/non-precision munitions). Desired attributes for GS capabilities are responsiveness, persistence, survivability (including lethal self-protection), lethality, connectivity, and affordability... A new/modernized bomber aircraft may satisfy the proposed capability. Currently, all milestones for the program are tentative, but for planning purposes, a development effort could start as early as 2006 with an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2015 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2020.
At first glance, it sounds like an updated version of Cold War doctrine -- with this new plane standing in for ICBMs or for the B-52 fleet (which, incidentally, j just got cut in half). But this time around, those global strikers could still wind up being robotic, Inside Defense notes.
Three capabilities are expected to be essential for the Next Generation Long Range Strike Aircraft program: the ability to remain airborne for many, many hours; the means to fly very long distances; and the ability to carry significant numbers of bombs. The importance of these factors is expected to make the case for an unmanned system.
For the last several years, Pentagon fringe-science arm Darpa has been working on a program somewhat along these lines. The Falcon, or Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States, project aims to fire a bunker-busting bomb into near-space, and then send it crashing into a target more than 3,000 miles away, at four times the speed of sound.
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