Northrop offer supersonic robot stealth raygun cyber-bomber
Bells and whistles cupboard emptied in one
Needless to say, the new cyber bomber would also be able to deploy a fearful panoply of meatspace missiles or smart bombs, up to and including the deep-bunker busting fifteen tonne Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
It would also be able to act as the command ship for an air/ground robot armada, perhaps including the US Navy's planned robot strike fighters, reconnaissance drones, cruise missiles and whatnot.
There is a real opportunity for NGLRS and [upcoming unmanned stealth fighters] to operate in unison, collaboratively finding and fixing targets then sharing them ... the netted “wolfpack” could extend to non-airborne weapon systems ... This “netting” of systems allows rapid transmission of intelligence and targeting data, reducing the kill chain.
As first delivered, the cyber bomber would have stealth - possibly "fourth generation" or "ultra" stealth, as opposed to the measly Stealth 2.0 found on today's B-2. The NGLRS would start out boringly subsonic and human-crewed, but "upgrades might lead to supersonic and unmanned variants" according to Haffa and Isherwood.
But a mere supersonic, uncrewed stealth cyberbomber doesn't satisfy Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week. He is of the opinion that Northrop is already building a secret, or "black" prototype along these general lines, and he reckons that the uberplane would also need to feature a directed-energy weapon - a raygun - for the purpose of knocking down or blinding those pesky double-digit missiles. He asked Isherwood, presenting the Northrop paper, about that possibility:
Today's laser-based infra-red countermeasures (IRCM) systems can blind an IR-homing missile; tomorrow's [rayguns] will be powerful enough to negate a radar-guided missile, Isherwood says ...
Which seems to be everything you could possibly ask for - a robotic wolfpack-leading supersonic stealth cyberbomber, with a frikkin laser on it. And/or a possible electropulse cannon for the radar missiles, although American boffins are already working on ways to make radars electropulse proof.
So - how much would one of these babies cost, exactly?
Haffa and Isherwood, like all good salesmen of big-ticket items, are reluctant to talk price too soon. Indeed, they even admit that Boeing and Lockheed together might be able to put together an NGLRS contender to rival theirs - the US airmen don't have to buy it from Northrop. Provided the air force orders enough planes to get a discount, they breezily say that "the NGLRS should be affordable". ®
* That is SA-10 and later weapons, as opposed to antique SA-5s, SA-7s etc.