Tag Archives: Northrop Grumman

Unveiled: US long range strike bomber becomes B-21

The future US Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) was officialy designated B-21 in a statement made by US Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James on Friday 26 February. On the same occasion, a computer rendering of the new design was unveiled, looking very similar to the B-2 Stealth bomber and disappointingly not revealing much more than that.

According to James, the new bomber is a key element in the future US defense strategy. It should  add ‘unheard of capabilities’ to the US long range strike arsenal. The Pentagon says it will need 80 to 100 new longe range bombers to replace B-1 Lancers and B-2 Stealth bombers.


Northrop Grumman las October was announced the winning contractor for the B-21 (formerly LRS-B) program. The company also designed and built the B-2. Lockheed Martin and Boeing contested the decision, but a court recently ruled that the selection of Northron Grumman upholds.  On Friday 26 February, both Lockheed Martin and Boeing said they will take no further legal action.

Name contest

An actual name for the Northrop Grumman B-21 will be chosen in a selection process that is open to suggestions from US airmen. The winning name is to be presented this fall.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Northrop Grumman to build new US bomber

Northrop Grumman has been selected to develop and build the new long range strike bomber for the US Air Force under the LRS-B program. The company beat joint competitors Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The decision was made public during a briefing in Washington DC on Tuesday 27 October.

The LRS-B program is thought to be one of the biggest defense programs over the next decades, with value estimates over 80 billion USD. The program was started in 2009 and a request for proposal was issued to contenders in 2014. The announcement of the winner was on the cards for several months already.

The US Air Force says it needs 80 to 100 new longe range bombers to replace B-1 Lancers and B-2 Stealth bombers. The first contract should be for 21 aircraft. Initital operational capability (IOC) is to be reached in 2025 and the new design should see service for fifty years at least. Unit price is an estimated 560 million USD.

Northrop Grumman is the same company that developed the B-2, the type that ended up costing about 2 billion USD a piece after the order was cut to just 20 planes in the nineties. There should at least be some doubt about the unit price for the LRS-B.

Northrop Grumman nevertheless says the Air Force has made the right decision. Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman chairman, chief executive officer and president,: “As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber.

“Our team has the resources in place to execute this important program, and we’re ready to get to work,” Bush added.

B-1B Lancer
he LRS-B will replace the B-1 as well as the B-2. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Lockheed Martin and Boeing express disappointed by the announcement. A statement says:  “We are interested in knowing how the competition was scored in terms of price and risk, as we believe that the combination of Boeing and Lockheed Martin offers unparalleled experience, capability and resources for this critically important recapitalization program.”

The development of the new bomber should be seen as a clear signal to Russia, China and other challenging Washington’s domination of world affairs, that the US still takes its role as the world’s police very seriously.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An LRS-B teaser image released earlier by Northrop Grumman. (Image © Northrop Grumman)

After exit General Dynamics, Alenia Aermacchi still in T-X race

Alenia Aermacchi is still in the race to provide the US Air Force with 350 new T-X advanced training jets to replace the aging Northrop T-38 Talons in American service. The bid by the Italian aircraft manufacturer got a serious blow when its planned primary partner, General Dynamics, dropped out of the race.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
AHF↑Inside: The Italian Training Recipe
General Dynamics, the company that designed and made the famous F-16 multirole jet and sold its aircraft division to Lockheed (Martin) in 1993, said it needs time and energy to reorganise itself and that it therefore cannot continue to become lead contractor for Alenia Aermacchi’s planned Americanised version of the M-346 advanced training jet. But the Italians are keeping there hopes up to go ahead with what they have named the T-100 and have engaged business discussions with a yet to be named US company. Winning the partnership of a American based firm is essential to win the order.

L-3 Communications
L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas, is the most likely “discussion partner” for Alenia Aermacchi, as the US company has already joined forces on the Italian C-27J Spartan aircraft. But Northrop Grumman was also hoping for the support of L-3, which makes matters ratter complicated. But there might be an opening, as Northrop Grumman together with its main partner BAE Systems seems to have stepped away from the earlier plan to offer the US Air Force a “pimped” version of the Hawk advanced jet trainer – meaning L-3 could re-discuss its involvement.

A USAF T-38 at Edwards Air Force Base (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A USAF T-38 at Edwards Air Force Base (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Boeing / SAAB
Probably Alenia Aermacchi’s biggest competitor in the bidding race is the Boeing / SAAB partnership. The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter is already a perfect, but overqualified candidate to replace the T-38. SAAB already admitted it has “a few hundred people working on the project”, with employees working in St. Louis, Missouri, and Boeing personnel at work at SAAB headquarters in Linköping, Sweden.

SAAB’s joint effort with Boeing – which bought the impressive McDonnell Douglas fighter heritage – to modify and “down develop” the ideas behind the Gripen into an advanced jet trainer – could be lethal to the competition, also to third bidder Lockheed Martin working with Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) to adapt the Korean T-50 jet.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The M-346 advanced trainer in mid-flight (Image © Alenia Aermacchi)

The South African Air Force's SAAB JAS 39D Gripen '01' which was involved in testing the new A-Darter in February 2015 (Image © Frans Dely / Gripen International)
Just think equally advanced, but focused on combat pilot training needs – a Boeing co-developped spin-off of this SAAB JAS 39D Gripen could be a replacement for the US Air Force’s T-38 fleet. It’s biggest fear might be the Alenia Aermacchi T-100 with a new American partner (Image © Frans Dely / Gripen International)

First cruise of Delta Hawkeye

The new Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Early Warning and Control aircraft of the US Navy will embark on its first ever operational cruise on 9 March 2015. The “Tigertails” – the nickname of VAW-125 – will be trying to keep the aircraft carrier group formed around the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) out of harm’s way, when the task force leaves Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

The E-2D has a new radar, new radios, a new mission computer, integrated satcom, a flight managment system and better engines. It has new avionics in a so-called “glass cockpit” (all digital stuff) and is able to refuel in mid-air. Although its first flight was in August 2007, it has taken a while for the first USN unit to become operational on the type.

One of the new features is that the E-2D is now able to for example help direct anti-air missiles to intercept incoming cruise missiles, as was shown in a test in 2009. Navy sources say that the Hawkeye crews should even be able to help target medium-range air-to-air missiles to their targets, once launched by other navy fighter jets. The new APY-9 radar should make it able for the Hawkeye to detect new stealthy fighters, like the Russian-made Sukhoi PAK-FA.

The Northrop Grumman E-2D is a further development of the Grumman E-2 already in service since 1964. The US Navy has ordered 50 aircraft so far, with 15 aircraft delivered. VAW-125 is the first operational squadron, flying five E-2Ds. Each USN AEW&C squadron will operate four or five Advanced Hawkeyes in the near future.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An E-2D Hawkeye assigned to the Tigertails of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 flies over Naval Station Norfolk on 20 March 2014. The unit is assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 that will board aircraft carrier CVN71 USS Theodore Roosevelt (Image © Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott / US Navy)

Advanced Super Hornet into 3rd month of existence

First flight of the F/A-18E/F Advanced Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks and Enclosed Weapons Pod. Taken at August 7, 2013. (Image © Boeing)
First flight of the F/A-18E/F Advanced Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks and Enclosed Weapons Pod. Taken at August 7, 2013. (Image © Boeing)

The next model of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter/strike aircraft ends its second month of existence with the Boeing and Northrop Grumman companies in St. Louis. The so-called Advanced Super Hornet is probably the last attempt to sell a concept originally developed in the late 1970s by McDonnell Douglas.

In August test pilots took the Advanced Super Hornet, which is in fact a F/A-18E with loads of extra gimmicks, through 21 flight tests from St. Louis and NAS Patuxent River to see if the upgraded aircraft would do well.

The Advanced Super Hornet has conformal fuel tanks (CFT), which gives the aircraft an additional combat radius of 130 nautical miles (240 km) to be able to strike within a radius of 700 nautical miles (1296 km), meaning loaded with weapons it can hurt the enemy a bit further than before. An enclosed weapons pod (EWP) gives the aircraft a lower radar profile if the other external hardpoints are not used. Boeing and Grumman, together with GE Aviation and Raytheon, still work on Infrared Search and Track, a better engine and a totally new cockpit.

Boeing hopes to interest potential customers to directly order the Advanced Super Hornet upgrade, or buy the additional Christmas package for one’s existing F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet. According to its manufacturer the new stuff will get the old Super Hornet into the advanced 2030s air war.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information of Boeing