From Friday's edition of the Danger Room....
Northrop Grumman just unveiled its design patents for the military's Next Generation Bomber. But one of the Air Force's top generals is hoping you'd call it something else. Because this aircraft, slated for a possible 2018 takeoff, is going to do much more than drop warheads from on high.
But you can't really compare yesterday's bombers to tomorrow's, argues Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. David Deptula. It's a mistake to even think of the new plane as a bomber, he says.
"If you look at Next-Generation Bomber - I wouldn't call it a bomber, because that creates a perception based on historical uses of bombers that this platform is going to be well beyond," Deptula tells Danger Room. "This platform is going to have the ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, act as a communications node -- and have the added capability of providing strike."
Despite its varied capabilities the new bomber--or whatever you might call it--faces an uncertain future, at best. The White House wants to shelve the project to free up cash for other programs, part of a new "Procurement Holiday" that could last into the next decade and beyond.
There's also the matter of meeting tight production schedules. Many experts doubt that a manned version of the new aircraft can be fielded by 2018, the original target date announced by the Air Force. The service hopes to meet that deadline by using "off-the-shelf" technology, including projected upgrades for the B-2 fleet.