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US Military Working On 'Optionally-Manned' Bomber

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the contract-paid-by-skynet dept.

The Military 278

An anonymous reader writes "Despite massive budget deficits, the U.S. military is working towards a stealthy and 'optionally-manned' bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The craft is intended to replace the 1960s B-52, 1970s B-1 and 1990s B-2 bombers. The new aircraft is meant to be a big part of the U.S. 'pivot' to the Pacific. With China sporting anti-ship weapons that could sink U.S. carriers from a distance, a new bomber is now a top priority."

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first bomb (-1)

eexaa (1252378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176203)

it was optional.

Re:first bomb (-1, Offtopic)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176527)

As was the war in Iraq.

joshua (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176241)

joshua

Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (5, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176251)

So, more crew than a cruise missile? Multiple targets like a MIRV, ability to recall, and no (pilot/crew) lives at risk... what's not to like?

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176341)

The audio system is a bit tinny, I hear, but the nav system is to die for.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176479)

[...] the nav system is to die because of.

You ended that sentence with a preposition... Bastard.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (5, Funny)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176557)

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176571)

Hey, don't alter my IP!

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177027)

[...] the nav system is to die because of.

That appears to be un uncited FTFY. If so, then Grammar Nazi fail.

"Of" is also a preposition.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176373)

what's not to like?

The fact that it's a bomber instead of a high-mobility rail-artillery piece capable of launching many scales of munition with two-stage pinpoint accuracy* from extreme distances with little to no identifiable trail.

*by two-stage accuracy I mean one ballistic arc that would be spot-on in a static atmosphere and smart-bomb style guidance fins to remove the inaccuracies of weather

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (2)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176447)

High mobility rail pieces are still going to be mounted on ships. Even with the longest range estimate, those would put the ships well within the capabilities of Chinese anti-ship missiles as they are now. Let alone what will be deployed when the rail-equipped ships are deployed. To take out China's attack on Taiwan, we'll need both of these platforms.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (5, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176765)

The advantage of the ship-mounted bomb-throwers starts on the second week of a war, when you need the cheapest way to get bomb tonnage on target, not the most effective. But I'm not conviced we'll ever do it - aside form the LDS, we seem unable to settle on a new ship design, with the DDX and CGX programs seemingly discarding every cool new idea they come up with.

I don't know if these new bombers are suppsed to be first-week weapons or not - I guess if they are supposed to replace B2s and cruise missiles they would be, unlike how we currently use B1s and B52s. But B2s have the range to launch from the US and reach any target they need to, without waiting weeks to get the logistics trail in place. I wonder if that's true of these bew bombers?

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176953)

BUFFS aka B52s do a pretty good job of reaching anywhere in the world. Barksdale launched BUFFs that dropped weapons on Baghdad in the first Gulf war. Pretty much a PR exercise since we had BUFFS based much closer but they successfully pulled it off.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176983)

All the current heavy bombers of the USAF have the ability to do the long range missions that the B-2 are famous for, and infect the B-1B regularly does (Libya is a good example).

However, doing those missions still requires a huge support infrastructure to be in place - even the B-2 doesn't carry the fuel load to enable it to hit Iraq from the continental United States without being refueled several times enrolee, which means you still need bases for the KC-135s (or the new replacement) within capable range for a refuelling hookup.

So yes, these new bombers will have the same reach as the current generation.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39177227)

Never knew the B-1B was an infectious heavy bomber......

First time I've heard of an airplane infecting something.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176885)

to deal with a PRC attack on Taiwan you will wake up in the morning and find a hammer and sickle hanging over taipei, and have to decide if you want to launch an invasion to liberate them from the phillipines or Japan, and if so how in the hell you're going to pull that off with china in control of the whole area at sea.

Unmaned drones are all well and good against enemies who's greatest weapon is a 20 year old shoulder mounted anti aircraft missile you sold them, or a state that has no real interest in putting up a fight, with soldiers who don't want to die for the dipshit in charge. China is none of those things. You will run out of missiles long before china runs out of things worth bombing, and they aren't going to fuck around without electronic warfare capabilities. If they decide to take taiwan by force you're going to be scrambling to source electronic components, because they will control the sea around taiwan, shipping around korea will be treacherous at best, and the same could be said of most of japan and thailand, and it suddenly looks much harder to run a high tech war without reliable access to most of those goods. Possible, but difficult.

not that rail guns are all that much more use. On a good day they're about 100Km range, and you can't get much more than that without assistance (rocket powered) simply because the air has too much of an impact beyond that point (friction, drag, random wind orientation in the intervening space etc.). I suppose if you had a ring around taiwan of rail guns it would give coverage over half the straights with china, but still, going in the other way a good missile will knock a ship out of commission for months at much longer range. Rail guns might be cost effective, but it remains to be seen if the cost savings is worth the tradeoff. It's basically like a new version of a battleship with triple the range, but still against missiles and aircraft carriers with ranges 5x the base, so I'm not sure it gets enough to be a deciding factor.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176975)

China's only advantage is that they have many people.

They aren't going to control air or the sea.

Most of their army has 50 year old technology.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177253)

if so how in the hell you're going to pull that off with china in control of the whole area at sea.

The process is two step: 1) Isolate and keep isolated Taiwan from mainland China so that they can't supply it any more. 2) Squash whoever is on Taiwan like a bug. The whole thing would depend on achieving step 1. If China is sufficiently well armed or the US isn't willing to commit enough military power to achieve that first step, then China keeps Taiwan, not matter what glitzy technology the US has. If the US does achieve step 1 and keeps it for the course of the conflict, then it doesn't matter if China moves its entire adult population onto the island, they aren't keeping it.

As to rail guns, it's worth keeping in mind that they don't need to be mounted on an expensive platform c(that's just a weird, pork-driven US thing), that they have a high rate of fire, and that they might be able to fire guided munitions. Range isn't as useful as being able to deliver ordinance within a foot of their target every five seconds.

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176457)

Mr. President? We must not allow... A MINE SHAFT GAP!

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176487)

So, more crew than a cruise missile? Multiple targets like a MIRV, ability to recall, and no (pilot/crew) lives at risk... what's not to like?

Overreliance on wireless.
Less payload than a B-52.
Lame.

:)

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176713)

With a crew there is no reliance on wireless. That is the point of having the option of people fly in this thing (getting rid of people and just getting straight to our robotic overlords would make a much better performing aircraft - but at least the meat sacks can be relied on when the intarwebz is down).

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176793)

So, ... what's not to like?

Having one land in Iran?

Re:Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove? (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177061)

The price is not to like. The Pentagon should pay for this new system by deleting some other system. In fact the Pentagon should delete more expenses than this one is currently pretended to cost, to accommodate the inevitable cost overruns of the new system.

We are spending far more than what our security needs to cost us. If we really do have a new "highest priority", the Pentagon should cut enough of its lower priorities to pay for it.

XB-70 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176271)

Please?

Re:XB-70 (2)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177145)

As a kid, that used to be one of my favorite airplanes. Aesthetically, I still think it is one of the coolest airplanes ever designed. Military aircraft, however, should always be designed with the mantra, "form follows function" in mind. As sweet as the XB-70 was, there's no way for it to be functional in the modern age. That airplane has got to have a radar cross section approximating an aircraft carrier or maybe even a small moon with all those right angles everywhere.

No one see's a problem with this? (5, Insightful)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176279)

Drones I can understand, they're primarily detailed to doing surveillance or limited to small munitions, but now we're talking about a full bomber that could be remote controlled? Seriously? There's nothing that can't be hacked! If it's controllable by something outside of the craft itself, it is vulnerable to hacking! Oh let's give enemies the opportunity to hack our BOMBERS, with a Nuclear option no less!

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176321)

Oh and one more thing, think about this folks...the PS3 was hacked by a bunch of talented guys doing it in their FREE TIME . Imagine what they could have done if they were paid to hack into something like a remote control bomber as a full time job!?!

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176555)

With given differences in the modes of access [to the hardware] there really is no comparison.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177001)

PS3 may be a bad example, but hey Iran has physical access to one of our drones. Who's to say that they couldn't figure some one of getting access to the machine or the broadcasting equipment? When you have something that has the ability to bring death and destruction on a massive scale, you don't remote control it. Even the ICBM's we used to have weren't remote controlled, you programmed the things to go where they were going to go and push the button. That's it no fuss no muss, no chance of an enemy getting control of it and turning it around (not to mention the physics involved, but my point is still valid)

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176569)

The PS3 thing was stupidity on Sony's end. There is a difference between finding the door hidden behind the book self and finding a locked door behind a book self.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176733)

The PS3 thing was stupidity on Sony's end. There is a difference between finding the door hidden behind the book self and finding a locked door behind a book self.

What makes you think the USAF is incapable of that type of stupidity? It would be interesting to see what a group of really aggressive and talented hackers like anonymous could when challenged to hack a system like this.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176573)

First of all, even consumer grade electronics require you to have physical access to the machine to hack it if it's properly set up. Something this expensive is going to have numerous measures to prevent enemies from gaining physical access in the first place, such as self-destruct. This is why the episode of BSG where they didn't want to network the systems together because of the Cylons hacking in remotely is so laughable (it would take a single firewall rule in that case... deny all incoming traffic) - there's consumer grade encryption available that far exceeds the capability of the most advanced military computers to crack within a practical amount of time. You would only be able to hack these things while they're in the air, and as long as you're within range of it. It's not like a server that's available 24/7 in one spot for you to brute force.

Secondly, I would expect military grade equipment to be fail-secure. That is, even if they did gain physical access, it would brick itself rather than allowing someone to make changes. I would really, really hope start of the art military hardware is more secure than a simple PS3. Not saying it can't be done, just saying you sound like the media hyping it up with FUD that doesn't come close to the real world.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176709)

Remember that the Predator drones broadcast their signals in the clear at first.

Military grade doesn't always mean smart.

I was using the PS3 as a general example not as a good one lol.

Here's an example [slashdot.org] of the problem with unmanned drones that don't always carry weapons.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (4, Interesting)

Unequivocal (155957) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176737)

If it were this easy, CIA and .mil wouldn't air gap so many networks. Even so they are vulnerable to hacking.

Also, it seems like the drone that crash landed is Iran had self-destruct mechanisms which didn't work. I'm not saying Iran's claim to have hacked the drone is very credible, but even so, they should have collected a bunch of burned wreckage, not a largely intact, high value, stealth drone.

Third, remember that for a long time (and maybe even to this day) drone camera footage is beamed down from satellites to the drone operators in the US on *unencrypted channels.* The military is frequently lagging industry on digital security issues.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

CharmElCheikh (1140197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176883)

"Something this expensive is going to have numerous measures to prevent enemies from gaining physical access"
"Secondly, I would expect military grade equipment to be fail-secure."
"I would really, really hope start of the art military hardware is more secure than a simple PS3"


Lots of assumptions and "hopes" here... Which one you think will get screwed up due to budget costs? Or simple mistakes? You just need one to see enemy "hackers" nuclear bombing US targets.

Remember how the most expensive jet at the time (the Harrier I think?) would become uncontrollable when passing time zones? The more automation you put in something, the more failures become likely and dangerous.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

TCPhotography (1245814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176889)

Well, it's possible to to use the radar as an input if you know the configuration. You broadcast a specific jamming signal that gets processed into a virus in the control computer and spreads to the rest of the systems. RUMINT is that this is what the Israelis did to the Syrians a few years back.

A more accurate version of your statement would be "require you to have access to inputs to the machine to hack it"

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

DroolTwist (1357725) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176939)

Just one question about your post. Would you really put a 'self-destruct' mechanism into this remote-controlled aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon?

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177289)

Yes, along with the logic to only use it in a worst-case scenario such as the enemy stealing one. Blowing up a nuke is a hell of a lot less dangerous to the surrounding population than detonating a nuke. Of course, I would also hope they would use the optional crew to flew it whenever possible if carrying an nuclear payload and use the remote/automation when carrying less dangerous payloads.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177115)

And that's why Iran never captured one of our drones.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (4, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177249)

This is why the episode of BSG where they didn't want to network the systems together because of the Cylons hacking in remotely is so laughable

It's a little less laughable when you consider that the Cylons owned most of the electronics manufacturing business on the twelve colonies.

(it would take a single firewall rule in that case... deny all incoming traffic)

That's a nice thought, but it doesn't help when your firewall switches to "allow all" once it sees the right magic packet. Which is exactly what happened in the pilot episode.

there's consumer grade encryption available that far exceeds the capability of the most advanced military computers to crack within a practical amount of time

There sure is. But all it takes is one little "mistake" to turn it from unbreakable into child's play [debian.org] .

Imagine a world where one company in, say, China makes more than half of the world's consumer electronics, including parts used for high security applications. In such a world it would be easy to see why people lie awake at night dreaming of Ken Thompson style hacks [bell-labs.com] .

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

iusty (104688) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177269)

You seem to believe that all hacks are due to finding flaws in listening daemons/open services. That's definitely not the case, and the era when any complex network could be thought as separated into inside, DMZ and external parts is long over. Your browser has many vulnerabilities, yet it doesn't "listen" on a port.

Any such a drone would have sensors that process incoming data (visual, IR, radar, GPS, etc.). Simply by the fact that it processes external data makes such a sensor potentially vulnerable to external threats; it doesn't have an open port that you can firewall, it simply has to read external data and it is in theory vulnerable.

For example, imagine finding a flaw in the image recognition software; "hacking" the drone could simply mean showing it an appropriate picture (which can easily be done remotely). Yes, doing a full 'gain-control' hack is hard, but we're talking here about state-actors with enough resources.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176691)

As I just posted in reply to your original post...

I highly doubt that anyone is going to be able to order one of these bombers from Amazon for the explicit purpose of hacking it. Regardless of how talented you are, you still need a substantial amount of access to something in order to ascertain its weaknesses.

In other words, would the PS3 still have been hacked if all the hackers had access to was the data flowing over the Internet connection for 8 hours at a time? I doubt it.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176715)

The people that hacked the PS3 had actual access to the hardware and most of its technology isn't classified. I believe it made the hacking easier.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176333)

If it helps, they won't be armed with nukes unless we're trying to intimidate China, for whom stealing nuclear weapons would not be a top priority. If you think there's not still a cold war going on, you must be some kind of human being, and not a politician.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176519)

If we load a few up with nukes and fly 'em towards China, who says China will be the ones doing the stealing? The things have wings and can fly other places. It's a generally bad idea.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176343)

Maybe that's a feature not a bug for the false flag operation to fan the (profitable) flames of war... Someone from Lebanon blew up the other guy's political party convention by taking over onw of our own remotely piloted bombers? Well, we gotta go invade Iran now. Oh you want the details of how they did it? Sorry thats classified citizen, now you're either with us or you're against us...

OTP (2)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176403)

A remotely controlled armed weapon should only use a one time pad for secure communications as that is provably secure (or rather as provably secure as putting a pilot in a plane since ground crews could be subverted to steal the pad). Then the threat model is reduced from controlling the aircraft to DOS and other jamming techniques, which is much more acceptable (considering the plane could be designed to self destruct if a watchdog signal is not received).

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176455)

Drones I can understand, they're primarily detailed to doing surveillance or limited to small munitions, but now we're talking about a full bomber that could be remote controlled? Seriously? There's nothing that can't be hacked! If it's controllable by something outside of the craft itself, it is vulnerable to hacking! Oh let's give enemies the opportunity to hack our BOMBERS, with a Nuclear option no less!

Friendly fire is currently a big source of US casualties and the right application of automation can decrease it. Current cruise and ballistic missiles can already be remotely controlled. I'm sure the "optionally manned" part is to allow future military leaders to choose the appropriate tradeoffs.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176607)

Think of it like this, if it's remotely controlled once, probably not a big issue because I'm assuming that they're only operated for a short window of time in which it's hard to analyze the signals. If you're using a bomber on a long range mission, you're allowing people to monitor the signals for hours and hours. That gives people the ability to track and monitor the signals for holes and/or patterns. Not to mention DoS attacks. Oh and how stealthy could something be with a transceiver with enough bandwidth to handle the video and control feed? Unless it's being controlled by tight beam which would kind of defeat the purpose....

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176501)

the missiles can be launched from thousands of miles away, not like it has to fly over the bomb zone on every mission

the hackers will probably need to be close to the bomber which is going to be very hard considering that the trip is over the pacific, the north pole, russia or some combination.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176637)

Or figure out where it's being controlled from and monitor it there...

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (3, Interesting)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176513)

Drones I can understand, they're primarily detailed to doing surveillance or limited to small munitions, but now we're talking about a full bomber that could be remote controlled? Seriously? There's nothing that can't be hacked! If it's controllable by something outside of the craft itself, it is vulnerable to hacking! Oh let's give enemies the opportunity to hack our BOMBERS, with a Nuclear option no less!

Perhaps that's why its optionally manned. If their going to bomb Russia or china, they might man it. If they are going to perform surveying and dropping MREs after a disaster on a humanitarian mission, then they might chose not to man it. Also, the event of a suicide mission, where the Bomber is almost guaranteed to be lost, they can fly it unmanned, ensure it will self destruct.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176831)

I think they are just calling optionally manned because they accidentally built the cockpit on top of some of the bomb bay doors.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176589)

There's nothing that can't be hacked! If it's controllable by something outside of the craft itself, it is vulnerable to hacking! Oh let's give enemies the opportunity to hack our BOMBERS, with a Nuclear option no less!

At the end of the decade long project, I could sign off on the security/reliability of an electro/mechanical (including software) system to be 100% fail-safe LONG before I could make such assertions about a human crew.

It's just that we've been refining human based loyalty systems for millenia, whereas nearly all computer systems to-date have been schedule-compressed out the door before they're fully tested, often before they're even fully specified. Put the same number of man-hours into developing a pilotless bomber control system that we have put into developing and executing our nuclear launch officer recruitment, screening, training and surveillance operations, and you could have the same level of confidence in the system.

Of course, that would require over a decade in development - and lots and lots of talent that's highly valuable for things other than delivering nuclear weapons... seems like what we really need is an education system that produces more of these people.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176659)

Good luck hacking something that you have no access to on a regular basis - seriously, I agree with you in that anything can be hacked, but you have to have a decent amount of access to something in order to actually discover the weaknesses, which I doubt can happen over the course of a single mission for one of these things (even assuming that the control interface link doesn't use rotating encryption keys).

Yes, we have reports of Taliban groups intercepting video streams from current surveillance drones, but there's no suggestion that they have access to the control links in any fashion.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

npwa (1017242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176857)

Yes, we have reports of Taliban groups intercepting video streams from current surveillance drones, but there's no suggestion that they have access to the control links in any fashion.

No, of course not. ...No, wait - the Iranians only hijacked a surveillance drone, not a remotely operated nuclear bomber. no problem then... http://bit.ly/vVkpes [bit.ly]

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177047)

Actually it's commonly accepted within the aviation community (professional, military and otherwise) that the Iranian claim has no basis, and the RQ-170 crashed after a control feed failure rather than being brought down by hacking.

Do you really take Iranian claims at face value?

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177189)

Cite or GTFO!

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (2)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176689)

Drones I can understand, they're primarily detailed to doing surveillance or limited to small munitions, but now we're talking about a full bomber that could be remote controlled? Seriously? There's nothing that can't be hacked! If it's controllable by something outside of the craft itself, it is vulnerable to hacking! Oh let's give enemies the opportunity to hack our BOMBERS, with a Nuclear option no less!

They should just put a little studio apartment in the drone bomber and let the guy live there a few weeks at a time. Fly it from the ground and if something goes wrong he can take over.... actually that's not a bad idea, he can nap on the plane while someone else flies from the ground. Huh, I started this as a joke but why not? "Radio Control this is Alpha Drone, I'm gonna play some PS3 you guys got this for awhile?"

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176855)

I don't see a problem if done correctly. They could send messages in certain rotating light frequency patterns that the craft would only acknowledge for basic binary information transfer. Then encrypt the binary information with a per flight key set before takeoff. Also make it a one way communication without any feedback from the aircraft.

To hijack this setup, it would require
A) The right equipment in the right place, basically knowing the flight path of the plane
B) Knowing the correct way to send the information, maybe through observation assuming there isn't random fake messages sent along too
C) Figure out the encryption type and key without any feedback in the short time span at a limited rate

Now there are still the downsides of it being easy to blind the aircraft by overpowering the signals being sent to it.

They can also setup predefined routines to call rather then actual control commands. Overall though, I think the issues of jamming the signal through blinding it is much more of an issue.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176905)

I guess they will be manned on nuclear missions.

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176949)

Conventional payload - might be unmanned
Nuclear payload - you bet your ass it will be manned

that's why it's "optionally-manned"

Fail-Safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39177131)

Re:No one see's a problem with this? (1)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177143)

Actually, it's more dangerous than that. An attacker wouldn't necessarily need to hack and gain control access to the bomber, they would only need to disrupt it's sensors / communications channel such that the drone is unable to navigate (or indeed, even basic functioning like maintaining airspeed would be impaired). The stakes are much higher than in Iran when your drone is now armed with nuclear cargo.

Cost? Hah. (3, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176301)

FTFA:

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suspended the bomber development in 2009, citing out-of-control cost and technical ambition.

Soon thereafter, current Secretary Leon Panetta gave the relevant committee members a few good, hard slaps, and they all woke up, shuddered, and went back to shoveling money into the bottomless maw.

Good Lord (1, Funny)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176315)

Good Lord, now that China has developed 3rd generational warfare capabilities [wikipedia.org] , we might need to redevelop some of the tools we used to defeat the Soviet Union, which was also using 3rd generational warfare capabilities. Oh wait......

Dumb.

Re:Good Lord (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176849)

Interesting link, did you actually read it?

The 4 generations listed actually repeat often throughout history. None of them are actually dependant on tech level, but relative tech level with the opponent does determine which general style will be most effective.

To enforce my point about the cyclic nature, 2nd generation is noted by use of indirect fire long-range weaponry. Such as the ancient siege catapults and trebuchets. 1st generation is noted by use of just throwing men at the problem, like the USSR did in their defenses during WW2. 3rd generation is based on mobility and troup position being more important than raw firepower, as was used very effectively when Gengis Khan trounced most of Europe. Finally 4th generation is (and always has been) the standard of asymmetric warfare.

Re:Good Lord (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177085)

we might need to redevelop some of the tools we used to defeat the Soviet Union

Money? Because you will need to somehow develop much more of that if you want to beat China.

Autonomous killing machines (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176357)

I see another layer of avoiding responsibility for casualties emerging here. Ignoring the technology's effectiveness or benefits, the industrial-military complex has never been good at taking responsibility.

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They were depriving us of their valuable resources.
Those people were [insert hate group here].
They allowed themselves to be used as human shields.
Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

I envision that in the future, innocent people will be killed and new excuses will be created and they will say it was because their biometrics matched that of the target, or that there was an error in the targeting system, or that they made a hostile gesture at the killing machine that was 'innocently' going about it's business above his house. But never do I expect to see them come straight out and say "We screwed up. Sorry."

No matter how great the technology is, what I want to here isn't about how efficient it is, but how human the people pushing the buttons are. If someone is hurt or killed that wasn't supposed to be, will they admit it? Will they compensate the victim? The families? The rest of the community that was deprived of the loss? Until that happens, all that this new technology will mean is more creative ways for bureuacracy to avoid responsibility, which is, afterall, its primary function.

If war was no more complicated than two societies who couldn't resolve their differences each sending a certain number of soldiers to be incinerated in some machine located on an island, and the country with the biggest number won, then I suspect war would be a lot less common. All these layers of technology and rationalization takes away from the fact that is all war is. Technology just means we have to sacrifice fewer to the machine than the other team does.

Re:Autonomous killing machines (2)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176593)

Well, you know what, you have a point there. Back in the days before explosive projectile weapons, when men had to use daggers and swords and spears and javelins, it was a lot more personal and you didn't really have much of an excuse if you slaughtered an entire village or city. Of course, nobody was left to punish you, but that's beside the point. The farther removed you are from the actual killing, the less of an emotional impact it has. I remember seeing a chart, where the ultimate impact was when you killed someone by stabbing your bare hand into their body. The least impact was someone pushing a button on a computer thousands of miles away. It's easy to see how little impact it will have on someone if it's so abstracted. If an act of killing has so little impact, there is theoretically so little mental resistance to performing the act. There are exceptional people out there who consider the ramifications, but they aren't likely to be the majority.

I would like to believe that these killings which someone deemed so necessary will be carried out with higher precision, with fewer casualties. I really would. Let's hope that they can at least get that benefit. Fewer deaths would be good.

Re:Autonomous killing machines (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176795)

If an act of killing has so little impact, there is theoretically so little mental resistance to performing the act. There are exceptional people out there who consider the ramifications, but they aren't likely to be the majority.

The overwhelming majority of people responsible for carrying out the final act of ending another human life know it. Whether it's at the end if a knife, or the end of a thousand miles of cable, they know exactly what they just did, and feel it intensely. Those are not the people I am concerned with.

It's the people who have spent their entire lives as upper/ruling class, and who are surrounded with others who provide complex rationalizations for killing, the people who eventually enact the legislation, framework, and power to compel the people at the end of the chain to commit those acts. People who commit those acts knowing that if they don't push the button they could spend the rest of their lives jailed, or be executed for disobeying the order... they aren't the problem. It's those at the top, who ceased viewing people as valuable and instead view them as a means to an end.

This technology means that fewer people will feel that emotional burden of having taken a life, while more will feel justified in having ordered those fewer people to do it. That's the problem: It's not the button pusher at the bottom but the mouth breather at the top. If he had to die for the interests he would send others to die for, then war would be much less common. People wouldn't kill others for trivial things. When we make the process of killing so automated that those outside the process are completely unaware of it, then the risk of one of those mouth breathers at the top using it to satisfy their own emotional needs at the expense of the lives of others becomes too high.

Re:Autonomous killing machines (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177209)

The bureaucracy aspect of war is nothing new, though. Throughout history we've had kings and dictators and presidents who "went to war", doing exactly what you're saying. The only thing that's new here is the weapon. I'm considering the vehicle in this case a weapon, or perhaps a meta-weapon. It used to be that you weren't involved with the weapon if you were miles away.

People will kill other people without much thought (or will at least feel justified in doing so) if the other people have been dehumanized enough. Some samples from history: Oh, they insulted our god? Oh, they didn't give us money / allegiance? Oh, their leader said something incendiary about us? Oh, their genetics are inferior to ours and pose a threat to our superior race? Those people are no longer as good as we are, and must be eliminated!

You do raise another interesting point: Automation of killing. The door has been open for a while (drones, and satellites before them) for an AI to determine who will live and who will die on a battlefield. Perhaps we'll go the full distance someday and have machines kill other machines while the people who work as programmers and operators of those machines sit in the safety of a fortified stronghold somewhere under a mountain. I'd support that, but I wouldn't want to be one... there will always be assassins!

Re:Autonomous killing machines (1)

dsgrntlxmply (610492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176697)

Wasn't there an episode of Star Trek that depicted some situation where wars were conducted by computer gaming, eventually directing real [people/beings] to be killed according to the outcomes of the computer battles?

Re:Autonomous killing machines (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176757)

If war was no more complicated than two societies who couldn't resolve their differences each sending a certain number of soldiers to be incinerated in some machine located on an island, and the country with the biggest number won, then I suspect war would be a lot less common. All these layers of technology and rationalization takes away from the fact that is all war is.

Or war would be more common with no physical destruction or other lingering signs of war. In either case, congratulations, you've just described the premise of the Star Trek (TOS) episode: A Taste of Armageddon [wikipedia.org] from 1967.

... the entire war between the two planets is completely simulated by computers which launch wargame attacks and counterattacks, then calculate damage and select the dead. Citizens reported as "killed" must submit themselves for termination by stepping inside a disintegration booth.

Re:Autonomous killing machines (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176869)

All they do now is declare that whoever died was a 'terrorist', 'militant', or 'insurgent', knowing full well that journalists and the American public will swallow that without any difficulties. In a related point, they also seem to have successfully convinced most Americans that the protests in Afghanistan is all over the burning of Korans, whereas if you read reports from journalists who actually talked to protesters, the primary motivation for most of them is US drones killing Afghan children and the Karzai government doing nothing to stop them.

Re:Autonomous killing machines (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177073)

I see another layer of avoiding responsibility for casualties emerging here. Ignoring the technology's effectiveness or benefits, the industrial-military complex has never been good at taking responsibility.

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They were depriving us of their valuable resources.

Those people were [insert hate group here].

They allowed themselves to be used as human shields.

Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

All of the above has happened numerous times in the past and will continue to happen regardless of the types of weapons used in war.

I envision that in the future, innocent people will be killed and new excuses will be created and they will say it was because their biometrics matched that of the target, or that there was an error in the targeting system, or that they made a hostile gesture at the killing machine that was 'innocently' going about it's business above his house. But never do I expect to see them come straight out and say "We screwed up. Sorry."

Indeed, those in charge are unlikely to admit making mistakes. They will use whatever excuse they can, which may vary depending on circumstances like the weapons technology.

No matter how great the technology is, what I want to here isn't about how efficient it is, but how human the people pushing the buttons are. If someone is hurt or killed that wasn't supposed to be, will they admit it? Will they compensate the victim? The families? The rest of the community that was deprived of the loss? Until that happens, all that this new technology will mean is more creative ways for bureuacracy to avoid responsibility, which is, afterall, its primary function.

The primary function of a bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself. It will take responsibility for something perceived positive and avoid responsibility for something perceived negative. As citizens, we need to make sure the military is defending the country and nothing more.

If war was no more complicated than two societies who couldn't resolve their differences each sending a certain number of soldiers to be incinerated in some machine located on an island, and the country with the biggest number won, then I suspect war would be a lot less common. All these layers of technology and rationalization takes away from the fact that is all war is. Technology just means we have to sacrifice fewer to the machine than the other team does.

Sacrificing fewer to the machine than the enemy has always been a motivation when fighting wars. That's why people have developed better tactics, weapons, armor, transportation, communication and other technologies. Any other system would have to be enforced from the outside, which is impossible. I think it is extremely important that we be able to fight more efficiently than an enemy and therefore lose fewer people. As George S. Patton said, "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."

Having an efficient military is not the same as misusing it. Perhaps if we had a smaller, more efficient military, it would be more difficult to get us into unnecessary wars. Mandatory military service would probably also discourage unnecessary use of the military, but that's unlikely to be brought back.

cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176363)

the military didn't actually face real cuts, the rate at which their budget would have increased was slightly nipped, it still increased massively.

About time too (1)

stoofa (524247) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176383)

It's good to see the US military finally getting over their prejudice against soldiers who are 'Optionally men.'

Kind of makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176415)

Given that North Korea and Iran both claim to have budding nuclear programs, and given their distances from the United States, it kind of makes sense to add a handful of modern long-range bomber to the arsenal.

Making them support manned flight is a mistake IMHO; these things could be built for SO much less if they didn't have to worry about keeping a crew alive and (somewhat) comfortable. And really, what does a bomber crew do on a long-range flight other than sleep and play Nintendo DS?

So why should Iran bother developing nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176461)

When they can just GPS jam an American bomber and have it deliver one for them?

Nuclear armed drones? Seriously? (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176471)

So we just had a remote controlled drone go out of control and crash (which may or may not have been due to intentional signal jamming) ... and the solution is: let make more, only this time we'll arm them with nukes?
I think nuclear bombs are important enough to justify having a pilot riding along to keep an eye on things.

outsourcing (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176495)

Whenever I see such headlines or summaries "With China sporting anti-ship weapons that could sink U.S. carriers from a distance," I have to cry foul: Stop outsourcing our industrial base to China! Developing a new bomber will require us to buy more crap (parts, desktop stuff for offices of new bomber project) from China. And to do this when we have no money, we will have to borrow more money from China. It is all insane and wonder what top men at DC and at corporations are thinking.

The military-industrial complex is saved! (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176511)

See, sending most of our production capacity over to China was part of a brilliant deep game. We're not hamstringing ourselves and guaranteeing systemic unemployment for the next generation, we're making sure we have another Cold War, and the glory days of the US defense industry will be /back/, baby!

*Now* we have need of long-range stealth bombers, ICBMs, aircraft carriers, and the whole shebang.

Probably too much to hope that we'll have another space race to get us motivated to get out to Mars, though.

In other news ... (0)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176537)

... despite massive deficits, the federal government still spends 50% of it's budget on things it has NO constitutional directive for, such as education, health care, welfare, and transportation. Whine about the amount of federal spending on defense (25% of the federal budget) if you want to, at least the US Constitution gives the federal government a clear mandate to do it.Even the 23% it spends on pensions would be far less if it didn't meddle in state's rights to govern their own people by using blackmail without clear guidelines. For instance, no state is compelled to follow federal education or highway guidelines. That is, they don't have to if they are willing to give up federal funding. Which they wouldn't need if the federal government wasn't taking it from each state, and holding it until state's capitulate to their demands.

Re:In other news ... (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176911)

The US military hasn't been used for defense in the past 60 years or so. Starting wars unilaterally for no apparent reason is NOT in the Constitution, either, Einstein.

Re:In other news ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39177011)

Which they wouldn't need if the federal government wasn't taking it from each state, and holding it until state's capitulate to their demands.

Right. Take your red-state libertarian whining and try going it alone. Hint: you almost certainly get more in federal benefits (as a state) then you send in taxes. Fucking welfare queens...

Re:In other news ... (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177241)

You could just as easily argue that education, health care, welfare and transportation actually benefit Americans, while the current level of military spending gives us such great power that there's a constant temptation to misuse it. We've gained absolutely nothing from the Iraq War, but gotten a lot of Americans and a lot more Iraqis killed in the process. Invading Afghanistan certainly disrupted Al Qaeda for a while, but how much longer can we try to occupy the country when it's clear that the people have little respect for us or the corrupt government we're backing? How long will it take for Al Qaeda to resume operations as normal once we leave if they haven't already gotten comfortable in Pakistan and other places?

I think the amount being spent on both military and the things you mention is too much. We will need to reduce in all areas to get budgets under control.

How about a stealth UAV bomber? (2)

ace37 (2302468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176539)

Already done. Deploys from an aircraft carrier, carries 5000 lbs of bombs. Looks like a B2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Grumman_X-47B [wikipedia.org]

Re:How about a stealth UAV bomber? (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176851)

Already done. Deploys from an aircraft carrier, carries 5000 lbs of bombs. Looks like a B2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Grumman_X-47B [wikipedia.org]

That's a Navy project. After the F-4 and A-7... both initiated as Navy projects... USAF basically swore it would never have a Naval aircraft forced on them again. There's a lot of "me-too"ism that goes on in the Pentagon, lots of identity politics and turf warfare over the budget pie and prestige.

Manned bombers for first strike are obsolete. You send in missiles, or from high altitudes, precision guided ordinance. Then when you've taken out enemy ground based anti-air and gained air superiority with your fighter force, then and only then do you send in bombers to basically level the opposing ground forces, their buildings, and other infrastructure.

This being the case, and with ever declining budgets, was USAF needs is a airliner-adapted airframe that can do multiple missions: drop bombs, carry missiles, carry fuel for buddy tanking, and do electronic warfare and intelligence work. This is essentially what the Navy did for years with the P-3 Orion, which was a Lockheed Electra airliner adapted for naval patrol duties. Lockeed put hardpoints on the wings and made weapons bays in the belly. For the P-3, this usually went for torpedoes (with Harpoon missiles and Skipper guided bombs on the wing hardpoints), but in an Air Force aircraft, you'd load it up with JDAMS and cruise missiles. A 757 or 767 airframe would work well, and you could even get away with using one of the 900 series of the 737 airframe (which the Navy has done with the P-8 Poseidon, which is replacing the P-3).

Off the shelf adaptation is the way to go here. Any stealthy bomber from the ground up will run in the billions apiece, and that's flyaway costs, not including development costs.

Didn't Skynet use these? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176591)

I know it's late (Armageddon was a few years ago) and the wrong country (Russia not China) but at least we're making progress.

As for the "brains" well I think it's probably going to be Watson speaking to us through his assistant Siri.

B52 replacement? Seems unlikely. (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176745)

It doesn't really sound like a B52 replacement.

The B52 (and its counterpart, the Tu 95) stopped being a going concern in the face of anything but complete air superiority years ago. Nevertheless they have seen out many bomber designs that were meant to replace them for exactly the same reason.

Air superiority is difficult and requires things such as stealth, speed and very high speed (i.e. missiles). Those things all have serious tradeoffs. To maintain stealthiness, you have to make all sorts of compromises.

Once you have air superiority, there is no need to make those compromises any more. The B52 is a large, robust, relatively fule efficient and extremely flexible design, which cas been modified and hacked around with in all sorts of ways. It is still useful because if air superiority is guaranteed it does a better job of hauling a bunch of bombs and stuff around the sky than any other bomber in the fleet. No messing with super high power density jet engines or fickle stealth coating, etc...

I expect a true B52 replacement would be something more like an adapted airliner or cargo plane.

There seems to be an obsession in certain areas with stealth. Meanwhile, planes like the B52 and A10 do an exceptionally good job and neither have credible replacements.

Manned but optionally bomber, instead: B-797? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176767)

Why not just add another mission to regular passenger planes, and make them bombers, as well? Just make the seats able to hold bombs as well as humans, and add bomb bay doors on the floor. Then instead of just sitting around waiting for a war to start, bombers can haul passengers around the world.

And, hey, those bomb bay door would speed up de-boarding at the airport as well.

It would be just important for the pilots to remember if they were hauling bombs to drop in a war zone, or passengers to drop at an airport.

Re:Manned but optionally bomber, instead: B-797? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176891)

Just imagine, all passangers could bring their own bomb! No need for TSA anymore.

no to nuclear weapons ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39176807)

Didn't the G8 and other big countries said or signed a pack that there should not be any nuclear type of weapons or am I completely wrong here ?

Artificial intelligence... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176815)

is no match for military natural stupidity

so much easier to sign a peace treaty (1)

swframe (646356) | more than 2 years ago | (#39176895)

I just don't get it. China is a major trading partner and holder of american debt. It would be so much easier to sign a peace treaty. The biggest issue I think is taiwan so let's work out a deal to integrate taiwan like they did with hong kong. In exchange for taiwan, we should ask them to strongly motivate north korea to integrate with the south. There are other issues but I don't think they are big enough to go to war over. The richer they become the less problems we will have.

Another waste of money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39177005)

Ballistic missiles are already on numerous SSBNs.

There is no need for this bomber.

The US is run by madmen and idiots who waste money on crap
like this, while people starve and live in cardboard boxes. It cannot
go on, one way or another it will end.

Gotta Love the B52s (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177035)

The great thing is that after the airframes whatever they are going to call this thing are sitting in a desert, stripped of parts, the B52s will probably still be flying.

Hmm, that's familiar (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39177053)

"The craft is intended to replace the 1960s B-52, 1970s B-1 and 1990s B-2 bombers"

The B-70 was supposed to replace the B-52.
The B-1 was really supposed to replace the B-52.
The B-2 was *finally* supposed to replace the B-52.

My money's on the B-52. :-)

I really need to read these titles more closely... (1)

hargrand (1301911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39177257)

I initially dropped the 'er' in 'bomber' and immediately had visions of Slim Pickins.

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