Sunday, November 8, 2015

Northrop's Long Range Strike Bomber may have roots in secret program.

By Steve Douglass

There's a quote from the 1997 movie Wag The Dog, starring Robert De Niro that goes, "There is no B-3 bomber, and I don't know why these rumors get started!"

I can answer the question in two ways, first there is no B-3 bomber (yet) and secondly, rumors begin when plane spotters such as myself photographed a trio of triangular shaped aircraft flying in formation over my home city of Amarillo, Texas in March of 2014.  

On 27 October 2015, the Defense Department awarded the development contract of the LRS-B (Long Range Strike Bomber) which logically could become the B-3) to Northrop Grumman. The initial value of the contract is $21.4 billion, but the deal could eventually be worth up to $80 billion.

On 6 November 2015, Boeing and Lockheed Martin protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office. Estimates of development costs vary between 10 and 23 billion dollars.

Northrop Grumman won the award in part because of a projected cost per plane of $511 million, well below the Pentagon's cost cap of $550 million.

Boeing/Lockheed's protest is based on the assumption that Northrop couldn't possibly build an advanced next generation manned stealth strike aircraft on cost and on schedule, especially considering the cutting-edge Lockheed F-35 was anything but.

Northrop plans to field the LRS-B in only ten years, a remarkable feat considering it took Lockheed 20 years to develop the F-22.

However, there is a caveat.

If the protest goes to court it may be that Northrop will be forced to admit that they are already well on their way to building the LRS-B because they are basing their cost estimates on a covert advanced strike aircraft that is already operational, and that aircraft is what Dean Muskett, Ken Hanson and myself photographed in March of 2014.

Lockheed's Skunkworks can quite literally take the credit for basically inventing stealth, first by designing and building (in near total secrecy) the F-11A Nighthawk, followed by the F-22, F-35 and various UAV's. Lockheed Martin/Boeing might argue that Northrop has not built a stealth strike aircraft since the B-2 which is based on 1980s low observable technology, now considered vulnerable to advancements in modern radar technology, especially low frequency over the horizon systems.

However in reality NG hasn't been resting on it's laurels. Since the B-2, the programs we know about that NG has developed have been numerous, such as the FB-23 (spinoff of the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter that lost out the F-22) Tacit Blue,  a low observable technology demonstrator (a stealth surveillance aircraft) designed to operate close to the forward line of battle with a high degree of survivability and the highly classified RQ-180 UAV, developed out of the Northrop Grumman X-47B program to field a reconnaissance drone that could penetrate Russian, Chinese and Iranian airspace with impunity.

The RQ-180 is covertly funded through the USAF's classified budget. Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract after a competition in which it defeated Boeing and Lockheed Martin's entries. Northrop Grumman is believed to have been awarded a large development contract for the RQ-180 in 2008, with deliveries of low-rate production aircraft that began in 2013.

The LRS-B is a top priority for the United States Air Force because it is believed that China will overcome the 1980s-technology B-2's low-observable features by the mid 2020s.

According to the USAF's LRS-B requirements "Where possible, existing technology and proven subsystems will be used in order to keep the LRS-B within budget" but still making it capable of avoiding detection by rapidly advancing radar systems.

This covert yet existing technology may have given Northrop Grumman the edge over Lockheed/Boeing and account for the still unacknowledged triangular aircraft photographed over Amarillo and Kansas in 2014.

If Northrop has already fielded a manned aircraft that has (and can) penetrate Chinese, Russian and Iranian airspace, it could very well be what gave Northrop their leg up on the competition and the proof it needed to show they could keep it under budget and on time.

Since the sightings in 2014, a trickle of information about the "Flying Dorito" and the LRS-B have come to light.

First, both are manned (which is supported by the communications I recorded) and Northrop's own advertising where a pilot looks longingly at the shrouded LSR-B.

From educated guesstimates our mystery aircraft could be another flying wing and to be about three quarters the size of the B-2 (like the Northrop LRS-B concept) and may very well be a stealth transport built for the CIA, JSOC/DEVGRU (AKA the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG) to covertly insert Special Operation Forces, such as Navy SEALs, Army Rangers & DELTA, Marine Corp CSO's and CIA SAD/SOG detachments into hostile nations with advanced radars.

Where they are based is still a mystery, but other sightings suggest basing in Southern New Mexico/far West Texas, Florida and at Area 51 in Nevada.

One source tells me he has seen the aircraft flying on moonless nights between Marfa and El Paso, Texas on more than one occasion.

Another (a USAF aerial refueling boom operator) told me he refueled the aircraft off the coast of Florida between the US and Cuba.

New construction and a large hangar complex at Area 51 may support the assumption that the "Dorito" is based there but others postulate it is for the RQ-180.

What also is known isthat there was considerable insider scuttlebutt during the  2006-2007 time-frame regarding a “classified” proof of concept demonstrator contract being fought over (between Northrop and Boeing/Lockheed) for a large stealthy aircraft that was NOT the LSR-B or the Next Generation Bomber. 

Northrop Grumman was said to have won this $2B contract.

This could have been for the RQ-180 or it could have been the covert stealth transport.

What it was exactly for remains to be seen, or may have been seen by this author and three others flying over Texas.

The "black budget" has exploded exponentially since 9/11, and in 2014 alone it was over $50B.

Some of that money had to go somewhere and it could very well have gone into Northrop Grumman's bank account for the development and fielding of the "Dorito."

-Steve Douglass

click to enlarge


Larry J said...

Do you remember the F-19? There was the F/A-18 Hornet and the Northrup F-20 but no F-19. Back in the 1980s, a model airplane company built a stealth fighter model and named it the F-19. I remember a member of Congress asking an Air Force general about it and the general quite honestly said no such plane existed. It was a few years later that we learned of the F-117A. There may be no plane called the B-3 (then again, there might). It could be called something else.

Anonymous said...

With all the talk about reducing costs by using developed it possible NG is using a modified version of the RQ-180 airframe? This would, theoretically, reduce development costs, no?


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