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Friday, May 30, 2008

Northrop Grumman is secretly at work on a next-generation stealth bomber

Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman is secretly at work on a next-generation stealth bomber, with the prototype likely to be built by Scaled Composites, Defense Technology International reported this week. A recent financial report from Northrop Grumman shows $2 billion of new funding for "restricted programs," which DTI reports is "almost certainly" for the bomber. According to DTI, the prototype will use technology that already is under development for the Navy's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator, with the aim of flying the new bomber by 2018. The bomber initially will be flown by an onboard pilot, but later extended-endurance versions are expected to be unmanned. The NGB will probably use newly developed materials and a blended-wing-body tailless design for the fuselage, DTI reported.

Scaled Composites, based in Mojave, Calif., was founded in 1982 by Burt Rutan. Northrop Grumman acquired 100 percent of the company last August. The Air Force expects the 2018 bomber to serve as an "interim fix" to bridge a bomber capability gap, allow it to retire a portion of the current bomber fleet, and prepare for development of a follow-on bomber with more advanced technologies such as hypersonic (Mach 5-plus) engines, according to a March 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service. About 100 of the NGB bombers will likely be built, the report says.

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