The Pentagon plans to deploy its emerging B-21 stealth bomber in the Pacific as part of a determined effort to guarantee technical superiority, maintain deterrence and, if necessary, keep potential adversaries at risk.
The plan, articulated by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey, incorporates the integration of surveillance assets, submarines and what the Pentagon envisions as a new generation of stealth technology contained in the B-21. .
"We are making investments to make sure we maintain operational readiness and strengthen the conventional capabilities that we have that are our enduring advantage, such as submarines, the new Stealth B-21 bomber, the P-8 aircraft," Helvey told reporters on 18 of June. , according to a transcript from the Pentagon.
Helvey discussed the anticipated operation of the B-21 in the context of increasing training operations of US allies, Coordinated Strategic Policies and as a specific focus on "deterrence of actors who would seek to undermine or threaten our shared interests, "as he put it. that.
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Operating a B-21 in the Pacific, conducting patrols such as those now increasingly conducted by B-2, B-52, and B1-bs in the Pacific theater, would present a new set of intertwined complexities for potential adversaries.
Since the B-21 is largely a "black" program, very few details are known about its technical characteristics, however, developers have emphasized that it incorporates a new generation of stealth technology, providing the ability to maintain "any objective. , anywhere in the world … at risk. "
Scheduled to be operational for years to come, the B-21 could not come at a better time, given the rapid advances known to be taking place with Chinese ground defenses. While the Russian S-400s and emerging S-500s have long been believed to be among the most advanced and worrisome, there is now a growing consensus that China's technological progress in this area is also rapidly gaining ground.
State-of-the-art air defenses increasingly resort to faster computer processing, digital networking between separate "nodes" and multi-frequency radar technologies. A 2017 evaluation on Deagle.com of the HQ-9 specifically cites that Chinese air defenses are based in part on the US Patriot and Russian S-300 systems. The new HQ-9B is cited to be able to reach ranges of up to 300 km (186.4 miles).
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"The HQ-9 has a track terminal guidance system through missiles and proximity fuze taken from the Patriot and 'cold launch' and aerodynamics of S-300 tube-launched missiles," says the Deagle.com report.
Despite the technological progress of air defenses, retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, maintains a "stealth imperative," explaining that the most advanced stealth bombers will remain very difficult to hit.
"Even if a radar can detect, it now has to track, and when you transfer that data to activate it, you will have to fire a missile using a radar much smaller than the one used for detection. Also, the interceptor weapon meltdown may be affected by low observability technology, ”Deptula told The National Interest in an interview last year. "Bistatic radar can help detect low-observation aircraft. However, intercepting a stealthy aircraft requires transferring detection from a large acquisition radar to a much smaller intercepting radar, either on an aircraft or on a missile that can track, or maintain a & # 39; lock & # 39 ; continuous low-observation aircraft.
Image B-21 published by USAF shows a design that does not use vertical flight control surfaces such as tails. With no vertical surfaces to reflect radar from the sides, the new bomber will have an RCS (radar cross section) that reduces returns not only from the front and rear, but also from the sides, making detection from any angle is challenging, writes the Mitchell Institute. .
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On the subject of RCS, an interesting essay called "Radar and Laser Cross Section Engineering" by Aerospace Research Central cites the emergence of new coating technologies, including "radar absorbent materials and artificial metamaterials." (Text written by David Jenn, author of the Naval Graduate School).
New IR reduction or thermal signature methods are connected to engine and exhaust placement. Engines configured internally, along with exhaust pipes on top of an aircraft, can greatly reduce an aircraft's heat emissions, like the structure of today's B-2, the trial authors say.
All of these emerging technical factors continue to inform a growing consensus on future war threats: that the B-21 is possibly the only platform that will be able to penetrate certain enemy weapons and advanced air defenses in the coming decades.
– Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Warrior Maven and defense editor of The National Interest –